Why smart coffee makers are a dumb but beautiful dream

The world has yet to see a practical, Web-connected coffee maker that also brews fantastic joe because building one in reality remains elusive.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
5 min read

The Arist brewer has yet to ship.


Lately there's been a lot of talk about smart coffee makers and even intelligent tea makers , both brainy appliances designed to enjoy live links to the Internet and connect to mobile phones, all in the pursuit of whipping up delicious hot drinks. Most of these ambitious product plans have yet to see the light of day, and the ones which have are failures.

Frankly I'm not surprised, since brewing and even storing coffee correctly is extremely challenging. To remove human hands entirely from the equation and delegate these tasks to a machine is foolhardy, almost hubris. That's not to say creating such an appliance isn't a beautiful dream, because it is.

Unfortunately a coffee brewer this advanced would have to be amazingly automatic, even robotic, and radically different from the average drip machines of today. And based on what I've seen so far, chances are this product would either be obscenely expensive and operate well or affordable yet fail miserably, without many shades in between. It's actually easier to transform a quality but all-manual coffee machine into a smart one than to do vice versa. Here's how the deck is particularly stacked against a smart coffee maker worth its price becoming a reality any time soon.

Why I dream of smart coffee

In a nutshell, the notion of smart coffee is about having your cake and eating too. Not only would a 21st century smart coffee maker provide way more convenience and customization options than an ordinary programmable drip brewer, this brainy machine would also handle its beans with care and finesse ensuring superior beverage results. So how convenient are we talking? Plenty.


Smart coffee makers promise lots of brewing control.


Such an advanced machine would be capable of storing at least a week's worth of whole coffee beans and keep them as fresh as fancy airtight coffee savers. And imagine if the gadget could detect when its bean count was getting low and suggest or even place a refill order by itself. One product, the Poppy Pour-over , has promised similar automated shopping skills. Too bad the Poppy's chance of ever coming to market is very unlikely now that its parent company Quirky has gone the way of the Dodo.

A smart coffee machine must be skilled too.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Unlike most no-frills coffee makers, our fabled machine would boast an internal burr grinder too since to enjoy peak flavor it's always best to brew as close to grinding as possible. Next the device should be aware of the type of roast and source origin, even specific brand, of the coffee you intend to brew. Armed with this knowledge our fantastic coffee maker can tweak its brewing parameters such as brew temperature, grind size and brewing time to precisely match its bean supply ensuring a favorable outcome.

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You can buy coffee makers now with smart abilities.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Don't forget the smartphone connection either because as any so-called smart coffee maker should, this appliance will not only boast a Wi-Fi radio to link to the Internet but will talk to phones and tablets via mobile app.

As a result you won't be able to merely schedule coffee brewing without having to squint at a tiny LCD screen and suffer through an archaic interface, you'll have the flexibility of making java at different times on different days of the week.

Smart coffee machines still don't deliver

Where things stand now though, reality is far from the smart home java dream. While there are a few connected coffee makers currently on sale, they lack many if not all of the criteria outlined in the previous scenario. For example the one smart coffee machine I've personally used, the Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew , can be commanded through the Belkin Wemo mobile application just fine.

The Smart Optimal Brew makes weak coffee.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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The Arist brewer may never happen.


Sadly as a straight-up coffee maker, the appliance's brewing performance left much to be desired. Coffee it made was weak and temperatures inside the brewing chamber took much too long to reach ideal levels. Another product whose creators tout for its smart, connected abilities is the Smarter Wi-Fi Coffee Machine .

At the moment the gizmo is only available in the UK for £180 (about $270 or AU$385) so I haven't had a chance to take it for a spin. That said, the primary complaint of the product via Amazon UK revolves around the brewer making weak coffee, an affliction common among poorly designed drip coffee makers.

The Wi-Fi Coffee Machine does sport a hopper for housing whole coffee beans, unlike the Smart Optimal Brew, though it's likely not airtight. It's also unclear whether the integrated grinder uses mechanical burrs or inferior blades.

Other coffee maker products promoted as having baked-in smart technology simply haven't materialized yet, and likely won't for a long while. For example the Arist smart espresso machine originally had a target ship date of July 2015 but it's still just vaporware. In fact many of the device's Kickstarter backers feel the whole project is really a clever scam.


We'll have to wait a while for the Auroma too.


The designers of a newly announced brewer, the Auroma One , make a lot of claims regarding its coffee making prowess in addition to integrated Wi-Fi networking. Planned to be equipped with a burr grinder and coffee bean hopper, the $399 appliance also apparently will allow its owners to manipulate brewing (via iOS app) to favor personal taste regarding texture, bitterness, even caffeine content of its coffee.

Even if everything proceeds as planned, however, the Auroma One isn't expected to arrive in the flesh until September 2016 at the earliest.

Intelligent coffee in our future

So where does this leave the smart coffee machine of tomorrow today? It's still stuck in the future I'm afraid to say. Sure there are lovely and uncannily robotic products which remove much of the drudgery out of coffee-drink slinging.

The $2,500 Krups EA9010 immediately springs to mind -- trust me, with auto-everything, including milk-frother cleaning you have to see it in action to believe it. That said, it's a scandalous amount of cash to pay especially for something lacking true connected smarts. To be clear Krups representatives did confirm with me that smarter coffee brewers are high on the company's priority list.

I do emphatically feel that there's a bright future for automatic and Internet-linked java brewers in the home. We just have to wait until the technology, physical design, and demand dovetail into a perfect mix of ideal conditions. Now there's something I'll definitely drink to.