Morning Machine is the kind of thing that will grind a lot of people's gears, but it happens to make great coffee. It's a Nespresso machine – plenty of lovers of 'real' coffee hate Nespresso machines – aimed at fans of artisan barista coffee. You know: the kind of thing where it's roasted in Berlin, Williamsburg, Shoreditch or Seoul, and it tastes of elderberries. Which is the kind of coffee flavour most Nespresso fans are probably not that in to. And yet somehow, it seems to be really good.
Arguably, it's the best Nespresso machine I've ever tried, which is funny as Morning –described as a 'coffee-tech company, co-founded by Singapore-based Bowen Chiou and Leon Foo' goes out of its way to not use the word 'Nespresso' in most of its marketing. Ultimately though, it's a pod coffee machine that is compatible with the original, small Nespresso pods.
The twist is that Morning has made a quite stylish machine, and then hooked up with a bunch of small roasteries, so it can provide a range of capsule coffees that are more interesting than what Nespresso itself sells, and easily superior to the Nespresso-compatible crap sold in most supermarkets.
That being said, a lot of people just like their coffee to taste of coffee, and they add a load of milk and sugar to it. Therefore, the Morning Machine could be described as quite a niche operation. But I like what I've seen of it so far, since the machine arrived at my upmarket, space-age urban bachelor pad, yesterday afternoon.
The thing about Nespresso is that it's not just a marketing exercise dreamed up by some bored Nestlé marketing folk. It's a very good coffee delivery system that gives precise control over brewing temperature and extraction time. The whole point of it is it gives consistent results and has controllable parameters. It's almost like a classic espresso maker for a fraction of the price. The only problem is that most Nespresso machines are set up literally to make the same basic coffee over and over again, for people who are not all that passionate about coffee.
The Morning Machine, by contrast, lets you play with temperature, extraction times and even pressure to your caffeine-addled heart's content. It also claims to extract based on volume – ie: how much coffee is dispensed – rather than time. This might seem like a rather marginal difference to most people, but to 'real' coffee enthusiasts, it is probably very important.
This sort of 'attention to the wrong detail', as Mark E Smith once put it, may make the Morning Machine sound like some kind of wack hipster crap. So might marketing speak such as, "The Morning ecosystem including the Machine, App and Marketplace provides our users with a more connected coffee experience." But as far as I can see so far, the Morning Machine is potentially a very good machine.
Why is the Morning Machine worth it?
Well, if you are a massive coffee nerd, it lets you play with some parameters to your heart's content, as I just mentioned, and it has some interesting presets called things like 'Kyoto Style Slow Drip' – no, really. And if you are just looking for a reasonably affordable coffee machine that looks great and can be fitted practically anywhere, the svelte, chic Morning Machine delivers on that front as well, in your choice of silver white or satin black.
However, the second coolest thing about the Morning Machine is that they have signed up a whole load of excellent coffee bean purveyors to make pods for them. Now, just to be clear, you can buy those pods and use them in other machines. And you could buy the Morning Machine and use bog-standard Nespresso-style pods from your local Lidl in it.
Clearly the perfect and correct thing to do here, however, is to buy this stylish, artisan pod machine and use suitably flavoursome, artisan pods in it – preferably by buying them via Morning's online shop, so it is a synergistic and virtuous circle.
Because the VERY coolest thing about the Morning Machine is that all the capsules Morning sells by its pod partners have their own brew profiles. These can be accessed via the Morning app for your iOS or Android phone. So all you have to do is choose your pod, tell the machine what that pod is via the app and, in theory, it will choose the optimum temperature, pressure and extraction time settings to make that pod deliver a brew exactly as an expert, artisan barista would make it. Yup. Probably quite an intense guy with an interesting beard. That kind of expert, artisan barista.
So far, I've had a few espressos from the Morning Machine, using its presets rather than the app. They've come from The Barn in Berlin and St Ali in Australia, and I've liked them a lot.
Shortly I will sit down and start assessing how well the app's 'perfect' versions of each brew compare to just putting in a pod and randomly selecting a preset, and how well that compares to putting the same pods in any old Nespresso machine. That seems like the real test of whether the Morning Machine is any good or not. For now, I'm really enjoying it though.