By Peter Murphy
BOGOTA (Reuters) - A German entrepreneur has invented an in-home machine that quickly turns raw beans into a freshly brewed cup of coffee, racking up 5,000 pre-orders as consumers search for the perfect brew and retailers hunt for new ways tap the coffee market.
Inventor Hans Stier says his Bonaverde machine's ability to roast beans at the optimum temperature and for just the right amount of time and almost as quickly as filter brewing machines, sets it above the crowd of current coffee makers.
As coffee consumption is increasingly associated with sophistication in its mature arabica-focused markets, novelty in preparation has become big business as more cafes boast trained baristas and sales boom in markets such as the $8 billion single-serve segment, dominated by Nestle's Nespresso.
"This is the freshest coffee you'll ever taste," said Stier, the CEO of Bonaverde, who quit work as a lawyer in 2011 to pursue the project by amassing almost $2.5 million through crowd-funding sources such as Kickstart, Indiegogo and Seedmatch.
The table-top machine, slightly taller than a regular coffee maker, drew curious gazes while on display this week at the Colombia's Coffee Growers' Federation congress in Bogota, as beans swirled inside its tiny roasting chamber, glowing orange while a fresh brew trickled into the pot below.
Besides making for a tastier brew, unroasted beans stay fresher longer than pre-roasted beans. Stier says the machine also boosts growers' profits by cutting out middlemen and delivering raw beans straight to consumers. Coffee often changes hands more than 100 times from farm to store shelf.
Buyers will be able to find the profile of the farmer who produced their beans on an app, Stier said.
The machine will retail for about $650 and only roast coffee supplied through Bonaverde's grower network. Coffee bags will contain a microchip to start the machine and dictate the perfect brewing process. The coffee maker will also give feedback on user consumption and preferences to the company via WiFi.
The German-engineered machine will be produced in China from around mid-2015. Retailers including Target, Europe's Media Markt, and online trader Amazon are interested, but for now Stier says Bonaverde will sell only on its website.
"We'll keep that option open," Stier said.
Stier admits to some sleepless nights as design problems appeared. The original round wooden-cased machine is now rectangular and metal to withstand the forces of grinding beans and temperatures needed to roast the beans.
But his goal remains unchanged.
"It's as if you were drinking the coffee right on the farm," said one passerby at the coffee congress.
(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Alan Crosby)