Have a coffee house experience at home.
Growing up, we always had the smell of fresh coffee brewing in our home in the morning. My parents drank it black and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I really took to the caffeinated beverage. That’s when I was introduced to flavored coffees with cream and sugar. Needless to say, I’ve been drinking coffee on a daily basis ever since. I tend to keep it simple and use Keurig-style brewers that push out a single cup of coffee at a time. It’s just easier for my lifestyle. I do remember a time though that my parents would ‘splurge’ on freshly grounded coffee from the grocery store.
This was, of course, already roasted, but because it was fresh, it tasted better. I have experienced the taste difference myself and until recently, I’ve never taken my coffee making to the next level and added roasting the beans myself into the mix. In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of testing out a few different coffee makers but nothing has come into the same realm as the Berlin Roast-Grind-Brew Coffee Maker from Bonaverde.
The Berlin Coffee Maker is a roaster, grinder, and brewing machine all wrapped up in one package. The system includes the water tank, roasting chamber, filter drawer, air filter container, carafe/jug, warming plate, plug, starter pack of green coffee and a replacement air filter. The machine is quite large measuring in at 18.7″H x 9.8″ W x 9.8″D. It uses 120 volts for power. The coffee maker is considered ‘smart’ because it is connected to Bonaverde’s Coffee Concierge program through Facebook Messenger. It does this through a 3G cellular connection that is built into the coffee maker. This is automatically activated when the machine is powered up for the first time. The Berlin uses smart temperature sensors and utilizes an NXP RFID/NFC reader to ensure the proper roasting profiles are used against certain coffee beans.
The system has dishwasher-safe parts and uses a HEPA air filter. The beans are roasted using an infrared roaster to toast the beans evenly and then the machine grinds them for brewing using a stainless steel cone grinder. All the removable drawers and doors on the machine use a push-push mechanism for easy access and the controls are capacitive in nature. There is a colored LED system on the machine to guide you through potential problems and/or the regular brewing process.
The coffee maker comes with a detailed user manual (it may be a bit outdated — we had a letter enclosed with the manual that stated ours was) complete with images and a troubleshooting guide.
The Berlin comes in a large box with the Bonaverde branding on it. Aside from unwrapping the carafe from its shipping packaging, there is no assembly required. Being a long-time coffee drinker (at this point in my life), I was eager to test this new experience out. To get started, you first have to install the filter. There are very detailed instructions on this step, but it’s still a little cumbersome to work through because it involves fitting the filter into a metal box. Each air filter is good for about 30 brews.
The next thing you will want to do is fill up the water tank with purified water. It’s suggested that you experiment with water levels as that will affect the strength of the coffee. It’s suggested that you try 700ml of water for strong brews. Behind the water tank is a dial that will adjust the fineness of the grind. The Berlin coffee maker comes with green, unroasted coffee beans.
You will push open the roasting chamber located at the top of the coffee maker and drop in approximately 3 tablespoons of beans. Our set came with three premade pouches of premeasured beans in their own filter. Those were very easy to use. After those were used up, we started using the larger packs of beans shown in the image above. Once the beans are in the roasting chamber, you will place the coffee filter in the filter drawer (just above the carafe) and then you can start your brewing cycle.
Now there are two main ways to work with the Berlin coffee maker. You can simply scan your Coffee Changer Badge (a provided RFID card) and press ‘start’ on the machine or you can brew through the Coffee Concierge program set up through Facebook Messenger. Remember, the coffee maker does not connect via WiFi or Bluetooth. It has a built-in 3G cellular connection that is managed by Bonaverde. This has the benefit of being a no-charge connectivity option for users, but it has the limitation of a lower speed internet connection.
There is a large note in the reading materials that come with the coffee maker that Bonaverde does not have their own app and all the remote brewing options are done through the Facebook Messenger app. This was a bit odd to me as I would prefer it to be its own app — separate from Facebook Messenger.
I did find that the service was very responsive, but was unfortunately never able to connect to it. I attempted to do so several different times and received the following message: Machine has lost connection to server, please unplug and plug your machine and try after sometime or try moving machine to a different location. We did as instructed but to no avail. I attempted several different times — on different days — to use the ‘connect’ method through the Concierge but it was never able to connect. I tried asking different questions of the chatbot but got very odd responses. For example, when I sent the message, “I don’t have coffee pouches with the code on it,” I got a response about coffee coming from Ethiopia. To me, it just seems like this premium coffee experience is using low-grade technology to back it up.
Because of the Coffee Concierge hiccup, we brewed our coffee exclusively using the Coffee Changer Badge. We found it to be the quickest way to get the brewing process started and most of the time, we just wanted to have the coffee as an evening treat. I do want to make a note here that it will take between 20-30 minutes for the entire process — start to finish. The roasting-grinding-brewing portion of the process will take between 15-20 minutes, but the prep time, depending on your coffee choices will also take a little bit of time. One of the times we brewed coffee, I did time it and it took between 19-20 minutes.
In addition to the technology hang-ups, the machine actually did malfunction a few times on us. We were never ever able to determine the exact problem but found that unplugging the machine for a while until it cooled down seemed to alleviate the problem and we could brew again. This happened more than one time (about 40% of the time while we were testing) so it became a pretty big annoyance. I tried looking up problems using bonaverde.com/support and only found FAQs, which while information didn’t really help since I needed to talk to a person at that point. The only option you really have for support of this machine is a contact form.
Even though there are a lot of steps for making a cup of coffee from the Berlin, it actually makes a wonderful cup of coffee. We had a couple of different types of beans that came along with the coffee maker. The Tarrazu blend was the favorite. It comes from Costa Rica and has a Red Honey profile. Even though we typically take cream/sugar/milk with our coffee around here, the Tarrazu was so smooth that no enhancements were needed. It is important to note that the roasting of the coffee beans does not leave a very pleasant smell in the air. In fact, we likened it to the smell of burnt popcorn. I would recommend having a fan running or a window open so that you can eliminate the odor as soon as possible.
It is possible to have a premium cup of coffee and enjoy a real coffee house experience from the comfort of your own home. There are some technical barriers that come into play as you are trying to brew your perfect cup, but if you have the patience to get through them, you will have an awesome cup of coffee at the end. Since it is such a ‘process’ to get to that cup, I tend to prefer the easier, quicker route through my Keurig single cup coffee makers. It seems to me that for the amount of investment that you make in this machine that the technology supporting it is lacking. I love the concept of it, but at this point, the execution doesn’t make for a happy user experience.
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