Brooklyn-based company Terra Kaffe aims to make the ritual of home-brewing coffee more accessible and sustainable. The brand’s 23-pound debut machine, the TK-01, is capable of grinding, tamping, extracting, crafting, and even cleaning up after itself. Existing between the high-end manual espresso machine and the most entry-level pod-pouring product, the TK-01 costs $775—more expensive than the latter but far more affordable than the former. Designed by Terra Kaffe founder and CEO Sahand Dilmaghani, but brought to life with the help of friends across industries, it’s an appealing appliance to look at and one that’s a delight to use.
For Terra Kaffe Dilmaghani, the quest for the perfect coffee machine became personal while he was living in Berlin. His family used coffee as a bonding force, a moment for reunion. “We’re all very different, but coffee is one of these things we all connect around,” he tells us. And while Dilmaghani’s family members favored their own specific styles, he became infatuated by espresso. “I ended up getting a lot deeper into coffee science, specifically espresso extraction and just learning that it’s much more of a moving target than people think it is. Instead of thinking that there is a clear-cut definition, [I got into] exactly what espresso qualities are, how its extracted, what are the parameters and so on.”
When Dilmaghani would ask others about their daily coffee habits and their home machines, he was even more excited to venture into the realm. “I thought that that was really, really interesting territory: to build a new brand that was grounded in rituals, grounded in intention, in the sense that it is literally very often the first thing you will interact with outside of your bed. You might go from your bed to the machine and I just couldn’t imagine that people are starting their day using a product that they actually genuinely dislike or are annoyed with. I absolutely love the morning. I love this category. And then I just saw a huge opportunity.”
Thus, Dilmaghani’s passion (or his “ritual,” as he calls it) turned into his profession. He found data that revealed Americans were drinking more espresso, with orders for lattes, cappuccinos and the ilk outnumbering those for black coffee. This change was “not one of these things that happened overnight,” he says. “It wasn’t like we don’t drink it and then we drink it. It’s been three decades of transition. And as much as people love to hate it, you can look to Starbucks as the catalyst behind that.”
Keurig brought the same processes Starbucks had popularized into homes. Then, Nespresso capitalized on the growing number of people who preferred espresso pulls. But, while Dilmaghani was trying to pitch buyers on his new innovation, he uncovered an overwhelming majority of pod-based coffee machine users that despised their appliance, citing waste, lack of variability in flavor, and aesthetics as the most common complaints.
The TK-01 quells all of these concerns by providing users the option of buying beans of their choice, nearly a dozen coffee drink options (from latte to americano and beyond), plus transparent customizability of their prepared their cup.
Despite its many actions, the machine is simple to use. An LED touchscreen provides updates on the water tank’s levels, whether or not the coffee waste chamber is full and if you have enough beans in the top storage container for your selected order; and a milk attachment wires tubing into the point of extraction to make espresso-based drinks with ease. Their website also provides waste-saving data and the amount of money you’ve saved by making drinks at home versus going out. We also appreciate the machine’s start-up sequence, as it begins with a steam-cleaning of the machine’s tubing, and finishes with the rinsing of the front nozzle.
Not only practical, the machine is minimal and attractive. Dilmaghani’s friends—who worked at Tesla and Apple—helped him with the design. “I felt like I would look left and look right, and it was the most crazy group of people,” he tells us. “They’re so good and wholesome and they just happen to be friends and I would help them in some ways they would help me.”
“We wanted to strike a balance, too, by making something that’s incredibly easy to use out of the box so that you could almost make this a turnkey solution for people that want to graduate away from pod-based systems,” he says. “We found also that sometimes people were switching to our product not because they had a pod-based system like a Nespresso but they actually were just kind of forgoing having home coffee and wanted to have an alternative.”
Not only does the TK-01 bring cafe-quality drinks home, but it also empowers users to buy beans from their local roaster—or one from across the country they’ve been meaning to try. They’re no longer tied to the nameless grounds and blends they were forced to use on pod-based machines.
“We had to think like customers: if you want to bring that coffee shop experience home, how can you do it? It’s our machine. Plus, it’s really interesting for me now because we are all of a sudden in a position where we can be an advocate for coffee roasters that we’re friends with. It’s a very old economy world, but they’re all transitioning over to e-commerce because they’ve lost all their wholesale business. And for us, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s just pay for a bag for everybody that gets a machine now because it helps the roaster’—it gets their name out there and they’re going to hopefully get a few people hooked on their subscription model. This is a new channel for them. And for us, it gets people started on great coffees. That’s never a bad thing. Fresh good coffee is how you’re going to have a great experience with the machine.”
Images courtesy of Terra Kaffe