To enjoy the freshest of coffee it’s best to roast the beans yourself. Traditionally, this has been a rather tricky job. Step up the Bonaverde Berlin, which is designed to roast, grind and pour a carafe of filter coffee automatically. Due to hit the market soon, this is my first look at the new coffee machine and its innovative RFID-based roasting system.
As an all-in-one, the Berlin is a little larger than many other filter coffee machines at 500 x 255 x 250mm. As a result, it’s unlikely to fit in the space between wall kitchen cupboards and the worktop, requiring a good deal of vertical space.
However, the soft-touch plastic and accent colour give the unit a neat and modern look. It feels well built, too, with the 1-litre water reservoir, filter drawer, roasting tray and filter holder robustly pushing into place.
The front of the machine is rather plain, with a single-touch control and an RFID reader. There are no other controls, nor a display to show you what’s going on.
Bonaverde Berlin – Features
Roasting coffee is straightforward. Each pouch of coffee contains the beans you need for 1-litre of coffee (500ml bags should be available soon). The Nicaraguan coffee that I was provided with the unit cost £2.50 a bag, although there will be other varieties that will range in price from £1 to £6.
The pouch I tested included just shy of 50g of coffee, working out at £50 per kilogram. While I don’t know exactly which coffee is used, as a rough comparison, alternative Nicaraguan green beans online typically cost around £10 per kilogram.
Bonaverde’s price range competes with Nespresso, which is typically a little more expensive per kilogram, depending on the pods that you buy. Ultimately, as with Nespresso, you’re paying for the convenience of the system as much as you are for the consumable.
While it may not be cheap, Bonaverde’s system is easy to use, with the coffee pouch doubling as the filter. You just rip the top off the pouch and pour the beans into the pop-out roasting tray. Pulling the Berlin’s filter drawer out, you drop the empty filter paper into the holder. As with other filter coffee machines, it’s worth pushing the sides of the filter paper out, so that the entire holder is adequately covered.
To start roasting, simply fill up the water reservoir and then just tap the RFID tag (located on the pouch’s tear-off strip) to the tag reader on the front of the coffee machine. This prompts the Berlin to access a stored roasting profile, specifically designed for that variant of coffee. Once the tag has been read, just tap the button and go; the machine springs into life.
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Roasting time will depend on the types of bean you’ve picked, but expect to wait around 10 to 15 minutes for the job to complete. Once done, a flap opens in the roasting chamber, the beans fall into the grinder and then, once ground, into the paper holder.
Thereafter the Berlin acts like a traditional filter coffee machine, dripping hot water through the beans into the carafe beneath, which is warmed by a hot plate. This hotplate stays on during the roasting and pouring process, turning off a few minutes later. That is handy: it helps pre-warm the carafe but stops the coffee from being overheated, which would result in it becoming bitter.
Cleverly, the Bonaverde Berlin has an integrated HEPA filter and chaff collector (coffee beans shed their skins during roasting). With the HEPA filter, you don’t get a room full of smoke, as you do with a traditional roaster. HEPA filters expire when clogged, so the Berlin monitors it; new filters have to be scanned via the RFID sensor to let the machine know that a new one has to be installed.
As a home roaster, the Berlin is the most straightforward unit I’ve experienced. There’s no need to keep an eye on it while it’s doing its thing, nor did it set off the fire alarm in my home – which is a first in my home roasting experience. Yet you get that distinctive smell of roasting coffee wafting around your home, which is just great.
What is a shame is the complete lack of control. With only the RFID scanner and single ‘go’ button on the front, it isn’t possible to configure anything on the Berlin. You can’t create your own roasting profile for your own beans, choose how long to run the hot plate for, or delay the brewing process (coffee beans are, technically, best left to cool after roasting, and are said to offer the best flavour four to 24 hours after the roasting process).
You can’t control the amount of coffee you make, either: it’s 1 litre or nothing. You can put in less water, of course, but this will change the ratio of coffee granules to water, affecting the taste of the drink. Unless you drink a lot of coffee, then, this amount is likely to be too much for most.
In an early alpha is the Facebook Messenger-based Coffee Concierge, which lets you type commands to your coffee machine. I received early access to the system, which will enable you to roast, grind and make coffee simply via typing.
It’s rather weird to type instructions into a chat window and then have the coffee machine spring to life. There’s only a single roasting profile available at the moment, although that should expand when the machine goes on sale.
A dedicated smartphone app with the controls you need would make things easier in my opinion. As would a few more controls and a screen on the Berlin itself.
Bonaverde Berlin – Coffee quality
As mentioned, I tested the Berlin with the supplied Nicaraguan coffee. Following the roasting process, I found that the Berlin evenly distributed water through the ground beans and filter paper. This is important, since machines that don’t distribute water evenly leave some granules dry and tend to deliver rather watered-down coffee.
A medium roast was achieved, which is a good choice, retaining the origin flavours. The results were good, with a smooth, drinkable and fresh tasting coffee, delivered at an appropriate 70ºC.
For my next batch, I switched out the supplied coffee for 50g of my fair trade Peruvian. The caveat here is that I had no control over the roasting profile; indeed, the beans could have taken a slightly deeper roast. Even so, the result was a smooth, flavoursome coffee. I’d have liked the coffee to have had chance to settle for a bit, helping to develop body – but certainly, the machine still produced a great cup of coffee.
There hasn’t been a product quite like the Bonaverde Berlin before. For those that want the freshest coffee with the least amount of hassle, it’s certainly an interesting product. But, there are a few things to note.
First, it’s expensive (£799 for the white version and £999 for the silver version). Coffee is similarly priced to Nespresso, but will vary depending on the coffee you choose.The Berlin produces better-quality coffee in my opinion, but you have less control over the amount. Nespresso is a cheaper system to buy, and gives you individual portion control and is a good choice if you prefer espresso.
The Berlin currently doesn’t offer as much control as I’d like. While I understand that this is a machine of convenience, it would be nice to see some advanced controls, such as being able to set how much coffee you’d like to pour. The Coffee Concierge addresses some of the issues and adds greater control, but a smartphone app feels as though it could have been a neater, easier-to-use option.
Since the machine isn’t yet officially on sale and the coffee store not available, I can’t offer a final verdict. My first impression is that the Berlin produces great-tasting, freshly roasted coffee without hassle, but its success is likely to ride on the availability and range of coffee, both in terms of flavour and portion size. Its high price could be hard to swallow for a lot of people.