A look at the Spinn grinder-brewer in development

Well that’s a bummer.

The Spinn grind-brew coffee machine which utilizes a patented centrifugal brewing process has been delayed “5-6 months” according to a letter from Spinn CEO, Roderick de Rode, sent this weekend.

According to de Rode, the company delayed the shipment of the Spinn to work on three things: Reducing grinder noise, reducing the size of the machine and speeding up serve time.

From de Rode’s letter:

Currently, we’re encountering two areas (ed note: I think he meant three) that are not yet up to our standards:

(1) The sound created by the grinder – we don’t want you to experience the same heavy sound disturbances typical of a common coffee brewer. That’s why it’s important to us to continue to refine the hardware so that the machine isn’t noisy for you.
(2) The height of the machine – originally, we listed the machine to be 17-18 inches tall, but believe we can achieve better dimensions. We want the Spinn machine to fit underneath any kitchen cupboard, so we decided to spend extra time and resources to decrease its height without compromising the build in other ways.
(3) The serving time – reduce the serving time for the optimal user experience. Tests showed longer serving times than expected so we dedicated resources to improving speed without compromising the quality of the coffee

de Rode goes on to say that rather than ship a product that is not fully optimized, they’d rather delay shipment 5 or 6 months to “continue development.”

While all the improvements described by de Rode seem reasonable, it’s always worrisome for backers (like myself!) when a startup delays shipment. Particularly worrisome about this news is it’s clear from de Rode’s letter that the company got all the way to the expected shipment date without having pushed the product into the tooling phase. From the looks of things, they are still working on overall design and plan on continuing doing so over the coming months.

Bottom line: Unless the company has built in time for tooling and ramping up production into the 5-6 month “design” window, an early 2018 ship date could be tough to hit.

Perhaps one ray of light in this story is Spinn is a little further along than traditional hardware startups in that they already have a licensing deal for their centrifugal brewing process. They’ve licensed their technology to Nestle for Nespresso for the Vertuoline of coffee makers.

You can read the full text of the letter to backers below:

This is Roderick, co-founder, and CEO of Spinn, Inc. Thank you for taking this journey with us from the very start. It’s been a crazy yet amazing ride so far.

I’ve listened to the questions our customers have asked through social media, email and our support channels. One of the most common questions was regarding the timeline for developing the Spinn machine, and I want to answer this directly.

My team and I have spent the past few months tasting tons of coffee and perfecting the Spinn machine to be everything we promised to you. Starting with sourcing the highest quality hardware components, to developing an easy-to-use and intuitive software experience. As we continue to test the prototype, we’ve become more and more excited by the results and especially Spinn’s unique aromatic taste. We hope it will be to your liking, and invite you to take a peek at one of our first demo videos:

Along the way, we’ve also encountered technical challenges that come with building brand-new technologies. Right now, we’re so close to being ready, but there are extra tests, developments, and features we want to consider in order to deliver a flawless machine to you. So, I want to share the specifics about where we’re at in the process.

For the last 7 months, our engineering team mates based across three continents have put the Spinn machine through rigorous tests. Brewing over a thousand cups of coffee, they’ve been working to perfect the following:

Hardware – identifying and eliminating every problem we find.

