Best of Week

Everyone's a coffee snob in 2016. It's a reality that's been a long time coming, ever since the first Starbucks opened its doors in 1971 and introduced Americans to the art of Italian espresso drinks. Now, once-high-end coffee drinks are being served to the masses. Flat whites and nitro cold brew are available at Starbucks across the country, not just the minimally designed coffee shop in urban centers. Even Dunkin' Donuts serves cold brew coffee now. 

This democratization of artisanal coffee is by no means a bad thing, because it means well-made coffee is readily available for everyone. But folks are also tired of being tethered to brick-and-mortar locations for their high-end coffee fix. This is the on-demand generation, after all, with a penchant for design and technology—and that's why this year's biggest coffee trend is smart but mobile artisanal coffeemakers.

This new generation coffeemakers make reliably good coffee, be they shots of espresso or regular drip coffee, but that's just the start. They also prioritize ease of use and portability, and many have tech integrated into the design to help people make the most of their beans. 

There's the AeroPress and the Chemex, which have been on the market for while but received newfound attention this year. But there's also been a slew of new coffeemakers, like the BRuX portable coffee maker, for example, which brews up to 20 ounces of pour-over coffee; all you need is the device, some grounds, and hot water. You can now make a shot of espresso while you're driving with the Handpress Auto. (We're not sure we—or our pals at The Drive—can fully endorse this in good safety conscience, however badly a coffee fix is needed.)

The AnyCafé Travel Brewer builds on existing technology and makes coffee from K-cups while you're on the run. Even Starbucks is getting into the mobile coffee brewing game with its brand new smart mug allows users to control the temperature of their coffee with a smartphone app—so you know it's a trend.

GINA from Goat Story is a 3-in-1 smart coffee maker that serves as a perfect summary of all these trends. The inspiration for the machine—which can make pour-over, immersion, and cold brew coffee—according to Anze Miklavec, the CEO and co-founder of Goat Story, was the need for a coffeemaker that could make amazing coffee with as few parts as possible, so it could be brought on-the-go. As he told me in an interview in October, "We went on one trip and we took a Chemex with us, and we just forgot the scale," says Miklavec. "That's when we said, let's integrate it," added COO Stella Korosec. "You will not need two separate pieces," continued Miklavec. "You'll have everything integrated into the brewer." 

GINA, which raised nearly $400,000 above its initial goal on Kickstarter of $50,000, is designed to be used with an iPhone app that can help the person making the coffee dial in the perfect recipe, even when they don't have a whole arsenal of coffee making equipment. That means it's portable; you could ostensibly pack it in your suitcase or bring it to your office and have access to perfect coffee when you want it, not just when you have time to pop out to a nearby café.

The move toward more mobile coffee choices is part of the natural progression of technology and the rise of the on-demand culture. According to Todd Carmichael, the CEO and cofounder of La Colombe Coffee Roasters, you've already seen this move from fixed to mobile in most aspects of our modern lives. "Banking used to be that way. You wanted to go get money from the bank, you had to stand in line, you had to cash a check, you had to bring ID. Now, it’s mobile." He anticipates the same trajectory for artisanal coffee. The cafe will still be important, but people will be craving these drinks even when the coffeeshop is nowhere nearby. That's why La Colombe has been at the forefront of ready-to-drink coffee beverages, making the first draft latte in a can in another example of high-end but highly portable coffee.

When done well, these so-called portable coffeemakers mean that good coffee is really available everywhere, "liberated" from the coffeeshop, as Carmichael described it, and the smart technology that's been integrated into means that there's minimal possibility for human error. But 2016 is also the year a computer programmer hacked his coffee maker, so nothing's without its risks, especially when the internet's involved.