(Pocket-lint) - By now, we're sure you've realised that anything that almost can be made smart and therefore internet-connected has been. That includes coffee machines. Yup, the Smarter Coffee Machine 2.0 is, as the name suggests, the second-generation coffee machine from Smarter.
It offers a 1.5-litre capacity, a built-in coffee grinder and - to its headline feature - it ties-in with your Amazon Echo and Google Home to offer voice controls, of sorts, as well as mobile application.
Looks like a drip coffee machine…
- Large bean storage area at the top
- Interchangeable front panels
- Choose between black, cream or red
- Jug holds 1500ml
From the front, the Smarter Coffee machine looks a lot like other coffee machines, but there are some neat touches.
First of all, most of the exterior is clad in a brushed aluminium panel. Secondly, you can swap out two of the plastic fascias on the front to change the colour. In the box you'll find both red and cream coloured panels, just in case you want something a little less plain than the bog standard black and silver combo.
On the whole, it's a sleek, professional looking machine that should right into any kitchen. Starting from the top, the first thing you'll spot is the transparent plastic coffee bean silo. This feeds directly into the grinder, which then churns out the ground coffee directly into the built-in, removable filter. Getting into it is pretty simple: just pull off the well-sealed, tight-fitting lid.
Perhaps the one major inconvenience in daily use stems from the same old issue with coffee machines: pouring water into the water tank is a real pain. Especially if you have wall-mounted cupboards above your tea/coffee station.
On the Smarter 2.0 the water tank is fillable through an area on the back of the machine, which itself is behind the coffee bean silo. It's easy enough to flip up the rectangular lid to get to the tank, but getting water in without spilling it over your kitchen surface is nigh-on impossible thanks to being so difficult to get to.
We'd prefer a removable tank similar to those you might find on a Tassimo or Smeg coffee machine. That way, you could take the tank to the kitchen sink, fill it up directly, then reattach it to the machine. Anything would be better than desperately trying to pour in water with a jug to an area that you can't really see - which is a problem in many small UK kicthens.
One design element that's rather pleasing is the way the coffee filter holder opens. Pressing a button on the right side of the machine releases the door, which swings open to reveal the coffee filter. You can remove this easily then, to empty it and wash it out.
Sticking with the top surface, right near the front, you'll find the coarseness dial. Rotate it and it adjusts how finely the beans are ground.
You'll find the rest of the manual controls on the front panel, surrounding a basic monochrome screen. There are four buttons here, each for controlling an individual aspect of the machine's function. Top left is the start button. Bottom left is the button for choosing whether you want to use the beans or ground coffee. Top right adjusts the strength of the brew. Bottom right is for how much coffee you want to make, measured in cups.
As with most of these machines, two "cups" actually translates to a proper single mug full of coffee. So four cups is roughly the right amount for two people. And so on.
Is it really smart?
- Automate location or time-based brewing
- Alexa and Google Assistant support
- Connects to Wi-Fi
But is the Smarter actually smart? The answer is both yes and no.
Once you've setup this coffee machine, you can control almost every part of it by using your iPhone or Android device, using the company's app. There's no mistaking, it can be very convenient.
How convenient depends very much on what your coffee drinking schedule is like. If you're a "need a coffee first thing in the morning" or "want a coffee when I get home" person then you'll see the benefits more than someone who sporadically makes coffee at random points during the day.
The reason for this is, like any other bean-to-cup or filter machine, you still need to make sure you have water in the tank, beans in the grinder up top, and that there's a clean, ground-free filter ready. The last thing you want is to press a button on your app and then realise you forgot to empty out the grounds or top up the water supply.
What's more, once you've done all those physical demands, and you want coffee right there and then, it's easier just to use the buttons on the front of the machine to set your coffee going rather than go hunting for your smartphone to use the app.