  • Brewer – increasing the brewer performance during spinning at multiple speeds. Spinning ground coffee mixed with hot water at speeds up to 7000 RPM requires very precise engineering. Reducing vibration and the loss in water temperature are the main focus points.
  • Design – Our talented team of industrial designers has built numerous prototypes over the past few years to bring together a highly advanced brewing technology with precision electronics in a robust and compact design. We understand that preserving space on our customers’ kitchen counter top is of paramount importance, so Spinn is developing the first Bean2Cup coffee maker with the world’s smallest footprint.
    Materials – sourcing, testing and selecting the best and highest quality materials for our machines.
  • Seals – making, testing and improving the brewer’s seal performance between 2000 RPM and 7000 RPM at different coffee volumes and water temperatures, to ensure a leak-proof brew chamber.
  • Bean Funnel – finding and testing the optimum amount of coffee and optimal coffee flow to pass through the bean funnel while filling the brew chamber and creating Spinn’s unique 360-degree coffee bed.
  • Heater – sourcing, testing and selecting the heating element with the best performance to achieve the optimum and adjustable water temperature needed for the different coffee extractions per coffee style for 110V and 220V power outlets.
    Temperature Management – precision engineering combined with material and heat loss analysis for the best in-cup temperature.
  • Conical Burr Grinder – testing a variety of bespoke grinders and develop one that can generate a constant & steady grind flow, adjusted via the control panel in the Spinn App to the required ground size per coffee style. The hardened steel grinder is adjustable through the app. The grind result of the average particle size is between 240 and 1150 micron.
  • Grinder motor – grinders can be noisy so we set out to develop a high-performance grinder that creates less noise than any other grinder on the market. By using a high-quality DC motor with accurate gears and insulation we believe to have achieved our goal. Current endurance testing will provide more data about the robustness of the entire component.
  • Display – test and optimize the sensitivity of the display buttons.
    Filter Material – we developed a unique 360-degree filter mesh with holes as small as 30 Microns (µ) to reduce the amount of coffee grounds ending up in your cup. This unique mesh combined with back pressure generated by 3 nozzles is key for Spinn’s unique aromatic coffee taste.
  • Tea – Americano – a separate hot water spout for tea and Americano was created and tested. The test results turned out positive and the spout will be implemented in the machine.
  • Crema – some of our customers prefer crema in their coffee and some don’t. Spinn set out the challenge to create a machine that can brew both. It took us many months and pounds of coffee but we are happy to announce that we have achieved the way to brew coffee by centrifugal pressure with and without crema.

Software – optimizing user experience, bug fixing, and functionality development

  • Wi-Fi – develop wifi communications on the user side and control the machine’s parameters. We teamed up with our cloud provider Ayla Networks for connectivity to get a great user interface and experience.
  • Spinn Marketplace – we have developed the world’s first connected marketplace for independent coffee roasters to fulfill the orders when machines are running low. Around 150 roasters signed up on the Spinn platform and the first orders are live. When we ship, you will have the option to connect your new Spinn machine to the market, so that your favorite pick of roasters can deliver beans to your door when you’re running low. Developing the world’s first automated platform for deliveries of coffee roasters has been quite an undertaking, but we are proud to deliver a website and system that we trust you will like.
  • Spinn App – will be launching soon for Android and iOS, and we’re running a beta user test as we speak.
  • Roaster platform – developing an intuitive roaster platform for an easy sign up process and implementing recipes.

After many field and lab tests, we’ve resolved these technical challenges that came our way, all taking time and focus to complete. Currently, we’re encountering two areas that are not yet up to our standards:

(1) The sound created by the grinder – we don’t want you to experience the same heavy sound disturbances typical of a common coffee brewer. That’s why it’s important to us to continue to refine the hardware so that the machine isn’t noisy for you.
(2) The height of the machine – originally, we listed the machine to be 17-18 inches tall, but believe we can achieve better dimensions. We want the Spinn machine to fit underneath any kitchen cupboard, so we decided to spend extra time and resources to decrease its height without compromising the build in other ways.
(3) The serving time – reduce the serving time for the optimal user experience. Tests showed longer serving times than expected so we dedicated resources to improving speed without compromising the quality of the coffee

So what’s next?
Between delivering to you in mid-2017, and making sure that the above three improvements were carried through, we made the hard choice to focus on perfecting the product. That means that we’ll be needing an extra 5-6 months to continue development. While we’re getting close to delivering the Spinn machine, we’re not ready to ship this to you yet.

We want you to be confident and happy as you wait another 5-6 months for us to make this happen, and get it right the first time. You’ve already shown our team a lot of patience, but I would love for your continued support.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve shared, or think there’s something we can do in the meantime to help you be more confident waiting for us, let us know.

Thank you again for being part of our journey. Without people like you – who not only believe in ‘better’, but support and instigate ‘better’ – none of this would ever have been possible.

–Roderick, CEO of Spinn Inc.

If you want to want to hear about the future of coffee and the kitchen, make sure to come to the Smart Kitchen Summit. Use the discount code SPOON to get 25% off of tickets