In our article on building with premium appliances, we covered the role appliances play in making it easier to sell a new home or rise above the crowd as a remodeling professional. Now we wanted to take a closer look at the Bosch B21CL81SNS Counter Depth French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator. That’s a mouthful, so we might just refer to this as the Bosch B21CL81SNS French door refrigerator with bottom freezer. It’s part of their 800-series, so it represents one of the highest quality and feature-rich models Bosch makes.
Our goal lets us apply our professional review skills to a “kitchen tool” that gets used every single day. Build quality, features, ease-of-use, value…everything exists here that would exist with a power tool. And at the prices you pay for a refrigerator—every detail counts!
As a brand, Bosch has delivered everything from power tools to appliances to the spark plugs in my vehicle. In the area of appliances, the company seems to have really honed in on those highly sought after European stylings. The real question remained, however: Would this find appeal with American expectations?
Bosch B21CL81SNS French Door Refrigerator Features
We Love the French
With refrigerators, French door designs have really taken off, but manufacturers need to take care. Often, these French door models come with a single oversized lower freezer drawer. This presents a problem for organizing your food efficiently. With one drawer, it can feel a lot like living out of a suitcase!
Bosch took their Benchmark B21CL81SNS and delivered a truly beautiful stainless steel design, French door functionality—and did it with two bottom freezer doors. That doubles your ability to organize freezer items and makes for a much better experience.
When you open up the smooth side-by-side French doors on the Bosch B21CL81SNS Counter Depth fridge, you’re greeted with many options. For a refrigerator measuring just 20.8 cubic feet, the Bosch uses it very well. Inside, this refrigerator has ample space. The top section has 14.8 cu. ft. and the bottom freezer holds 6 cu. ft.
If you swing open both of the French doors you get access to a full-width chiller drawer that sits at the bottom. It has an adjustable divider, making it very versatile. Above that sits two crisper drawers with sliding humidity controls.
On the right, a retractable shelf allows taller 2-liter bottles and similar containers to fit neatly in the fridge. You don’t really have to do anything fancy, just push and it retracts underneath, giving you the additional space you need. Nested within the French doors are adjustable clear shelves—four on the right, three on the left. Everything, in fact, that is a shelf or drawer features transparent plastic. This makes it easy to know what’s stored inside. I find this feature particularly helpful since I don’t do the shopping!
Ice, But No Filter
This Bosch refrigerator lacks an external ice and water dispenser. It does, however, have an ice maker within the top freezer drawer. It produces tiny little ice cubes from the cylindrical ice maker—perfect for soft drinks but not so great for bourbon! Moving the ice maker inside allows the Bosch B21CL81SNS refrigerator to retain its clean exterior. We do with they would include a water filtration system for the ice. That feature is conspicuously lacking in this model. The presumption is that Bosch expects you’ll have a water filter or dispenser at the sink. We actually do—a Franke DW12080 cold water dispenser and filtration system.
Controlling the Temperature
It features completely hidden controls inside and you really can’t hear it running. Those interior controls are mounted conspicuously at the top with large LED temperature displays. As you’d expect, you can set independent temperatures for the refrigerator and freezer.
The freezer temperature has a range between -7 °F (-22 °C) and 9 °F (-13 °C). The refrigerator goes from 34 °F (+1 °C) up to 44 °F (+7 °C). Recommended settings are 0º for the freezer and 39º for the fridge.
The Bosch B21CL81SNS French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator is beautiful outside as well. We love the look of stainless steel, but not all finishes look the same. Bosch uses a premium stainless that seems to hold up really well to mild abrasions and scuffs. Inside, they use high-quality metal drawer rails which allow them to slide open and closed easily. Compare that to “builder grade” appliances that simply have plastic slides riding on the fridge molding. The Bosch drawers look far more robust and should hold up for much longer.
Instead of appliance-rated incandescent lighting, the Bosch B21CL81SNS French door refrigerator uses LED bars across the left, top, and right sides of the fridge. It fully illuminates the interior with a cool white light. The lights are independently triggered by buttons at the top of where each French door closes.
Lastly, it bears mentioning that the butter door can be open or closed when you shut the left French door. We had Whirlpool model that cracked the thin plastic cover for this door the first time it was shut. I never understood designs that force you to “reset” a product before using it. With the Bosch B21CL81SNS you don’t have to do anything—just live and use it the way you see fit. It seems to handle anything you throw at it.
Under the Hood with Advanced Features
Many behind-the-scenes technologies come together to make the Bosch B21CL81SNS French door refrigerator with bottom freezer a great kitchen appliance. A single condenser with dual evaporators cools the refrigerator and freezer sections separately for more accurate temperature control and fresher food without odor transfer. More than once the door open alarm has saved us from having stale food. Since this is a French door model, getting both doors to fully close presents a temporary learning curve for those who come from a traditional refrigerator.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that leave a lasting impression. Earlier I mentioned the LED lights. Only the most advanced refrigerators seem to have this feature. Hopefully LED comes to all refrigerators soon. It only makes sense since they provide illumination with far less the heat. These new lights also last as long as your fridge and never have to be replaced.
For foodies who like their food fresh, products like the Bosch 800-Series refrigerators feature a mode called SuperCooling and SuperFreezing. This temporarily drops the temperature of the fridge and/or freezer sections when adding new food. The function lets you compensate for periods where you’re loading in food and the inside temperature drops quickly.
Bosch B21CL81SNS French Door Refrigerator Specs
- Capacity: 14.8 cu ft (fridge), 6 cu ft (freezer), 20.8 total cu. ft.
- Counter depth for nearly-flush installation
- Transparent storage throughout for high visibility
- Tempered glass adjustable full-extension shelves
- Gallon door bins
- Full-width chiller drawer
- Large covered dairy compartment
- Adjustable shelves in fridge
- Egg bin
- Internal LED lighting
- Hidden hinges
- Metal rail drawer slides
- Single compressor, dual evaporator
- SuperCool & SuperFreeze modes
- Eco mode option
- Door open alarm
- Automatic ice maker
- Ice quantity: 2.4 lbs./day, 3 lbs. storage
- Automatic defrost (refrigerator and freezer)
- Price: ~$2,609 – Search for a retailer
The Bottom (Freezer) Line
Not all stainless steel appliances are the same. Bosch has a knack for making beautiful products that seamlessly combine function and form. While not perfect, the Bosch B21CL81SNS kept our food perfectly and—more importably—was easy to use. The French doors make storing even larger items simple, and the drawers have great slides. Our thermal imaging system also confirmed consistent temperature with no hot spots.
We feel this Bosch 800-series French door refrigerator is a great product that fits well with a higher-end kitchen. Sure, budget-friendly models exist, but they lack the refinements of this model. We’d love to see an integrated filtration system in the next model, but that became one of the very few criticisms we could level at this appliance.
For more information on current Bosch home appliances, check out their website.