Up in the mountains of Nicaragua local coffee farmers can pour freshly harvested beans into an automated production line where they come out the other end consumer ready. Thousands of miles away in East London, the green beans are brought to roast in minutes using the world’s first infrared coffee machine, Bonaverde Berlin, making its debut at Unruly’s Home of the Future. Besides making a damn fine cup of coffee, this machine also disrupts the whole ecosystem of the second biggest commodity in the world.
The beans are cleverly packaged in a sealed pouch that doubles as a coffee filter and features an identifying NFC tag that gives credit to the farmers. To activate the machine you simply scan the code. Infrared waves roast the beans that are then ground with a burr grinder to ensure no taste is lost in the process.
Traditionally, bean farmers get about 6 cents for every $1 of beans sold, but with Bonaverde’s model growers can retain up to $0.90 for every $1 after a moderate 10% commission is paid to the company, allowing farmers to make almost twenty times the average margin. Their patented production line can produce up to ten thousand pouches a day.
‘The bigger vision,” says CEO Hans Stier, “is the social impact. We give farmers the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, and offer them a continuous revenue stream.”
Farmers choose the price for their beans to retail, ranging from $1–10 with each pouch making up to ten cups. They’re distributed online, but in a unique a pay-as-you-go model, the consumer is only charged when the NFC label is scanned on the machine, marking the moment when the commodity becomes a consumable.
The taste is surprisingly smooth and mild, with a notable lack of bitterness. This is due to the beans being so freshly roasted that the carcinogen acrylamide, responsible for the bitter taste of coffee, doesn’t have time to develop.
“When you get a coffee in Starbucks or Costa it’s usually been 10–20 months since the beans were roasted, and years since they were harvested. The shelf life of green beans is 3–4 years with no loss of quality.”
The company aims is to have production lines in all coffee growing areas, and for other companies, like Starbucks and Costa, to use the production lines so they too can bring the art of their coffee to the in-home consumer.