With so many devices striving to perform so many tasks at the expense of practically all of them, the field of kitchen appliance gadgetry is littered with jacks and bereft of masters.
So goes the thinking over at Salt Lake City, Utah-based Saint Anthony Industries, maker of craft-oriented tools and accessories for coffee and espresso. Where others may see bells and whistles, they see noise, and so their line of brewers, glassware, filters and tools has always consisted of sturdy designs made specifically to achieve straightforward tasks.
This past weekend at the company’s booth at the Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Seattle, SAI revealed a pet project of sorts that’s just as much an artistic statement as it is a toe dipped into the pool of electronics and automation: the Automatica, a mechanized pourover brewer that makes one cup of coffee in one particular way at the touch of one button, with an engrossing, almost hypnotic simplicity.
Atop a handsome hardwood cylinder, an electric gooseneck kettle is perched opposite another wooden cylinder that holds a standard American household-style coffee mug with a Saint Anthony C70 ceramic brewer and loaded filter on top. When the button is pushed, the water in the kettle boils and then the little dance begins: the kettle tips over and the mug cylinder rotates for a bloom pour, after which the kettle leans back into its resting position and the mug rotation stops. After the pause, the kettle tips again and mug rotation resumes, pouring and turning in pulses until it’s done, which takes about three-and-a-half minutes. That’s it.
“It’s not meant for tricks or anything like that. It’s just meant for simplicity and simple brewing,” SAI Founder Khristian Bombeck told Daily Coffee News while demoing the hardwood, brass and aluminum Automatica at the Expo. Bombeck, also the inventor of the Steampunk and founder and former CEO of Alpha Dominche, spent his “free” time over the course of about three years engineering the brewer, which pours 330 grams of water off the boil onto an ideal dose of 22 grams of coffee. It performs one specific pour pattern determined by the angle of the kettle and rotation speed of the mug, which is not a variable controllable by the user. One could choose to use either a Phoenix70 or the ceramic C70 to hold the filter, but other than that, it does what it does. Said Bombeck, “It just makes coffee the exact same way I do when I make a pourover, and I’m happy with that.”
The 330-gram water line is marked inside what Bombeck said was basically a generic kettle he sourced for its reliable base and the flow from its spout. All other components are made in-house. Natural variations in the wood for the main wooden barrel provided a particularly pesky design challenge, as nearly one out of every three barrels was rejected.
“Initially what we’re doing is selling them as a limited edition of 500 art pieces,” said Bombeck. “They’re all made by hand in our shop. After that we may not make it again, or we may team up with a legitimate product manufacturer to make it.”
At the show, the company had the machine paired with coffees preground and packaged in sealed, precise doses by way of the proprietary process developed by SAI in 2016. Though it was announced at that time that the company would be launching a preground packaging wholesale service to roasters, this weekend Bombeck said that it remains something only done for friends, family and staff. “We’re fully busy and satisfied and happy running our core business,” he said.
As for the Automatica machine, the price of one from the upcoming limited run of 500 has been set at $1,000 USD. Pre-ordering opened online over the weekend for a refundable deposit of $200 up front, the remaining $800 to be charged upon shipping, which Bombeck said is expected to start in six months.
“We have the capability inside that machine to do Bluetooth and all this stuff that, at the end of the day, I’ve found over the years that it doesn’t benefit the customer, the customer doesn’t care about it,” said Bombeck. “Our statement with this is just simplicity. Yes, it could do a million different things, but the beauty of it, to us, is that it doesn’t. It just does one thing, really good.”