While we laud Belkin for staking a very early claim in the automated “smart home” market with the WeMo line of Wi-Fi accessories — and have liked most of the WeMo products we’ve tested — there are times when the technology can feel more like an expensive gimmick than a potential lifestyle-changer. Jarden Consumer Solutions’ new Mr. Coffee 10-Cup Smart Coffeemaker ($250) is in the former category, nearly doubling the price of an otherwise nearly identical product just to add modestly valuable Internet connectivity. Even if you’re the type of person who has dreamed of being able to “brew coffee from your bed,” you might not want to spend the considerable extra cash for this model.
Understanding the Smart Coffeemaker begins by understanding two earlier products: Jarden’s regular and nearly identical Optimal Brew 10-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker, and Belkin’s WeMo Switch. The original Coffeemaker has a $117 MSRP and $70 actual selling price, owing more to some metal cladding on otherwise mostly black plastic chassis than advanced functionality. Like countless other coffeemakers before it, it basically just heats and pours up to 10 cups of water over ground coffee beans at your command. It happens to heat the water to 205°F, claimed to be “the ideal brewing temperature” for an unspecified type of coffee, and is able to brew a full pot in around seven minutes, a little faster than some rivals. It has a timer, a pause feature, a thermal carafe, and a replaceable carbon water filter. WeMo Switch is a $50 MSRP/$50 street Wi-Fi-controlled on/off switch that connects to any wall outlet and thereby any corded electronic device, allowing you to turn the power on and off manually from afar, or on a timed schedule. Add the two parts together and you get a $167 MSRP or a $120 street price.
Although it has a $250 MSRP and a $150 street price, the Smart Coffeemaker is little more than the sum of those two parts — with some small tweaks. Quite large by coffeemaker standards, it stands 14.5” tall by 10” deep by 8.6” wide at its largest points, pleasantly mixing black plastic with chrome and stainless metal accents. Jarden has pulled the standard Coffeemaker’s integrated clock and timer in favor of a very plain control panel with one-touch brewing and Wi-Fi reset buttons, a power light and a Wi-Fi light. The “Smart” model is seemingly simpler, but in a way that feels less worthy of a premium price. WeMo-less coffeemakers start at under $60, and models with higher, comparable MSRPs have non-trivial frills such as grinders, coffee strength settings, and included gold coffee filters. This unit has none of those features; you’re even left to buy your own coffee filters, as well as replacement water filters, since only one is included in the box.
What the Smart Coffeemaker offers is automation. You set it up by plugging it in, joining its Wi-Fi network with your iOS device, then loading Belkin’s WeMo app for a brief configuration process — you can name it, change its icon, and provide an email address to “receive important updates and information” about the unit and WeMo. Within a few minutes, it’ll be on your home Wi-Fi network and ready to start making coffee. Should you delete the WeMo app, as we did once during testing, you may find the process of setting it back up again a second time to be substantially more time-consuming and frustrating. We strongly suggest that you avoid that if possible, because anyone else who sees you spending 15 minutes trying to get a “Smart Coffeemaker” back on your Wi-Fi network will have plenty of time to laugh at both the product and you.
Once it’s on your network, the Smart Coffeemaker can do only a few things. First and most pertinently, there’s a manual “brew” button that effectively turns the unit on and off like a WeMo Switch, although it’s technically always “on” and therefore drawing some power from your outlet. Press the button, and assuming you’ve loaded the Smart Coffeemaker up with both water and fresh coffee grounds, a pot of fresh coffee will start brewing. Additionally, you can set an automatic brewing schedule with a different day or night time for each day of the week, get reminders when the water runs low and the water filter needs to be changed, as well as accessing a coffee freshness timer and cleaning status.
This small list of “can-do” features contrasts heavily with a larger list of “can’t-do” omissions. You can’t set the Smart Coffeemaker’s brewing temperature to handle coffee beans that aren’t optimally brewed at the locked-in 205 degrees. Nor can you load the large unit up with enough water or coffee for two or more pots — even half-sized ones — and dispense fractional portions on an as-needed basis. There’s no auto-grinding of beans, adjustment of coffee strength, or other frills.
All of this is to say that the Smart Coffeemaker really isn’t very smart. It’s actually a pretty dumb coffeemaker with a Wi-Fi on/off switch and an Internet-dependent timer.
The dependence on the Internet turns out to be the Smart Coffeemaker’s real Achilles’ Heel. After setup, when we tried to save an automated schedule, we received a “Schedule can not be saved” error message. Then, after brewing a pot of coffee manually using the app’s brew button — success! — the unit dropped off of the Wi-Fi network and wouldn’t rejoin it despite unplugging and replugging, restarts of the app, and other fidgeting.
Meanwhile, the lonely brew button on the front of the unit sat there as a stark reminder of the fact that all the screwing around with Wi-Fi settings and Internet-based automation wouldn’t remove your need to visit the Smart Coffeemaker in person to consume its coffee and restock its supplies after every brewed pot. You might as well just push the button on the front yourself, and if you can’t spare that much time or effort in the morning, a traditional timer-equipped coffeemaker will do the same thing for half the price.
In short, regardless of whether it’s judged at the $250 MSRP or the $150 street price, it’s hard to recommend the Smart Coffeemaker as a meaningfully better alternative to less expensive models without WeMo support. In some ways, it’s actually worse because of its size and the time you may waste trying to get it to work right if it drops off your network or refuses to accept scheduled programming. That’s sad, because a more fully-featured coffeemaker with deeper features and settings could be really valuable to coffee connoisseurs—maybe even coffee professionals and shops—especially if those features could be dialed in and controlled from afar. We hope that a future model gets more right than this one.
Company and Price
Company: Mr. Coffee
Models: Smart Coffeemaker
Compatible: iPhone 3GS to 6 Plus, iPod touch 4G/5G, iPad 2 to Air, All iPad minis