Skip to main content

Is a smart coffee maker worth it?

Coffee gets a lot of us going in the morning. Whether it’s the comforting warmth, that jolt of bitterness, or — let’s be honest — the caffeine, coffee is the fuel that starts our engines each day. Coffee has evolved from its primitive origins as berries we chewed on, to the simple automatic coffee makers of the mid-century, and now today to fully automatic machines that can take care of every function for us — and some even have Alexa voice assistance built-in.

But do we really need all this technology in our morning cuppa?

How did we get to smart coffee machines?

Person using an app to start the Atomi smart coffee maker.
Atomi Smart Coffee Maker Image used with permission by copyright holder

Coffee’s origin story is well told: A young goat-herder was tending his kids and noticed they seemed to get quite excited after nibbling on the berries of a certain bush. Being the curious type, the herder sampled them himself and was hooked on the spike these small bitter berries seemed to provide.

Eventually, humans started cultivating these berries; we learned about roasting coffee and found better methods for crushing the roasted and dried beans. But, oh, all that labor! The automatic coffee machine made morning pour-overs was a thing of the past, at least until the youth of the 21st century rediscovered the joys of analog coffee methods. Many of us, however, want to save time and get to the sipping quicker and with less fuss. That’s where new coffee technology comes in.

Super automatic espresso machines

Anyone who’s ever extracted their own espresso using a manual machine knows this is truly an art form. The precision of the grind, the perfect tamping of the grounds, the pressure of the water, the water temperature, and even ambient humidity can all affect what ends up in your cup. That’s why the super automatic espresso machine was developed.

A super automatic espresso machine handles all of these tasks for you. With one press of a button it will grind your beans to your exact specifications, tamp them and extract the espresso into your cup. Most super automatic machines also have built-in milk heating and frothing too. Your contribution to this technology is pouring your favorite beans into the hopper and pressing that button.

Is coffee technology worth it?

Philips 4300 super automatic espresso machine sitting on a kitchen counter.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The efficiency, speed, and quality of the super automatic espresso machine shouldn’t be understated, though it does come at a substantial cost. Super automatic espresso machines can start at just under a thousand dollars, and paying 2 or even 3 thousand for a brand name version is par for the course. But is it worth it?

I recently had the opportunity to try a couple of different super automatic espresso machines from both Philips and Jura. There is no denying the ease and convenience of these countertop behemoths. Yes, they do tend to take up a large footprint (but truthfully not much larger than your automatic drip coffee machine and grinder combined do). Waking up tired, bleary-eyed and in semi-darkness, it is an absolute luxury not to have to pull out the beans, spill a few on the floor, grind them, spill some of that on the floor, and then try to press out a quality espresso at 5:30 in the morning. Let’s not even get started on trying to properly froth the milk. There’s a reason coffee is sipped in the morning: It helps bring us from drowsy semi-consciousness to functional wakefulness.

These super automatic machines also make a variety of different beverages, meaning you’re not limited to espresso only; you can upgrade to a cappuccino or sip on an afternoon latte with the press of a button. No remembering measurements, grind specifics, or recipes. A super automatic espresso machine is definitely worth it, assuming you drink at least one or two espresso-based beverages a day.

Can I add Alexa or Google to my coffee routine?

Numerous coffee machine manufacturers are now starting to create coffee makers with Alexa voice control into their machines. Some might wonder … why?

This is the next logical progression of smart coffee: Why press that button at all? If you can ask your Alexa digital assistant in the bedroom to get your coffee going in the kitchen, by the time you arrive at the machine, your cup is ready. That’s some magic right there.

Philips 4300 super automatic espresso machine brewing a double espresso.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Keurig has been one of the early adopters of this technology with its pod-based machine. Through the Keurig Alexa Skill, you can ask Alexa to turn the machine on or off, adjust brew strength settings, and much more.

The trouble with some of these machines is that there’s still a significant burden on you to set your machine up for success. With a Keurig, you’d need to remember to add the pod ahead of time. Some of the machines can only turn on or off using voice control, while others offer more automation.

The Hamilton Beach Alexa coffee maker lets you ask Alexa to start brewing a cup of coffee, change the brew strength, or simply turn off the machine. Because it keeps its time synced through the Alexa app, you can easily integrate the machine into your Alexa wake-up routines in the morning so that you awake to the smell of your favorite brew hot in the pot and waiting for you to pour that first cup.

