I'm serial Kickstarter viewer. There, I admit it. Every time I go to Kickstarter I start with the search "coffee" to see what new and awesome contraptions are being invented, and today, a pretty neat machine by Bonaverde Coffee Changers caught my eye. It's definitely a game changer. It gives people like you and I the ability to roast coffee in our own homes... and it's affordable! Not only that, in addition to roasting your green coffee beans, it will grind and then brew the coffee in 12-14 minutes! Is this too good to be true? My guess is going to be yes... and no.
Keep in mind, this is purely speculation. I haven't actually touched one of these machines, though I have pre-purchased one. The first issue that came to mind was the degassing period nearly every roaster will tell you is *required* after roasting. If this machine can roast-to-brew in 12 minutes, there's obviously not enough time for the ~2-3 day degassing period. And most roasters will tell you that freshly roasted coffee typically doesn't taste good, or as good, as it does after it's been allowed to sit for 2-3 days. Bonaverde made sure to address this concern, in fact, it's the first question on their FAQ's, which should tell you as the consumer that this has likely been a chief concern. Their response didn't exactly give me a warm and fuzzy. They essentially side-stepped the issue by saying "Opinions differ... [but] 15,000 people (blind-)tasted our coffee... [and] Their overwhelming feedback gave us the confidence to go viral." Maybe I'm just a cynic, but I need a little more science and substance than that. Read for yourself and let me know what you think. I'm sure 15,000+ tried a Keurig and said it was awesome before it went to market. Is it awesome? Yeah. Does it make really great coffee? Not so much.
My next logical thought was: "You know, if they want to appease everyone - the I want it now guy, and those who want to degas before grinding - they should just put a setting on on the machine to allow you to stop the process after the roast. Then remove your beans and wait a few days before grinding and brewing." Seems simple enough. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought that because the added a stretch goal of $500k. If they reach that point, they'll add the ability to stop the machine mid-process and yank your beans out. Thank god. The only problem is, they haven't made it to $500k yet, but they're very close! So it's my hope that they make it so my machine will have that ability.
Now that I've bashed the machine, let's talk about why it's super-cool!
I meet with roasters all the time. Roasters that are super small and roasters that make millions (over the course of a year, in gross revenue... lol). And [almost] all have one thing in common: they started small. Some started on re-purposed popcorn poppers, while others roasted over a stove. So as you might assume, this machine could give budding home roasters the ability to launch their craft fairly quickly. It's a natural evolution in our recent DIY revolution in technology. That's why I decided to give one a try. I love the smell of roasting coffee, I love the smell of ground coffee, and I certainly love the smell of freshly brewed coffee! This machine promises to give you all of that, every morning. The best part is, it's your own special roast that you created.
Even if this machine doesn't live up to expectations, it will certainly have served its purpose as a trail blazer. If you were on Kickstarter when all the 3D printers started popping up, you probably noticed that after the first came many others who aimed to improve or add a new spin on it. I believe this will also happen with coffee machines that roast and brew. So if you're not sold on this gadget, wait a few months, another will soon follow! And they'll only get better.
The next reason I think this machine is awesome is because their aiming to connect the farmers directly with us, the consumer. Essentially taking direct trade to a whole new level. In theory, this can help to improve the living conditions of coffee farmers and their communities since they will be making much more profit than they do with the current direct trade and fair trade models. On the flip-side, farmers aren't exactly prepared to package their goods and ship for consumer use. As of now, nearly all farmers package in bulk, burlap sacks, ship by container load, and deal with importers who buy palates or containers at a time. Moving to a retail-based business will certainly present its own unique set of challenges. Challenges that could potentially cause detriment to small farming communities. How so? For one, it will require more employees to handle the work. Sure it creates jobs, but a lot of this will be in preparation for more retail orders. In other words, they'll be gambling on the hope that more retail orders will come in. This shift will also require the purchasing of new machinery for retail packaging and shipments. It's much easier to pack a burlap sack with 50-60kg of beans and load them on a truck, than it is to individually package 1lbs-5lbs packages and individually ship them out. I don't know exactly how they plan to execute this new supply chain, but I'm sure it will encounter a few growing pains along the way.
Back to the machine. My next concern was roasting, how much control will I have? I'm not a roaster, so I can't pretend that I really know how to do it. But I'd like to learn a little along the way, and I would like a machine that will allow me to take control as I learn. Unfortunately, this machine seems fairly hands-off. They say that it will have 6 different roast settings, from light to Italian espresso dark. This makes me happy. Even though I won't be able to become the master roaster I dream of being, it will at least give me a place to start. I'll be able to try varied degrees of roast with the same beans to explore the differences in flavor before moving on to a real roaster.
How much coffee can this machine roast at once? The short answer: "I don't know." I've searched both their website and their Kickstarter page and have yet to find a definitive answer. The closest tid-bit of info I could find is that this machine will make between 2 and 12 cups of coffee. So if you guess between 7 and 10 grams of coffee per cup, then between 84 and 120 grams of beans can be roasted. I would definitely like an answer to this.
Anyway, I could talk your ear off about this... but I'd probably only bore you. For now, check out the Kickstarter page and let us know your thoughts. I think it's pretty cool, in spite of the issues I mentioned, it will certainly pave the way for innovation in home roasting and possibly the world coffee community as a whole.