However, the app really does have its benefits. Probably the most relatable example is the first-thing-in-the-morning wake-up coffee. Using the app, you can schedule a Wake Up time, which both plays an alarm to wake you up, while the machine gets to brewing the coffee to your desired strength and quantity.
Want a four cups worth of strong coffee made for you while you get up and shower each day? That's no problem. All you need to do is make sure the filter's ready, and that there's enough water and coffee beans before you go to bed each night.
As you'd expect, the app also lets you manually start brewing whenever you feel the need for coffee.
For those who have adopted either Google Home or Amazon Echo smart home assistants, you'll be glad to know that the second-generation Smarter Coffee machine also supports these voice assistants.
Sadly, however, their options are limited. Google Home, for instance, only has the option tell Google Assistant to switch on, or switch off the machine. You can't get Google to brew a coffee, or schedule one to be made for another time. At least, not directly. Thankfully, there's a workaround using IFTTT: by linking your Smarter account and enabling Google Assistant to work with IFTTT, you can setup a recipe and then choose your phrasing (up to three different commands) and choose how Google Assistant responds. After choosing the commands and response, you use the Smarter plug-in to select how strong a coffee you want, how much to make and then finish the process.
The app experience
- Manually start coffee brewing
- Schedule Wake Up mode
- App for Android or iOS
As apps go, Smarter's is really easy to use and acts as the control for everything you need to make use of the Smarter 2.0's smart features.
. The main home screen is the launch screen, dominated by a large circle control for adjusting the amount of coffee you want to brew. Underneath this is the start button and the water level button.
Hidden beneath those is a small arrow for adjusting customisation options - such as how strong you want the coffee to be, how long you want to pre-heat the jug for, and how long you want to keep it warm for afterwards. Here is where you also choose whether you want to grind the beans stored on the top of the machine, or if you've already placed ground coffee in the filter.
You can customise the experience further, making use of the smarter elements of the product. Tapping on the side-bar menu takes you to features like the Wake Up mode. You can set which time the alarm goes off, on which days of the week, as well as adjust the strength and quantity of coffee.
Similarly, Home Mode lets you choose which days and during what times you want the coffee machine to turn itself on and make a coffee when you arrive home.
The app also lets you choose which notifications you receive on your phone. You can choose to be alerted when the brewing is finished, and when the Keeping Warm period at the end as started and finished. There's even a replenishment option that gives you quick access to ordering fresh coffee and tea supplies.
How does the coffee taste?
As with any coffee maker, how good the coffee is depends very much on what beans or ground coffee you've chosen. We all have our preferences, but, as filter coffee goes, it's decent enough. Especially when you choose to use the bean grinding function, and if you have relatively fresh roasted beans.
The fact that you can adjust the coarseness of the grind and strength of the coffee makes a massive difference, so with enough playing and tweaking settings, you should be able to find a combination that works for you.
Coffee connoisseurs will argue that a drip coffee machine won't give you as decent a finished drink as a manual pour-over, an Aeropress, or an espresso-based drink might.
Arguably, however, the Smarter machine isn't a for the uber-nerd of coffee. This is a machine that's convenient, smart and can make a decent cup of filter coffee. Importantly, it can make up to 1.5-litres of it at a time - so if you're making for more than just you, the filter machine quickly becomes essential.
If you're after a decent bean-to-jug filter machine, the Smarter 2.0 is well equipped with easy-to-use app-controlled elements that bring it into the 21st century. And for a fair price point - that's not to say it's not cheap, but it's not over-priced either.
There's a real convenience to having a machine that has coffee ready for you first thing in the morning. Likewise, it's great to have smartphone notifications that tell you when the coffee is ready. Those things are both very useful, but arguably are the only smart features that make this machine any different from a whole bunch more options.
On the smart home side it seems completely pointless adding Google Home compatibility, as even a simple command to allow you to start brewing the coffee lacks. It's really crying out for a "Hey Google, make me coffee" or similar command. Currently, the integration is rather limited - which isn't so smart, despite the coffee being perfectly decent.