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A cup of (programmable) logic: How Dunedin start-up Kaffelogic’s at-home coffee roaster aims to disrupt mornings

A Dunedin start-up’s programmable at-home coffee roaster may just be the next big thing in when it comes to getting our caffeine fix. At least, that’s what the folks at Kaffelogic are hoping. And coffee experts and the public seem to agree.

Some people dream of going to the moon. Others of becoming Prime Minister, an All Black or Black Fern, or discover the cure for cancer. The possibilities, as we’re told in school, are endless.

But no matter what your dreams and aspirations may be, here’s the truth: you need something to fuel those dreams. You need coffee. But coffee – real coffee, not the instant stuff you put a teaspoon of in a mug of hot water – takes either A) time to brew at home, or B) has to be bought from a local café, which is expensive.

This is where Dunedin-based Kaffelogic comes in. Essentially, the start-up makes personal coffee roasting systems; after all, as any true coffee lover can attest, roasted coffee is far superior to anything else.

Kaffelogic Personal Home Coffee Roasting System from Chris Hilder on Vimeo.

“You can taste the difference when the roast is just right – the flavour almost leaps out of the bean,” the company claims. “There are thousands of chemicals that contribute to the coffee experience, most of them are created during the roast and many of them are delicate long chain molecules. Just as opening the oven door at the wrong time will cause your pavlova to collapse, variations in the heating of the beans during roasting can disrupt the formation of those molecules. Get it right and the magic starts to happen. That’s why the master artisanal roaster is so highly valued, and why sophisticated monitoring and control software is so important in an unattended roasting system.”

And that’s where a key design element of Kaffelogic’s Nano 7 roasting system comes in: it’s digital. Using variable airspeed fluidised air for the roasting system, a 1500W heater, and brushless DC 60W motor, it’s all completely programmable, meaning users can brew their coffee as strong as they’d like. The average roast time is about 10 minutes.

And even better: users don’t necessarily even need to be coffee experts, since the Nano 7 can use what’s known as a “roast profile.” Such profiles can be downloaded as files from such sites as the Kaffelogic website onto a USB stick. The stick can then be inserted into the Nano 7, and voila! Perfectly roasted coffee (possibly) developed over a period of years by the world’s greatest baristas.

Four years in development, much of the roasting system can be attributed to Kaffelogic “coffee engineer” Chris Hilder. As Hilder, who has a background as a scientist and software engineer, told The Otago Daily Times earlier this year, he had an interest in microprocessor control systems, and the idea of an easy-to-use, self-contained coffee roasting system was something that appealed to him.

Hilder was also assisted by production adviser David Cohen – whose background includes more than 25 years in product development, operations and project management in the electrical and electronics manufacturing industries. There’s also marketing adviser Rachel Elder – who also just so happens to be a Dunedin city councillor. Other partners include Dunedin’s Farra Engineering (who handle the laser cutting and sheet metal for the machines) and Mosgiel’s JTech (plastic injection moulding).

Ok, so a lot of effort went into creating and designing the roasting system. But what do the people who know a thing or two about coffee – roasters, cafes and more – think about it? Ripe Coffee owner and director Jason Hall is pretty impressed. “The four years of development has produced a high-tech roaster that anyone can use. The ability to produce profile roasted coffee in a home roaster has always been a challenge.”

High praise, but he says more. He adds the Kaffelogic roaster “has set a new benchmark for home roasters.”

Michael Wilson of Artisan Roast UK, Artisan Roastery Malaysia, and Seniman Kakao Malaysia – not to mention the author of “Coffee for the Mildly Obsessed - the Barista Manual” (translation: he’s basically coffee world royalty) – also offers high praise. “The Nano 7 gives me a way to test profiles for a coffee more consistently, and at two percent of the cost of my smallest roaster. I’ve thrown away coffee from a single test roast that cost more than this roaster.”

And a bit more locally? Says Jason Moore, owner and operator of Dunedin’s Vanguard Coffee: “I had the pleasure of being at [a] demo and testing the capabilities of this little machine. “Let me say I was incredibly impressed.”

The general public would seem to agree too – after all, 117 people pledged $59,950 for the Nano 7 in a successful PledgeMe campaign that closed this past May. The amount exceeded the target of $50,000, and allowed for the manufacture more of the roasters, with backers having theirs shipped to them this month ahead of a public release.

So what’s next? As the company says: “We are now flat out making our first production run of roasters for our early adopters. If you missed the PledgeMe campaign you will have the opportunity to purchase one soon – we expect to have more available towards the end of 2018.”

So, it’s fairly safe to say the future is looking bright – or at least smelling as appealing as a freshly-brewed cup of coffee first thing on a chilly morning – for this Deep South start-up. As Hilder also told the Otago Daily Times this year: “'I’m not going to change the way everybody gets their coffee. I’d like the change the way a group of people or market sector get their coffee.”

Considering the growth of the industry and our ever-increasing thirst for good coffee (see the stats about that below), they’re well on their way to doing just that.

BY THE NUMBERS: NEW ZEALAND COFFEE CONSUMPTION

3.7kilogrammes of coffee beans the average person in New Zealand consumes per year.

27– percentage of New Zealanders who say they prefer coffee made at home as opposed to bought at a café.

$393 – average spend on a coffee machine.

500 years – approximate time it can take used pods and capsules made from aluminium and plastic to break down.

$150 millionretail coffee sales in New Zealand in 2016, not including café sales.

Sources: International Coffee Organisation, Canstar Blue survey and The Register

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