(Pocket-lint) – By now we’re sure you’ve realized that almost anything that can be made smart and therefore connected to the internet has been. This includes coffee machines. Yes, 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 main function – it connects to your Amazon Echo and Google Home to offer voice commands, of sorts, as well as a mobile app.
Looks like a drip coffee machine…
- Large grain storage area upstairs
- Interchangeable fronts
- Choose between black, cream or red
- The jug contains 1500 ml
From the front, the Smarter coffee machine looks a lot like other coffee machines, but there are some neat touches.
First, most of the exterior is clad in a brushed aluminum panel. Second, you can swap out two of the plastic fascias on the front to change the color. In the box, you’ll find red and cream colored panels, just in case you want something a little less plain than the standard bog black and silver combo.
All in all, it’s a sleek and professional looking machine that should be in any kitchen. Starting from the top, the first thing you’ll notice is the clear plastic coffee bean silo. This directly feeds the grinder, which then grinds the ground coffee directly into the integrated removable filter. Access is quite simple: just remove the well-closed and tight-fitting lid.
Perhaps the only major downside to everyday use stems from the same old problem with coffee machines: pouring water into the water tank is a real pain. Especially if you have wall cupboards above your tea/coffee station.
On the Smarter 2.0, the water tank can be filled from an area at the rear of the machine, itself located behind the coffee bean silo. It’s easy enough to lift the rectangular lid to access the reservoir, but getting water in without spilling it on your kitchen surface is nearly impossible because it’s so hard to get to.
We prefer a removable tank similar to those found on a Tassimo or Smeg coffee machine. This way you can take the tank to the kitchen sink, fill it directly, and then reattach it to the machine. Anything would be better than desperately trying to pour water with a jug into an area you can’t really see – which is a problem in many small UK kitchens.
A rather nice design element is the way the coffee filter holder opens. A press of a button on the right side of the machine releases the door, which opens to reveal the coffee filter. You can then easily remove it, empty it and wash it.
Standing on the top surface, just off the front, you’ll find the coarseness dial. Spin it and it adjusts the fineness of grinding the beans.
You’ll find the rest of the manual controls on the front panel, surrounding a basic monochrome screen. There are four buttons here, each to control an individual aspect of the machine’s function. At the top left is the start button. At the bottom left is the button to choose whether you want to use beans or ground coffee. Top right adjusts the strength of the brew. Bottom right is the amount of coffee you want to brew, measured in cups.
As with most of these machines, two “cups” actually translates to a nice full cup of coffee. So four cups is about the right amount for two people. etc
Is it really smart?
- Automate brewing based on location or time
- Alexa and Google Assistant support
- Connects to Wi-Fi
But is the Smarter really smart? The answer is both yes and no.
Once you’ve set up this coffee machine, you can control almost all of its parts using your iPhone or Android device, using the company’s app. Make no mistake, it can be very handy.
Convenience depends a lot on your coffee drinking schedule. If you’re a “need a coffee first thing in the morning” or “want a coffee when I get home” person, you’ll see the benefits more than someone who makes coffee sporadically at random times of the day.
The reason for this is that, like any other bean or filter machine, you always need to make sure you have water in the tank, beans in the grinder on top and that there is a clean filter with no land ready. The last thing you want is to press a button on your app and find that you forgot to empty the lot or refill the water.
Plus, once you’ve done all those physical demands and want coffee right away, it’s easier to use the buttons on the front of the machine to brew your coffee rather than going look for your smartphone to use the application.
However, the app really has its advantages. Probably the most relevant example is wake-up coffee first thing in the morning. Using the app, you can program a wake-up time, which triggers an alarm to wake you up, while the machine begins to brew coffee at the desired strength and quantity.
Want four cups of strong coffee made for you while you get up and shower each day? This is not a problem. All you need to do is make sure the filter is ready and there is 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 the Google Home or Amazon Echo smart home assistants, you’ll be happy to know that the second-generation Smarter coffee machine also supports those voice assistants.
Unfortunately, however, their options are limited. Google Home, for example, only has the ability to tell Google Assistant to turn the machine on or off. You can’t ask Google to brew a coffee or schedule one for another time. At least not directly. Fortunately, there is a workaround using IFTTT: by linking your Smarter account and allowing Google Assistant to work with IFTTT, you can set up a recipe, then choose your formulation (up to three different commands) and choose how which Google Assistant answers. After choosing the commands and response, you use the Smarter plugin to select the strength of coffee you want, the amount to brew, and then complete the process.
The app experience
- Manually start coffee dispensing
- Schedule wake-up mode
- App for Android or iOS
As apps go, Smarter is really easy to use and acts as the control for everything you need to use the smart features of Smarter 2.0.
. The main home screen is the launch screen, dominated by a large circle control for adjusting the amount of coffee you want to brew. Below are the start button and the water level button.
Hidden below these is a small arrow to adjust customization options – such as how strong you want the coffee to be, how long you want the jug preheated and how long you want to keep it warm afterwards . This is where you also choose whether you want to grind the beans stored on top of the machine, or whether you’ve already placed ground coffee in the filter.
You can further personalize the experience using the smarter elements of the product. Tapping the sidebar menu takes you to features like Wake Up Mode. You can set the time the alarm goes off, the days of the week, as well as adjust the strength and amount of coffee.
Likewise, Home Mode lets you choose the days and times you want the coffee machine to turn on and brew coffee when you get home.
The app also lets you choose which notifications you receive on your phone. You can choose to be alerted when brewing is complete and when the end keep warm period has started and ended. There’s even a restock option that gives you quick access to ordering fresh coffee and tea.
What does coffee taste like?
As with any coffee maker, the quality of the coffee depends a lot on the beans or ground coffee you have chosen. We all have our preferences, but, when it comes to filter coffee, it’s pretty decent. Especially when you choose to use the grind bean function and you have relatively fresh roasted beans.
The fact that you can adjust the coarseness of the grind and the strength of the coffee makes a huge difference, so with enough gaming and tuning settings, you should be able to find a combination that works for you.
Coffee connoisseurs will say that a drip coffee maker won’t give you as decent a finished drink as a hand pour, Aeropress, or espresso-based drink.
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It’s safe to say, however, that the Smarter machine isn’t for the coffee super-nerd. It’s a convenient, smart machine that can make a great cup of filter coffee. Crucially, it can make up to 1.5 liters at a time – so if you’re doing for more than you can, the filter machine quickly becomes indispensable.
If you’re looking for a decent 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 – that’s not to say it’s not cheap, but it’s not too expensive either.
It is very convenient to have a machine that brews coffee first thing in the morning. Likewise, it’s great to have smartphone notifications that let you know when the coffee is ready. These things are both very useful, but they are arguably the only smart features that make this machine different from a whole bunch of other options.
On the smart home side, it seems completely pointless to add Google Home compatibility, as even a simple command to let you start brewing coffee is missing. It’s really screaming for a “Hey Google, make me some coffee” or similar command. Currently, the integration is rather limited – which isn’t so smart, even if the coffee is perfectly decent.
Written by Cam Bunton.