This coffee maker has an incredible promise...

...to roast, grind, and brew the perfect cup (or small pot) of coffee.

That's an end-to-end solution, like your corner coffee roaster on your counter.

Will it work? Time will tell.

But if it does, and if it catches on...

...our cherished artisanal coffee roasters could be in trouble, while our favorite coffee farmers could bank on a whole new industry.

This Coffee Maker Is A Roaster, Grinder, And Barista, All In One

Put that Keurig down. Automated coffee may have just gotten its taste back.

There’s a war in coffee right now. On one side, you have the coffee geeks, hand-crafting each cup with artisanal tools and incredible care. On the other, you have the automation-hungry, the K-cup users, the people who shove a cartridge into a coffee maker before running out the door with an anemic cup of brown caffeine.

Could there be a future in which each side got along? Maybe.

The Bonaverde coffee maker ($250-$500), which just launched on Kickstarter, boasts a mighty promise. It won’t just brew your coffee, and it won’t just grind your coffee. It will roast, grind, and brew your coffee, starting with hard green beans straight from the farm and ending with bright, toasty liquid in your cup. It’s basically your favorite pretentious coffee shop, minus the suspenders and mustaches, squeezed into a machine that sits on your counter.

Hans Stier, founder of Bonaverde, was kind enough to answer my own onslaught of questions. Because while grind and brew systems already exist, most work poorly for the same reason most drip coffee machines fail: The drip doesn’t give the grounds proper time to steep evenly and the water isn’t hot enough to get full flavor extraction.

Stier promises that the water in his machine runs at 194°F through its "magical tropical rain-forest unit," which will "sprinkle the freshly ground coffee powder in a round system that guarantees best and equal watering of the surface." [Ed note: this works much like pour over.] So far, so good.

The tricky part, actually, wasn’t handling the water, and it wasn’t handling the roasting. For Stier’s team, the machine’s biggest challenge was the grinding.

"It freaked me out every time I went to Korea," Stier says. "Seriously, when our German engineers set how the grinder should work in what angle and with what parts in which dimensions, I came back from Seoul with another 5, 10, or 20 prototypes that would bring up new difficulties."

For example, Stier says Germany’s Mahlkönig company, "produces great grinders, but to integrate any third party component into a small kitchen appliance like ours always showed sourcing, part quality and sync issues. On the other hand: That's the fun to it!"

As for what one might expect—that the industry’s first automated roaster-brewer would have difficulties with the roasting end—Stier was nonplussed. While optimal roasting times and temperatures may vary for beans of any given region (or, much like dealing with wine grapes, microclimate), the company’s solution is to recommend certain beans they’ve tested internally, which can be matched with simple, automated "roasting profiles."

"Surely, every user may adjust the profile to his needs," Stier explains, "but the machine really aims to make home-roasting accessible for the broad consumer market."

That said, what may be most disruptive about the Bonaverde coffee machine isn't the way it impacts homebrewing; it may be the way it impacts the entire coffee trade system. Assuming they could scale to the mass market, and others in the industry copied the approach, the floodgates could open for any at-home coffee brewer to buy beans straight from the grower.

"If we enable you to order from the producer directly, there would simply be no need to give two-thirds of the money to a brand that does nothing else than roasting, which you can do better and more sustainably at home," Stier argues. "We kind of give the value back to the ones creating the most value. Guess some people won't like that."

In a coffee culture that champions the farmer, in which roasters both tout and market Fair Trade beans (or denounce Fair Trade because their trade is even fairer), a direct-buying option could shift market power immensely.

But truth be told, Bonaverde has at least one last hurdle to overcome: The generalized industrial design is absolutely hideous, like one of those cheap, reissued old-timey radios that pop up everywhere during the holidays, retrofitted with a pot that was grabbed off the spare parts shelf of a factory in Shenzhen. The design feels crowdsourced (and actually, it is). While that approach can work, here, you see there’s no visual thesis at play—nothing that teases the brilliance behind the paneling which, incidentally, leads your eyes nowhere. It’s just this fat chunk of industrialized crap dreamed up by a lazy algorithm to take up too much prominence in the saddest of kitchens.

But hey! If it works—if you really can roast, grind, and brew the perfect cup of coffee with press of a button—there’s always room for a prettier version two. And at this point, Bonaverde has more than enough work on its plate to ensure that a single machine can roast, grind, and brew coffee as well as a house a barista loaded with discrete armaments and its own real-time discretion. I certainly don’t envy the task.

Pre-order it here.

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5 Comments

  • zippyflounder

    A number of small points, first this is hardly the first roast,
    grind, brew system Samsung showed one in 2003 at the home appliance
    show, a similar unit was sold for a number of year unimax 555 SI 5 cup
    ....price $287.00. The real problems on all of these units is 6 fold,

    1. roast is very "haphazard" in that you never get the same thing twice.

    2. green bean sourcing, good, bad, hard to tell. and then how do you roast it?

    3. Noise, all of them are pretty noisy, a air popper and grinder.

    4. speed, they say 3 min for a roast, that would be a very light
    roast 6 to 8 min is more realistic, so with brew time your looking at 9
    to 12 min per cup.

    5. brewer dependent, if you like drip, great, what about all the other brew types, press, espresso, vacuum?

    6. safety you had better check smoke filter often, as when its "done"
    and you forget you have a kitchen full of acrid smoke and or a merry
    fire.

  • S_am_S

    For a good cup of coffee, roasted beans should sit for at least 8-12 hours before grinding and brewing. If you want to harvest the full potential of the beans, at least. They're supposed to oxidize for a while, so I don't see how this can produce the best possible cup of coffee?

  • BrimToss

    Exactly what I was thinking when reading through the article. I think it is a nice, cutesy idea, but they are biting off way more than they can chew with this.

  • Simon Cohen

    Sure makes you wonder why growers don't become roasters so that we don't have to invest in a home-roasting system that will likely break within 2 years. Even our grind-and-brew unit has had to be replaced twice in 5 years.

  • BrimToss

    Un-roasted beans can stay fresh for much longer than roasted beans. Roasted beans have about a 2 weeks until they start getting stale (the flavors start dissipating after about a week). By the time they get to you from the growers, the roasted beans would either be near or past their prime. Some options besides buying a dedicated home roasting machine: Popcorn Popper (stove or air), Iron Skillet, BBQ drum & roasting spit, and possibly a few other options. Albeit more time consuming and less precise than a dedicated machine, they will get the job done.