Making coffee is hard. It doesn’t have to be; you could just brew up whatever, however it suits you and move on with your day and that would be that. But if you find yourself wanting to really understand what is going on and make the best coffee possible, well, then it’s hard. But it is in the challenge that there is the reward, and it’s one of the reasons so many people have dedicated their lives to the pursuit.

There’s another way to make coffee not hard, though, and it’s through artificial-intelligencing internet-of-thingsing it. That’s where Nunc (stylized Nunc.) comes in. The new startup is the collaborative work a “two-time barista champion, rocket scientist, engineer, designer, and IoT expert” who have just released a very smart looking espresso machine and grinder pairing.

As reported by Design Milk, the new combo—plainly named the Portafilter Machine and Grinder— uses “a sensor and AI-enhanced grinding and brewing system engineered to remove the guesswork from the art and science of coffee.” The matte-charcoal grey machines were designed in partnership with Stuttgart-based design firm Phoenix and come with many of the modern accoutrements one would come to expect from a 21st century do-the-hard-work-for-you machine.

It all begins with the pods. Users first select what sort of coffee they want for the espresso, choosing from descriptors like “balanced and smooth,” “powerful and charistmatic,” and “fruity and extraordinary.” Each of the coffees are curated by 2012 and 2014 Dutch Barista Champion and Nunc’s Head of Coffee Coen van Sprang. The coffee’s come in 120-140g pod-like capsules that get loaded directly into the “SmartHopper”, which the grinder will recognize and the whole system thrn uses the appropriate grind size, dose, and brew parameters. All the user has to do is tamp and load the portafilter into the grouphead.

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nunc capsules
Nunc capsules

A circular display will tell where in the matrix of strong to mild and fruity to roasty the particular coffee falls, and users and select a different profile if so inclined. From there, the espresso machine will be in charge of the pressure, flow rate, temperature, and overall output.

If you fancy some milk, the Nunc system allows you to select the type of milk you will be using—oat, dairy, or almond—and can “automatically [steam it] to the right consistency and temperature.” Users will still have to combine the espresso and milk together manually.

There is an app (of course) and appears to be a subscription-like service for ordering coffee. Currently on pre-order for €2,499 ($2,700 USD), the Nunc Portafilter Machine and Grinder have a limited run of 250 total units. They come with everything one would need to start making espresso at home, including three months’ worth of coffee, a portafilter with three baskets, power cords, knock box, milk pitcher, tamper, cleaning brush, and cleaning cloths. It also comes with a quick start guide, “personal Nunc concierge service for setup, installation, and all your concerns,” an invitation to the Nunc Coffee Summit, and a lifetime 20% on all Nunc coffees.

I’m going to say something and I need everyone to hear me out before getting mad. But perhaps there’s something to investing time and learning a craft. Maybe I’m gatekeeping—I do want everyone to have access to good coffee and to drink whatever coffee they want that makes them happy, and I hope that more and more it is good coffee that makes people happy—but if you like coffee enough to drop damn near $3,000 to make it at home, perhaps you would find learning about the process an enriching experience. It’s probably easier to let a machine do it, and doing it yourself is not always going to be perfect and the learning curve may be steep from time to time. But there’s so much joy in letting yourself get wrapped up in a thing, especially one that you’ve shown with your dollars you are rather fond of.

This isn’t to say a person has to learn how to make espresso in order to drink it. There are coffees shops the world over that can handle that part for you. But it just feels like, to me, an old analog person, that the AI exchange is non-equivalent. You’re getting the coffee, sure, but you’re losing a chance to experience the passion and all the stuff that has brought so many people into this crazy niche hobby/lifestyle/career. You’re losing a little bit of the soul.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

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