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Smart coffee makers: Are they any good yet?

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I love a good and easy cup of coffee, which is why the prospect of a “smart coffee maker” has always gotten me excited. The problem's always been, however, that I'd never come across a single one with the kind of features I actually cared about trying out … until now.

The Smarter Coffee and Behmor Brewer are a couple of machines that, unlike most of the Wi-Fi-connected and so-called smart coffee makers thrown onto store shelves in years recent, actually use tech to add convenience or enhance coffee quality in the brewing-at-home experience.

In the case of the Smarter Coffee, it’s all about smartly removing steps from the process of getting a brew going. This machine, released in the U.S. in late 2017, has a built-in coffee grinder. So, as long as it’s stocked up with beans and water, it’s never more than a few button pushes or smartphone taps away from bringing you four to 12 cups on-demand – kind of like Netflix, but coffee.

Smarter Coffee

The Smarter app also has a Wake feature you can set to auto-brew in the morning. And no need to pre-fill it with the exact amount of coffee you want the evening before, of course – a convenience I care deeply about. And same goes for the Home feature that will auto-brew when it detects you’re walking into your house.

Now, the device does need its filter cleaned after uses and to be refilled with water and beans after every few uses (or every single use if you’re brewing a full pot). So, there's still a reasonable amount of manual attention required. I'm imagining a version with either a hardline water hookup or a larger coffee bean reservoir (or both) would be a machine that would provides just a constant stream of coffee whenever you want it, which would be the ultimate. But as is, the Smarter Coffee has definitely improved my coffee craving-to-cup time somewhat.

Now, if you’d rather have your smarts dedicated to tweaking coffee quality and not so much brewing on-demand, then Behmor’s latest smart coffee maker, the Brewer, is certainly interesting.

Behmor Brewer

You have to load ground coffee and water into it the old fashioned way every time you use it, which of course I don’t care for. But this thing does make a slightly better tasting batch of coffee that can be set to the exact temperature and texture you like, with details right down to pre-soak time all configurable.

Like Behmor’s other machines, the Brewer heats its water (six or eight cups at a time) right in the reservoir and pours it over the coffee, and drips it into a steel carafe. All pretty smart factors that form the flavorful character of the coffee.

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The main difference between the Brewer and some of the company’s other machines is that it takes all the smarts from the front of the device and puts them on your phone. The only Behmor features I could find that were Brewer exclusives were Amazon Echo support – "Hey, Alexa, make me a cup of coffee. (Which the smarter coffee can also do.) – and a Buzz section of the Brewer app that lets you brew coffee according to online templates.

So, after looking at models like these, is it time to start caring about smart coffee makers? With prices at $199 (Behmor) and $249 (Smarter), or probably three times what you’d spend on any get-the-job-done coffee maker, I’m not sure I can justify the jump yet.

I don’t get so hung up on coffee quality, so long as it’s a reasonably good cup. So with money to burn, I would opt for the bit of automation that the Smarter Coffee machine brings to my mornings over the Behmor Brewer's customizable cups.

But all in all, I guess I'm still hoping that truly groundbreaking smart coffee maker I’ve been waiting for is still being brewed up somewhere.

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