I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Roast, Grind, Brew

I once daydreamed of building a machine that could roast, grind, and brew coffee, all in one. After becoming a home hobbyist roaster almost three years ago, I gave up on the dream machine when I realized that even if I somehow pulled it off, in practice, it would actually kinda suck.

Well, Bonaverde actually built it and wants your money on Kickstarter, and everyone has asked me about this today. It’s been widely reported by the coffee-gear-obsessed tech and gadget press, but I have some concerns.

A lot of their messaging is about coffee farmers with progressive-sounding music, but they’re conflating very different things: bean sourcing, unroasted bean distribution, freshly roasted coffee, home roasting in particular, and using one integrated machine to do roasting and brewing. The machine is the new part. The rest of it is a nice story, but unroasted (“green”) bean sourcing and home roasting have been easily available for years.

Conceptually, there are a number of potential problems with an all-in-one machine:

To be fair, all of that is speculation — the Bonaverde machine may blow all of those concerns out of the water. Time will tell.

But the biggest problem is the inflexibility of having these three very distinct roles — roasting, grinding, and brewing — locked into one integrated machine.

Want to roast a pound of coffee to take to your parents’ house for Thanksgiving or give as a gift? Too bad. Want to use a different grinder? You can’t. Want to brew with an AeroPress? At best, you’ll need to stop it halfway through and pull out the grounds, which is inelegant and error-prone. How about a French press? Nope, the grind size is too small. Serving a lot of coffee at once for, say, a dinner party? You’ll have to wait for an entire roast between each pot, not just brewing.

And when one part breaks, or you’d like to upgrade just one role, you’re out of luck.

Freshly roasted coffee is awesome, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. For the same price, you can get a standalone Behmor home roaster today. Sure, you’ll need to buy a grinder and brewer separately, but you probably already have those if you’re considering this machine, and the separate components will be far more versatile in practice.

  1. This is one reason why the Behmor is a smarter design than the HotTop — far less chaff and oil builds up in the roaster, and it’s much easier to clean when it does.

    Remind me to finally write my Behmor-vs.-HotTop review sometime. ↩︎