I’m a geek about a whole bunch of things, though coffee isn’t one of them. But, boy, do passions run hot when coffee preparation becomes the subject of a discussion. Take this recent Kickstarter, called The Automatica, as a good example. What I see is a cute gadget with a really appealing promo video. Set to a minimalist soundtrack of guitar strumming and engine rumbling, the video treats us to a view of the Salt Lake City skyline at sunset before moving on to pleasing closeups of bubbles foaming up as the coffee is filtered through the machine. The narration is calming and friendly. I kind of want to hang out with the makers of this gadget, they seem like good, chilled-out people.
Coffee-loving gadget nerds, though, they see through all of this facade and ask, “wait, isn’t this just a kettle that tilts?” To which the brief answer is “yes.” The longer answer, as per the Kickstarter pitch, is that the Automatica “controls temperature, flow rate, volume, pour pattern, and time so you don’t have to.” My colleagues are in uproar over this completely unnecessary design — engineered solutions for automated pour over coffee already exist and they’re self-contained little boxes — but, in all honesty, I like it exactly because it’s unnecessary. The tipping motion is like a one-step Rube Goldberg machine, and for me it triggers childhood memories of quirky inventions I’ve seen in comics and animated movies where the human is replaced by a clumsy mechanical concoction.
In the end, though, my sober friends are right. Mostly because of the price of this thing. Were it a cheap and fun little gadget, we’d give it a pass. But The Automatica costs a ridiculous $450 for early backers and aspires to an MSRP that’s $250 higher. All that and the Kickstarter doesn’t even include any images of existing prototypes. Just a slick promo video. So it’s neither for casual design fans like me nor for coffee enthusiasts who expect a tiny bit more engineering than just a timed tilting mechanism. In other words, don’t back this, just enjoy the video.