Machines are invading our kitchens, bringing with them stacks of tiny pods.
Coffee pods of the kind first popularized by Keurig as its ubiquitous “K-cups,” are so wasteful that even their inventor has expressed regret for creating them. And yet people can now choose from a slew of similar contraptions, that deliver frozen yogurt, cocktails, weed, and tortillas—all in a pod. ”The Keurig of…” is becoming a cliche on the scale of “the Uber of…”
Keurig itself has looked beyond coffee and tea to soda and instant soup. But the companies now promising pod-enhanced Jetsons-like kitchen efficiency come with foodie aspirations and credentials from the tech, finance, and high-end restaurant world.
This endless parade of counter-hogging appliances offer a stark picture of culinary desire. On one hand we’re hungry to be ever more in touch with the foods we eat—from farm to table—and yet we continue to invent high-tech ways to make our kitchens more like automated factories.
And there’s a distinct oscillation between high-tech juicers and $200 sous vide wands on one hand, and the return to rustic kitchen processes on the other. On many counters, bubbling jars of sourdough starter or pickling okra sit beside stacks of instant gratification K-cups.
Here’s a selection of the latest in pod-gobbling countertop contraptions.
Instant Frozen Yogurt
Wim, a $300 blender-sized machine, is produced by a team that includes alums of Google and New York City’s super-hip dessert destination Milk Bar. Add milk (dairy, almond, coconut, or any other kind) and a pod of freeze-dried organic yogurt mix, and this contraption will churn and flash-freeze it right in the pod, spitting out a frozen sweet treat in just 10 minutes.
“It’s not a whole thing!” the promotional video promises. But a 15-pound single-purpose machine that’s too bulky to easily put away in a cabinet after use kinda sounds like… a whole thing.
The tortilla machine Flatev seems built for inclusivity: It could be useful in various flatbread-eating cultures, with the versatility to make chapatis and rotis. And it appeals to the picky eater crowd with its gluten-, sodium-, sugar- and hydrogenated oil-free dough varieties.
But the company’s marketing video borders on insanity, with a spokesmodel “shopper” walking through an eerily deserted grocery store, delivering a woebegone monologue about the miseries of purchasing tortillas.
“Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a local tortilleria, chances are you’re mostly buying processed, off-the-shelf packages at a grocery store,” she smugly pronounces. “Which is kind of a shame, really.”
Why buy factory-made tortillas when you can slot a plastic cup of factory-made dough into sleek-looking grownup version of an Easy-Bake oven?
Going from juiced to a joke
Sometimes this brand of hubris can deliver swift justice to a preposterous product. That was the case with Juicero, the company that raised $120 million in venture capital for a $400 juicer that required users to insert packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into the machine to press out juice. The problem? It didn’t take long for people to figure out they could get just as much juice by squeezing the packets with their bare hands. Much hilarity ensued.
In early September, the company announced that, after 16 months on the market, it was suspending the sale of its Juicero Press and packs.
Hefeweizen in a hurry
If the vile homebrew you make in your garage has alienated enough of your friends and neighbors but you’re not ready to submit to the indignity of purchasing a six-pack, there’s a $1,000 machine for you, too. Yes, homebrew beer now comes in a Keurig-style cup.
PicoBrew was founded by a former vice president of Microsoft. In just two hours, a “PicoPak” (made for the company by microbreweries around the world) produces a 5-liter batch of beer.
“The packs are compostable and look like they’re from Aunt Beru’s kitchen in Star Wars,” a reviewer wrote in Wired. That unfortunate reviewer had planned a quiet lunch and game of cribbage while his beer brewed, he recounted, but when the machine got cranked up, “the volume was somewhere between that of a fish tank pump and an air compressor.”
Evidence is mounting that most people don’t actually need to take a regular multivitamin, but that hasn’t stopped the team disrupting the world of vitamin supplements with yet another Keurig-like pod machine.
Tespo promises a dose of vitamins, tailored to your circumstances (menopause, energy, sleep, children’s health) and free of manufacturing fillers, via a $100 machine that turns a disk into a “delicious, easy to drink liquid shot.”
It sounds almost as easy as taking a pill.
A Keurig for vaporizing weed is also in the works, because of course it is. Wake us up when there’s a Keurig for humility.