The Bonaverde Berlin, a countertop coffee machine that doesn’t just grind and brew, but also roasts, blew through its 2013 Kickstarter goals, with an estimated delivery date of October 2014. Autumn 2017 is the new ship date, and we tested a final unit last month.
Good coffee is a science experiment. Dialing in the perfect shot of espresso, for example, revolves around maintaining numerous variables including temperature, pressure, the qualities of your water, grind size, amount of coffee, bean freshness, and more, while tweaking just one or two to adjust for results like strength, balance, and bitterness. And consistency isn’t easy.
The goal of the Bonaverde Berlin then is to make a perfect, perfectly replicable pot of brewed coffee 100% of the time by removing any vestige of human input, and if that sounds divisive we’re just getting started.
The Bonaverde takes up far less space than those three machines taken together, especially since it’s more tall than wide, but its trading in of versatility for consistency brings us to the heart of the matter.
The Bonaverde only works with its own proprietary, prepackaged, scannable pouches of coffee, a delivery model that’s been executed well with Sonicare’s latest toothbrush heads and Nespresso’s Vertuoline, but also prone to ending in utter disaster.
This changes the pricing comparison dramatically because:
- You can only roast Bonaverde’s beans, or rather, you can trick the machine into roasting other beans, but then you’ve used up one of your scannable tags.
- You cannot use the Bonaverde to make espresso or do any kind of milk steaming, or heat up water.
- You cannot use the Bonaverde’s grinder for any other application, so if you own an espresso machine you’ll still need another grinder just for that, for example.
I was sent four pouches of coffee for review. On round one I forgot to put the filter in, which ultimately created a domino effect of getting pouches (which double as filters) mixed up, digging in the trash, and general frustration. The machine will not run unless a pouch is scanned, and each pouch can only be scanned once.
But if you buy in to Bonaverde’s ecosystem, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most consistent, fresh, drinkable coffee you’ve ever tasted. Notes are crystal clear, balance is achieved, and even coffee newcomers won’t think twice about drinking it black. We’ll never stop talking about the importance of fresh beans in coffee making, and they don’t come any fresher than this.
Design-wise, the Bonaverde is a great-looking machine, though this is a lot of plastic for $800. The grinder is actually manually adjustable, which seems to fly in the face of Bonaverde’s thesis, and the air filter, which also needs to be scanned, needs to be changed every 30 brews. The Bonaverde’s coffee pot has a heating element underneath, but doesn’t provide any insulation of its own.
I was bracing for impact when I asked what Bonaverde’s coffee pouches would cost, but was pleasantly surprised to hear that the bags, which yield a liter of coffee, would go for around $2 on average.
- A 12 oz. bag of good, fresh beans in New York City goes for ~$15.
- Our favorite coffeemaker’s manual recommends around 33 grams of grounds for 4 cups of coffee, which is .95 liters.
- So a 12 ounce bag would yield 10 33 gram servings, which equates to around $1.50 per liter.
And that’s for good beans. There’s certainly an up charge for convenience here, but Bonaverde also claims their system is far more beneficial, fair, and lucrative for farmers than current supply chains.
So Bonaverde wins on results and convenience, loses on flexibility, and is a non-starter for espresso drinkers, while pricing is a multifaceted consideration. Has your status as a coffee aficionado turned you into a perfectionist or a control freak? Is the thought of getting locked into a coffee bean ecosystem a relief, or terrifying? Tell us in the comments.