You know what's been missing in our lives? An Internet-connected, app-controlled coffeemaker. And that's why the good folks at Belkin and appliance manufacturer Jarden Corporation have teamed up to bring the world the Mr. Coffee 10-cup Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker with WeMo (US$149.99). To learn more about how your sad, depressing life can now be filled with happiness and freshly-brewed coffee, read on.
Like the other Jarden/WeMo collaboration - the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker with WeMo - the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker dispenses with fancy displays, replacing them with integration with the free WeMo app. The device looks a lot like a standard coffeemaker, featuring a large thermal carafe as well as the usual water tank and filter/grounds basket.
But there are some technological differences that are not immediately apparent to the naked eye. First, the water tank is removable so you can put it under the faucet for filling. I love this idea, since my existing coffeemaker requires me to fill the carafe with water, then pour it into the tank - that usually means that I end up spilling at least a half-cup or two of water, even when I'm careful.
The next difference has to do with the Optimal Brew technology, which heats water up to 205°F before sending it to the filter basket. According to the Mr. Coffee folks, this means that it not only extracts the most flavor from the ground coffee, but you can get a full pot of coffee in just under eight minutes. That's 20 percent faster than most competing thermal carafe-type coffeemakers.
The Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker should also be more energy efficient than those that don't use a thermal carafe, since it doesn't need to run a heating coil for a few hours each day to keep the brewed coffee warm.
To test the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker, well, I made a pot of coffee - two, actually. It's a piece of cake to get ready to make a pot; you just fill the removable reservoir and then drop it into the appropriate place, then pull out the drawer for the filter basket and fill the basket with ground coffee.
If you just want to make a pot of coffee, there's a button you can push and you'll have your steaming brew about 8 minutes later. The app comes in when you decide you want to set up a schedule.
The app is the standard WeMo app, and setting up the coffeemaker for app control is easy. When you first power up the coffeemaker, it sets up a WeMo Coffeemaker Wi-Fi network. Attach your iPhone to that network, pull up the WeMo app, and it finds the coffeemaker. Within seconds the app sets up the coffeemaker so that it's working on your usual Wi-Fi network.
The app can be used to simply "press the button" remotely, which would be useful if you were about to take a shower or something and wanted a pot of fresh coffee when you were done. It can also be used to set up a brewing schedule for each day.
Setting up the schedule is similar to setting an alarm in the iOS Clock app. You tap on a day, then use a time picker to set the time. Tap "Save Schedule", and the schedule is saved to the device.
If you haven't put coffee and water into the device, it senses that there's no water (there is no sensor for the coffee bin that I can tell) and will tell you to "Refill Water". Once you've filled up the tank and refresh the app, it shows that it's "ready".
When the pot of coffee starts brewing, the app tells you that it is doing so by showing the word "brewing" and displaying an animated green cup of coffee. After brewing is done, refreshing the app shows a green "hot cup of coffee" icon and lists the time that the pot finished brewing. If there's one thing I'd like to see the app or device do is actually send me a notifcation that the coffee is ready to drink. You do get notifications when the water filter -- which lasts for a month -- needs to be replaced.
While testing, I left a pot of water that had gone through the coffeemaker in the thermal carafe overnight. To my amazement, it was actually still warm over twelve hours later. In terms of the taste of the coffee, I felt it was a bit more "overextracted" and bitter than what I'm used to with my regular coffeemaker. You may need to play with the amount of coffee used in the basket to get the best possible flavor.
Price-wise, the addition of the WeMo capability adds $60. The non-WeMo version of the Optimal Brew 10-cup Thermal Coffeemaker has a suggested retail price of $89.99, while this version runs $149.99. Whether that $60 is worth the convenience of being able to start a brewing cycle from anywhere in your house or change your coffeemaking schedule from your iPhone is entirely up to you.
Unlike some other WeMo-enabled devices, there's no way at this point to integrate the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker with other devices through IFTTT. I can see where it could be very useful to have the coffeemaker automatically start brewing when you enter a certain geolocation (like when you get near your office), and that's either going to take IFTTT integration or location awareness on behalf of the WeMo app.
What I'd really like to see down the road is a more complete connected coffeemaker that connects to a water supply and has large built-in bins for beans and used grounds so you wouldn't even have to touch the device for a week or two in regular home use. That device would also probably be out of my price range, but it would be impressive...
Belkin's WeMo family of connected devices continues to grow with the addition of smart appliances to the mix, and all of them are easily controlled from one single iPhone app. The Mr. Coffee 10-cup Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker with WeMo adds the convenience of WeMo to a trusted, longtime appliance brand. If you're a fan of connected devices, this coffeemaker does a good job of letting you schedule and monitor brewing from your iPhone. It will become even more useful if Belkin adds IFTTT integration and better notification to the mix.