Keurig. It’s not the only single-serve coffee maker, but its name has become synonymous with single-serve beverage-making device. It’s been criticized by environmentalists, but Keurig’s dominance grows—every time I walk down the coffee aisle of my local grocery store I see more shelf space dedicated to K-cups (the Keurig pod) and less to traditional coffee and tea.
So it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs look at Keurig’s success and think, “Hey, I could make a smart machine that’s a Keurig for (insert your favorite consumable here).”
This week, I went to two startup launch events: HAX, formerly Haxlr8r, a hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen, China, and San Francisco; and MakerCon’s Launch Pad startup competition, held in San Francisco. And there was a Keurig-for-something at each.
At HAX, Bartesian introduced a Keurig for cocktails, in particular, drinks made with vodka, gin, rum, or tequila. The gadget has four tanks—one for each spirit—and disposable single-drink capsules containing concentrated, shelf stable juices, syrups, sugars, bitters, and other mixers. They’re starting with six “flavors,” three familiar drinks—Sex on the Beach, the Classic Cosmo, and the Margarita—and three of their own blends. The concept is limited—I don’t see how they could add a carbonated mixer, for example.
I sampled the margarita, and I have to say I was disappointed. The drink was horrid; the founders told me that’s because they used cheap tequila. Hint to startups—if you’re trying to show off the skills of a robot bartender, spring for a top shelf brand. Pricing wasn’t announced, but company founders indicated it would be around the cost of a Keurig, which puts it under $200. Bartesian will be launching on Kickstarter in a month.
But Bartesian is not the first startup out of the Keurig-for-cocktails gate. Somabar’s version already raised $312,000 on Kickstarter. It isn’t fully Keurig’d (it uses refillable tanks instead of plastic pods) but the on-demand result is similar. Meanwhile, Jevo aims to be the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and Synek aims to be the Keurig of beer. And for folks who would rather grow their intoxicant than mix it, there’s Root, an automated home gardening system that some have called a Keurig for marijuana.
At MakerCon’s Launch Pad, Sereneti Kitchen introduced a device called Cookie; it’s a Keurig for food, designed to make stir fries, stews, risottos—any dish with a relatively small list of ingredients that can be made in a single pot. The company plans to roll out a subscription plan, offering trays of fresh, local, and pre-cut ingredients with downloadable recipes. Cookie, the robot chef, dispenses the ingredients at appropriate times, adjusts the cooking temperature, and stirs. Sereneti plans to launch its crowd funding campaign early next year.
I just don’t see it. Stirring really is not the hard part of cooking, except, perhaps, for a risotto, and risottos aren’t consumed quite as often as coffee.
If these two types of gadgets don’t catch on, perhaps the lesson learned will be that we don’t actually need a Keurig for everything. If they turn out to be big hits, well, I might be looking for a little angel money to develop a “Keurig for Cats.”
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor based in Palo Alto, Calif., where she’s been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. Perry started reporting on California tech companies from IEEE Spectrum’s New York office in the early 1980s, before relocating to the Bay Area full time in 1986. She has the privilege of having a front-row seat as tech history is being made, including the early days of video games, the growth of the personal computer industry, the rise and fall of Xerox PARC, and the incredible startup boom in Silicon Valley today. She has conducted in-depth interviews with a host of tech pioneers, including Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, Robert Noyce, David Packard, Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi, Jim Clark, Ray Dolby, Alan Kay, Adam Osborne, Gene Amdhal, Gary Kildall, Gordon Bell, Steve Wozniak, Marissa Mayer, Elon Musk, and Nolan Bushnell.
Besides covering Silicon Valley and startups in print and in her blog, View From the Valley, Perry follows trends in consumer electronics technology around the world. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University.