There are also ways to hack this set up with an existing coffee maker and a smart plug connected to Google or Alexa. These hacks tend to work best with machines that use a manual on-off switch, but this can be a more cost-effective way to add smarts to your coffee maker.

Even so, if you think about a drip coffee maker that’s Alexa- or Google-enabled, this might seem to make a bit less sense. You still need to get everything ready, add the filter, sprinkle in the grounds, and fill the water. Then you can ask Alexa to brew when you’re ready. Alexa is really just taking that final incremental step, albeit the one that actually results in hot coffee.

Is a smart coffee maker worth it?

It’s definitely a luxury to have barista-level brews made to order at home: Kind of like a java butler.

So is all this technology really necessary? In short, of course it’s not. Particularly with the resurgence of analogue coffee brewing methods, there are plenty of folks who find pleasure in their hands-on coffee routines.

But as someone who’s had numerous opportunities to review high-end automatic coffee and espresso machines, I can testify a smart automated coffee maker can save time, allow more consistency of brew, and (particularly with a super automatic machine) it can be wildly convenient. For those reasons I can highly recommend the experience. It’s definitely a luxury to have barista-level brews made to order at home: Kind of like a java butler.

The level of smart technology you want to add to your morning coffee routine is about your personal preferences, your morning routine, and how much you may or may not have your head together before you’ve had that first cup.

Let’s be honest, we can all cope with a manual coffee existence. When I remember to before going to bed, I am a big fan of getting my analogue drip coffee maker and my Nespresso machine set up the night before so I don’t need to find the dexterity (or my glasses) to keep from bumbling around the kitchen, since just this morning in my half-wakened state I knocked an entire bag of coffee beans all over the floor.

Good thing I was able to ask my robot vacuum to come and sweep it up.

Editors' Recommendations

Erin Lawrence
Erin has over 20 years of experience as a journalist in the media and news industries, with time both on camera and behind…
The Skylight Cal Max is a 27-inch smart calendar that might replace your smart display
The Skylight Cal Max installed on a wall.

Skylight, a company responsible for a variety of popular smart frames, is gearing up to launch the Cal Max -- a smart calendar that's a simplified version of a traditional smart display. You won't be watching Netflix on the massive 27-inch screen or tinkering with dozens of different apps, as it's aimed at providing families with a streamlined way to access their calendars, chores, meal planning, and photo albums without any of the clutter found on traditional smart displays.

The Cal Max is designed to help organize your home without introducing any unwanted distractions. You won't find a massive lineup of supported apps (as you typically see on smart displays). Instead, you can seamlessly sync your data from Google Calendar, Outlook, Apple Calendar, Cozi, and Yahoo, allowing family members to automatically push all their activities to the Cal Max for easy planning. It also doubles as a smart frame, letting you view photos sent by members of your family.

Read more
Wyze Cam Floodlight v2 adds tons of new features at a lower price tag
The Wyze Cam Floodlight v2 on a wall.

The existing Wyze Cam Floodlight was already an easy recommendation for shoppers on a budget, as it features 2600-lumen LEDs, an expandable microSD card slot, and a 130-degree viewing angle for less than $100. Wyze is making several changes with the newly launched Wyze Cam Floodlight v2, and it offers big improvements over its predecessor, yet carries a smaller price tag.

The Wyze Cam Floodlight v2 doesn't look much different (the central camera unit has been streamlined, though it's still flanked by two massive lights), but it features plenty of enhanced specs. The big selling point is its new 2K camera, which allows it to capture vibrant images at all times of the day, along with color night vision when the sun goes down. Wyze also improved its viewing angle from 130 degrees to 160 degrees, providing additional coverage for large properties.

Read more
Amazon might launch a paid version of Alexa later this year
An Amazon smart display on a kitchen counter.

Amazon hasn't had much success monetizing its popular Alexa smart assistant, but according to a new report from Business Insider, the e-commerce giant might be launching a paid version of Alexa to help offset costs. The so-called "Alexa Plus" would feature generative AI, allowing it to provide users with more detailed responses that better answer their questions.

Details are scarce, but it sounds like Amazon is expected to launch the service on June 30. The team first announced it was reworking Alexa last September, which was followed by reports that over 15,000 users were helping test the service under the code name "Remarkable Alexa."

Read more