First look: Prisma makes cold-brew coffee in 10 minutes flat

GE Appliances and FirstBuild are back with another crowdfunded appliance. This time, it's a futuristic coffee machine.

First Look: Prisma cold-brew coffee maker

When the temperature rises from mildly warm to oppressively hot with a spritz of humidity just to further enrage you, the only cure is iced coffee. Specifically, cold-brewed iced coffee. It has the richness of coffee that’s been steeping for hours (and the caffeine kick that accompanies it) with the refreshing taste of the perfect ice-cold beverage. Regular, watered down, run-of-the-mill iced coffee just won’t do.

Once upon a time, you could only find good cold-brewed coffee in specialty stores, where it costs $4 a cup. Today, even Starbucks is on board with the more labor-intensive method at a slightly lower price point. I usually make a big batch of cold brew at home, either by steeping Grady’s cold-brew bags in a pitcher of water overnight, or by coarsely grinding my own beans and putting them in a cheap tea infuser. Both methods are more affordable than buying a cup of cold brew every morning before I stroll into the office, but both require planning ahead.

So when I heard about Prisma, a coffee machine that makes a pot (if you can call its gorgeously designed carafe a pot) of cold brew in less than 10 minutes, I had to see it for myself.

Here's how it works: You grind your coffee as you normally would (or buy it pre-ground from a store) and then measure it into a filter that you place in a basket, just like using a traditional coffee machine. It’s the technology that’s different: Prisma uses vacuum infusion, pulsing the vacuum on and off to extract all the flavor from the coffee grounds in eight minutes without heating up the water. The machine makes five 5.0-ounce cups of cold brew at a time.

Prisma is a product of GE Appliances’ FirstBuild, which is both an actual factory in Louisville, Kentucky where products are produced in small batches, as well as an online community that discusses imaginative ways to improve home appliances. FirstBuild created the vacuum-infusion technology in house, then held a design competition for the actual cold-brew machine. The end result, what is now Prisma, takes elements from three designs, and those designers will receive a percentage of the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that kicks off on Aug. 2.

FirstBuild product evangelist Taylor Dawson told me that Prisma’s cold brew has been put in front of tasting panels and undergone caffeine extraction tests to prove that it rivals traditional cold brew in both taste and fuel efficiency. No one cares if it takes eight minutes to brew if it doesn’t provide that energy boost you need to get the day started, and Dawson says Prisma’s cold brew stands up to any other.

Prisma is FirstBuild’s third product, after a sous vide induction cooktop which is already shipping, and an ice maker that starts shipping soon.

Eventually, FirstBuild’s app will be compatible with Prisma via Bluetooth, so you’ll be able to program recipes for your preferred coffee-brewing pressure and time in app without fussing with the machine.

I enjoyed the taste of Prisma’s cold brew when I saw the machine in action at a demo in New York last month, although its retail price point is a little high at $300. My Bonavita coffee maker was less than half that price, and I can cool the coffee to room temp and throw some ice in it if I’m desperate. (Obviously, it doesn’t taste as good.) But this is a product clearly targeting early adopters and hardcore coffee aficionados. Indiegogo backers will get a discount of up to 20 percent off, and FirstBuild expects to start shipping the product in September 2017.

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Caitlin McGarry

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