Morning unveils specialty coffee capsule machine and ecosystem

Morning has developed an ecosystem that encapsulates growing demand for single serve and specialty coffee with an online marketplace and new machine design.

The specialty and capsule coffee markets are sometimes treated as if at opposite ends of the coffee industry spectrum, due to their respective focuses on complexities and convenience.

However, coffee professionals Andre Chanco and Leon Foo say this is far from the case, and these concepts are not mutually exclusive.

“We feel that pods have been given a bad name in the specialty scene, and the market has been dominated by Nespresso in the last few years,” Foo says.

“But we’ve seen an evolution and inflow of specialty pods coming into the scene, from barista champions making pods to award winning coffees and rare varietals, going into capsules.”

Foo began his coffee journey over a decade ago, founding PPP Coffee, a wholesale coffee roaster and equipment distributor in Singapore. Chanco learned to roast from Foo for three years before starting a roasting business of his own, Yardstick Coffee in the Philippines, in 2014.

Over this time, the two witnessed the rise of both specialty coffee and coffee capsules in their markets, and took notice of specialty roasters at home and abroad producing capsules. However, they felt roasters and capsule machines weren’t making the most of what the other had to offer.

“These specialty coffee shops and roasters are not built to sell capsules. They usually specialise in selling beans to cafés, but capsules are a very different market. Logistically, getting these pods to people who want them is an issue and you have to go through their website just to find them,” Foo says.

“We felt that, if we curated and aggregated the world’s best capsules – which were harder to track down than their beans – there was a lot to offer.”

Foo and Chanco began developing the Morning ecosystem in 2018. The idea was simple, to create an online marketplace of Nespresso-compatible capsules from prominent specialty coffee roasters through its online website, and to provide a versatile machine that could brew these capsules as intended.

“Last year, we visited the London Coffee Festival to show a few roasters the prototype of the machine to get some feedback. That gave them confidence in what we were trying to achieve,” Chanco says.

“Now that most people are working from home, it’s ripe for Morning, because they want to experiment with new or different coffees and recipes at home. Capsules are great for this because they ship well across the world and have a much longer shelf life than whole bean coffee.”

Early partners of the Morning ecosystem include Colonna Coffee and Volcano Coffee Works in the United Kingdom, St Ali Coffee Roasters in Australia, The Cupping Room in Hong Kong, and Foo and Chanco’s own roasters. Morning soft-launched its online marketplace in the fourth quarter of 2019, delivering capsules and subscriptions from these roasters to Singapore and Hong Kong, to optimise the user experience before a wider launch, alongside the Morning Machine capsule brewer, in October/November 2020.

Chanco says Morning will begin with markets where there is a strong specialty coffee scene and uptake of Nespresso machines and boutiques – Australia and the UK in particular.

“The roasters we have involved in the marketplace are evangelists for better coffee and home brewing. As long as the St Alis, Colonnas, and Cupping Rooms of the world endorse the machine by selling it in their shops, it will trickle down from there,” Chanco says.

“We did a customer study to identify who our first users could or might be. Rather than going to the masses then trying to convince specialty coffee folks this is a better machine, we’re going down the industry route we’ve been familiar with for the past 10 years.”

He adds many of these roasters producing exceptional capsules are not authorised to sell Nespresso machines and must redirect customers elsewhere. However, by selling the Morning Machine, they will be able to capture that additional income and create a relationship with those customers.

What makes the Morning Machine stand out is eschewing the one-size-fits-all approach seen with simpler devices. Rather than one or two buttons to select beverage size, a dial and organic light-emitting diode screen allow the user to alter different brewing components, including water temperature, pressure, and volume. The unit is even Internet of Things enabled, so these factors can be programmed with a smart device.

“Each roaster we reached out to was using different formats – plastic, compostable, and aluminium – and roasting or grinding it differently. They were all also struggling with the incumbent machines. Often, the first cup isn’t hot enough, the second one is alright, but the third, fourth, and fifth get hotter and hotter,” Foo says.

“We felt with a more accurate proportional–integral–derivative (PID) control, you could set the exact temperature for whichever capsule you are brewing.”

Water for extraction is heated to the user’s request or roaster’s recipe. A separate water dispenser pours water at 65°C to 70°C, the same temperature as the extracted coffee, so Australians can drink their much-loved long blacks and Brits their Americanos. This water can also be used with the single serve coffee bags or pouches catching on in these markets.

To further improve the extraction, the Morning Machine features more complex pump technology that allows for different pressure profiles to be developed.

“Typically, a capsule machine pushes one bar of pressure all the way through. But at the commercial level, people have been using pressure profiles that are low in the beginning, high in the middle, and taper off at the end to unlock different levels of flavours,” Foo says.

“The coffee just tastes better if you can cut out the bitterness and increase the sweetness.”

Another feature Morning has emulated from specialty cafés is measuring the output from the coffee machine.

“Roasters put different amounts of coffee in their capsules, some five grams, other 5.6, six, seven, some even go up to eight. They’re also precise about their recipe and brew ratio,” Foo says.

“Some roasters and high-end users are putting a scale underneath the Nespresso machine and holding onto the button to make sure they hit these numbers.”

Users are free to trial and experiment with their own recipes, but Chanco says the true benefit of a system like Morning is that you can drink a coffee roasted anywhere in the world, as far back as a year ago or more, that is still fresh and tastes as the roaster intended.

“I might buy a Geisha from St Ali as whole bean, mis-brew it at home, and have a poor cup experience,” he says. “But with a capsule, the roaster has control over every parameter that could go wrong, and paired with the machine, we’re delivering that to the end customer.”

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