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FirstBuild Prisma coffee maker makes cold brew in ten minutes

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If you love coffee in its many delicious forms, then you've probably had the pleasure of drinking cold brew. This concentrated java drink is known for its sweetness, lack of bitterness and rich flavor. Making cold-brew coffee though takes a lot of time, at least 12 hours using traditional methods. Not so if you use the $299 Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker which its designers promise can whip up a carafe of the stuff in just ten minutes flat.

The Prisma was dreamed up by the engineers at GE's FirstBuild Microfactory, the same group who brought to life the unique Paragon Induction Cooktop and Opal Nugget Ice appliances. According to FirstBuild, the Prisma is another example of its unconventional design and smart applied science providing real-world solutions consumers clamor for.

Fancy drip facade

At first glance, the Prisma looks very much like a standard home drip coffee brewer, admittedly an expensive one judging by the premium copper and glass materials in its chassis. Keep in mind, the Prisma units I looked at in person were a series of engineering prototypes, some functional and some not. That said, FirstBuild explained that what I saw is very close cosmetically to what customers will likely be able to purchase.

The Prisma almost looks like a fancy drip brewer.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The machine has a tall, hourglass shape with a flat top, and a wide upper body which tapers inward at its center then widens back out again toward the bottom. Up top under its flat lid is the main brewing chamber, which contains a metal retainer. At first I incorrectly thought the retainer was a regular filter basket -- the sort you find in conventional drip coffee devices.

The bottomless retainer drum holds the paper filter in place.

Brian Bennett/CNET

In fact the retainer is really a bottomless drum perforated with large holes and is meant to stabilize paper filters (which you place under the retainer) within the brewing chamber. To make a batch of cold brew, put coffee grounds and water into the chamber, close the lid, then press a circular button on the Prisma's base. Ringed by a color-shifting LED, the button will also glow in varying hues depending on the Prisma's status (actively brewing, standby, etc.).

The button glows in different colors.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cold-brewed via vacuum

There are many methods to make cold brew coffee but most involve immersing coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature or chilled water. Compared with hot brewing, this style of steeping is low energy so is much slower. Instead of the four to six minutes a drip machine uses to makes pots of fresh joe, basic cold brew requires at least 12 hours to concoct. There are other techniques to speed up the process such as brewing your coffee in a pressurized vessel, for example a kitchen whipping siphon, which you place in the fridge.

The Prisma Cold Brew takes completely different approach. This appliance uses a vacuum pump inside its base to degasify water within the brewing chamber. FirstBuild engineers say the treatment greatly increases the solubility of coffee compounds in the Prisma's water tank, or rather the efficiency of its water supply as a solvent. Apparently this is precisely how the contraption can produce cold-brewed coffee in a fraction of the time simple steeping requires. Another factor aiding the Prisma's ability to extract coffee is that it's made to brew finely ground beans. A smaller grind increases the surface area of the coffee grounds, which further ups its solubility in water.

Cold brew is collected in a snazzy glass carafe.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

As for how the Prisma's cold-brew quality stands up in real life, I'll withhold judgment until I get my hands on the final version. I can say that what I tasted in person at the FirstBuild facility wasn't bad, especially knowing it was made in an amazingly brief ten minutes. Still, the coffee used to prep these drinks was lighter roasts. I prefer to make my cold brew from darkly roasted beans, which tend to have more earthy, chocolate notes.

Home cold-brew addicts looking to score a Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker for themselves will have to be patient. While FirstBuild will launch a crowd-sourced funding campaign through Indiegogo in July 2016, the product isn't expected to reach ordinary shoppers until the summer of 2017.

More facts about the Prisma Cold Brew coffee maker

  • Makes five 5-ounce cups (750 ml) at a time
  • Able to brew in a range of water-to-coffee ratios
  • Will have Bluetooth radio and its own mobile app
  • Includes a premium glass carafe

Discuss FirstBuild Prisma Cold Brew coffee maker First Take

Where to Buy

FirstBuild Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Part Number: CNETFIRSTBUILDPRISMACOLDBREWCOFFEEMAKER

MSRP: $299.00

Visit manufacturer site for details.