Back in the ‘10s, when third-wave coffee was first growing in popularity worldwide, Bonavita was one of the biggest names in specialty coffee gear. Their electric gooseneck kettle was a game-changing piece of brewing equipment that could be find at pretty much every specialty cafe and coffee geek’s home countertop, and their automatic home coffee makers was one of the first to be certified by the SCA for achieving proper water temperature for coffee brewing. They were, in many ways, one of specialty coffee’s first “it” brands, whose appearance on a bar let you know the person making your drink knew what was up.
Since those heydays, newer brand have grown in popularity and have wrestled away market share from Bonavita’s two greatest contribution to specialty coffee; Fellow’s Stagg EKG has all but taken over the kettle game and it seems like every year a new SCA-approved home brewer is being released at Expo. And in the decade since, Bonavita has kind of just… disappeared from the United States market. Like, there’s not even a website.
But now the brand may now be poised for a comeback. In a fascinating new article released earlier this week, Modern Retail recounts Bonavita’s tumultuous—and litigious—past as well as its plans to reestablish itself amongst the coffee world.
Per Modern Retail, Bonavita began in 2011 to fill a gap in the burgeoning home specialty coffee market. Contrary to common conception, Bonavita wasn’t a company in a traditional sense, but more of an international collaboration between Chinese manufacturer Smartco and Washington-based coffee distributor Espresso Supply. “One side made the products, the other sold and marketed them,” describes Modern Retail.
The article is a gripping read. Bonavita came out of the gate hot, selling nearly $3 million in product during the company’s first quarter on the market in 2012. That number grew to over $50 million by 2016, and sales continued to grow by 70% year over year between 2013 and 2016. Their success spawned competition, with big name home appliance brands like Oxo, KitchenAid, Cuisinart, and Breville (who previously had footing in the home espresso machine category) all releasing their own SCA-approved brewers.
But as the article notes, “the two parents didn’t always see eye to eye” and relationships began to sour, collapsing in a morass of suits and countersuits involving various third parties. Fast forward to 2022 and Bonavita in now in the hands of Smartco (save for the old website and social media accounts, which still belong to Espresso Supply), including a brand-new web address. With it, the brand will be rereleasing its best-selling items and adding to them new colorways and features. The company will also be rolling out new gear later this summer, all from Smartco’s own distribution facility in Brea, California.
The entire article weaves a fantastical tale of Bonavita’s rise and fall and potential resurgence, and it’s a a must-read for anyone interested coffee gear history. A lot has changed in the decade since Bonavita took the coffee world by storm. Where there was once a hole in the market there is now an abundance of brands new and old, large and small, trying to stake a claim in the ever-growing coffee gear category. Now Bonavita are looking to dive back in. Only time will tell how successful they will be.