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The shaky world of coffee maker startups

Backing a coffee maker startup is a wild ride: see where a few recent ones stand.

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Brian Bennett
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1 of 11 JAKA Birsa

Do coffee maker startups make you jumpy?

There are all kinds of startups with promised gadgets, including those who make coffee makers. These gizmos run the gamut from machines that roast, grind and brew to self-heating smart mugs. Despite their breathless claims, many of these outfits have failed spectacularly. For others, the jury is still out whether they'll survive, or actually bring products to market. There are a few surprising successes mixed in, too. Join me as I take stock of recent startups with big plans to disrupt the world of coffee makers. 

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2 of 11 Auroma

Auroma One

The Auroma One debuted as a Kickstarter project in November 2015. Back then its parent company, Auroma Brewing, had big dreams for the coffee maker. It would have an adjustable burr grinder, intelligent water temperature and flow control along with mobile app connection. That would let its owners tweak coffee flavor, strength and other brew characteristics.

The machine shipped two years behind schedule. Confusingly, the coffee maker has a new name as well, now called the "Orenda." Owners have also complained about buggy software and fragile components.  

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3 of 11 CNET

Bonaverde Berlin

Another ambitious coffee maker is the Bonaverde Berlin. The machine is unique in that it roasts, grinds and brews its beans. After a phenomenally successful Kickstarter run, Berlin units began shipping to backers in September 2017. Bonaverde put the product up for sale directly in November 2017 for $799, then upped the price to a cool $1,000.

Worse, only original backers have the option of roasting their own coffee. Regular customers can only process proprietary packs of green coffee sourced from Bonaverde. With packs that cost $50 for a 42.3 ounce (1,200 grams), that's 3.5 times what I pay (preroasted) at retail.

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4 of 11 Bubble Labs

Bubble Labs Drip

The Bubble Labs Drip is straight off the set of a sci-fi movie. More robot than basic coffee maker, it rises up from inside your kitchen counter. The Drip then performs a pour-over coffee brewing procedure that would make pro baristas jealous.There's no word yet whether the Drip will ever be anything more than a wild prototype. 

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5 of 11 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Dash Rapid Cold Brew System

Fresh cold brew coffee in 5 minutes? Sounds impossible, but the Dash Rapid Cold Brew does just that. This contraption uses an electric pump to create vacuum pressure. This pressure then circulates water in a continuous loop, through ground coffee in its brewing chamber and back. Dash coffee isn't as rich and flavorful as traditional cold brew. Still, it makes a stiff coffee drink that's packed with caffeine. And it does the job in 5 to 10 minutes, not the 12 to 24 hours the task usually takes.  

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6 of 11 Sarah Tew/CNET

Ember Ceramic Mug

A few years ago, the idea that anyone would shell out big bucks for a battery-powered, temperature-regulating coffee mug, was ridiculous. Startup company Ember didn't think so. Now Ember's products, like its Ceramic Mug shown here, are sold by Amazon and at coffee mega-chain Starbucks. 

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7 of 11 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Ember Travel Mug

Startup company Ember also sells a travel mug version of its smart coffee vessel. Priced at $150, it's more expensive too. The travel mug does a few things Ember's ceramic mugs can't. That includes a slick-looking LED display, plus its bottom acts as a dial so you can set its temperature on the fly. 

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8 of 11 Goat Story

Goat Story Gina

Goat Story is a funny name for a startup, but the company was serious when it announced plans for its Gina coffee maker back in 2016. The product first shipped out to its Kickstarter backers in December 2017. The machine is a mashup of a smart scale, a manual brewing funnel and a valve. It's built to make pour-over, cold brew, plus full immersion-style coffee. The Gina is now available for preorder via the company's website

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9 of 11 Brian Bennett/CNET

Motif Mentor

Both the Motif brand and its Mentor smart scale launched in 2017. The Mentor is designed just for preparing pour over coffee. It talks to a companion mobile app over Bluetooth and walks you through the pour over process. As its name suggests, the Mentor and app act as a guide so you can perform this manual style of brewing without barista training.

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10 of 11 Oxx

Oxx Coffeeboxx

Does the world need a rugged, near indestructible, K-Cup coffee maker? Startup Oxx, hitting the scene in 2014, thought so. Its Coffeeboxx is designed to be dust, water, and spill proof. It's apparently crush proof too (withstands up to 2,000 pounds), plus resists impacts (thanks to power tool-grade plastic). It slings K-Cup pod coffee in various sizes as well, from 8 to 12 ounces. 

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11 of 11 Spinn

Spinn Coffee Maker

The Spinn Coffee Maker uses a centrifugal brewing system to sling shots of espresso. The startup behind the machine, also called Spinn, says its brewer relies on high rpm (5,500) to generate the high pressures needed for quality espresso. It will also be able to create cups and pots of traditional drip. At the moment some Spinn machines are in the hands of a few beta testers. The company expects to ramp up production by the end of 2018.

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