Pod machines are so convenient that they’re a critical element in many people’s coffee consumption patterns, but while they make decent coffee in a fraction of the time, there’s always been a sacrifice in the overall coffee flavor that distinguishes cups made from capsules to cafe-quality coffee.
It turns out that capsule coffee as we know it is far from its peak and one Singaporian coffee company is here to give us a shot of pod coffee’s true potential. The Morning Machine is not your average pod machine, featuring: water volume settings, temperature control, in-built scales and customizable pressure programs that allow you to extract the best possible flavor from any blend.
This fundamental shift in extraction capabilities is paired with the company’s extensive list of partnerships with passionate local and international coffee roasters who produce pods for the system and pair them with curated extraction programs. This means that each of the different types of coffee on offer have genuinely unique flavor profiles and open up an entire world of coffee tasting to anyone reliant on the simplicity of pod machines.
This all might sound like it’s building up to be an expensive process, but at $387 / £349 / AU$599, the Morning Machine isn’t anywhere near as expensive as some of the top range pod machines available today… and it’s even further from what you’d have to fork out for a manual machine that could produce coffee just as well.
The Morning Machine review: Price and release date
- $390 / £349 / AU$599
- Launched Nov 30, 2022
At the time of writing, the Morning Machine mainly sells direct to customer from the manufacturer for $390 / £349 / AU$599 / SG$579 for the machine alone.
While in Australia all the accessories are sold separately, in the US and UK you can buy a Morning Milk Bundle for $469 / £389, which includes a metal jug to heat on the stove and a Subliminal NanoFoamer V2.
Pods cost between $8 - $22 / £4 - £15.50 / AU$9 - $27 for a pack of 10, depending on how unique and experimental you’d like the flavors to be. There’s also options to buy drip bags, teas and other more unique brew styles.
- Check out our Best coffee machines page to see how it compares.
The Morning Machine review: Specs
|Pressure||Low - 20 bar (customisable, 3 stages 7 levels)|
|Temperature||75 - 99 degrees Celsius (customisable) / 167 - 210 degrees Fahrenheit (customisable)|
|Application||iOS 10.0 and above - Apple App Store; Android 5.0 and above - Google Play Store|
|Size & Weight||15.8 x 10.3 x 4 in / 40.2 × 25.5 x 10.2 cm | 9.9lbs / 4.5kg|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi & Bluetooth App Connectivity|
|Coffee pod options||Over 82 unique coffee pods to choose from|
|Water tank capacity||0.85L / 1.8 pt|
|Bin Capacity||10 capsules|
|Screen||1.44-inch OLED screen|
|Pods||Nespresso and 3rd party compatible|
- Value: 5 / 5
The Morning Machine review: Features
- Water temperature control
- Pressure and time settings
- Pre-made extraction settings by roasters
The Morning Machine has a number of fundamentally different capabilities compared to your average pod machine that make it uniquely equipped to make excellent coffee.
The first is the temperature control which can be set anywhere from 65º to 99º Celsius (149ºF to 210ºF). This might seem like a trivial function designed to cater to individuals who like to order a ‘hot’ coffee, but coffee extraction temperature actually has an important relationship to the balance of oils, caffeine and flavors you get from the brew. A few degrees difference can dramatically change the viscosity, bitterness and subsequent mouthfeel of two otherwise identical shots.
Pressure and time are two other critical factors in extracting the best flavors from coffee that the Morning Machine allows you to tweak. Not only can you customize multi-stage pressure regimes that allow you to properly infuse coffee initially with water and then ramp up the intensity to really maximize the flavor you can extract, the length of time grounds are exposed to water and the weight of coffee extracted are both measured and adjustable to the exact quantities you’d like.
Lastly, there's a set of scales that'll keep track of the volume of coffee that is put out. This extra added functionality allows you to see if something has gone wrong in the process and will help to explain whether your coffee is over or under extracted. This feature will be used by most to simply tell when the coffee is ready (or maybe to see if you forgot to change the pod before running the machine), but for those who want to build their own extraction settings or make their own pods using different coffee, knowing the output is a critical factor in perfecting an extraction routine.
All this amounts to an extremely versatile machine that is capable of making very sophisticated espresso shots in a wide variety of styles.
If that whole last paragraph made it sound like this machine is perhaps too complicated for you, then feel free to be placated by the fact that the device can actually be as simple as you want it to be. Each coffee pod you buy already has a pre-configured extraction program designed by the people who made the coffee to best express the blend – all you have to do is select the coffee from the Drink Morning companion app and hit ‘Brew’.
- Features: 5 / 5
The Morning Machine review: Coffee quality
- Range of international specialty roasters
- Various formats and styles
- Potential for customisation
While the Morning Machine has an amazing set of novel features, no technology in the world is able to make burnt, stale or poorly blended coffee taste world-class. So the other half of what makes the Morning Machine such an amazing system is the wide variety of coffee producers it has making compatible capsules.
Unlike Nespresso which sells inexpensive loss-leading coffee machines in order to make money from ongoing coffee sales, the Morning company operates a more collaborative marketplace that allows coffee roasters to make products compatible with their machines.
The device's adjustable pressure functionality means roasters can choose to use metal or compostable capsules, while the temperature, time and volume adjustments mean they can also create the perfect extraction to match different coffee styles. This extra control means more roasters are interested in collaborating and because the device uses capsules that are compatible with the original Nespresso pod format there was already a number of coffee producers making compatible products from the start.
Because Nespresso tries to make all of its margin from coffee sales, it's actually not hard for independent roasters to make specialty coffee pods using premium beans that are competitively priced. The vast majority of capsules land between $0.80 (£0.5 / AU$1) and $1.40 (£0.75 / AU$1.50) per pod. The lower end of this range will get you a really decent coffee blend from a reputable local roaster that’s perfect for mixing with milk. Increase that a little to the $1.40 (£0.75 / AU$1.50) mark and you’ll start to get some decent single origin coffee with interesting flavors that are well suited to espressos and long blacks. There’s even a handful of $2.20 ( £15.50 / AU$2.70) pods offering a more unique coffee-tasting experience that includes things like award-winning single origins from Panama and whiskey barrel aged beans that will satisfy the curiosity of even die-hard coffee aficionados.
If this wide variety of capsules wasn’t enough, the Morning Machine’s collaborators also offer a decent variety of drip bags, decaffeinated coffee and compatible tea capsules for family members that don’t go in for traditional espresso.
- Features: 5 / 5
The Morning Machine review: Design
- Great app functionality
- Limited milk offering
The Morning Machine looks slick and comes in a variety of colors that will suit any home or office kitchen, but the device's headline design feature has to be the app integration. I've talked about how convenient it is to brew a specialty pod by simply finding the coffee on the Drink Morning app and hitting brew, but the interface is actually useful for discovering what coffee you’d like to try next too.
You'll probably want to start with the brands you know and then work your way through some of the more obscure single origin offerings, but whatever you do you'll find some favourites. For the more experimental out there the app also makes it easy to tweaking your roaster's recommendations if your tastes differ slightly from theirs. This might mean turning an espresso shot into a longer shot or adjusting the brew temperature, for a different flavor profile, either way that app makes this easy to do.
While many of the app's design are great there are definitely some areas for improvement. We wish it was a little more able to dig into the coffee machine’s settings so you could tweak them on the machine directly from the phone app, for example. It would also be handy to be able to monitor things like water level and how long until you're due for a device clean. If nothing else the long, alphabetised list of roasters should definitely offer ways of filtering pods to make new coffee easier to find. Currently you can search for country of the roaster, but it would be handy to have sections for single origin offerings or roasts for milk coffee, say.
Morning Machine's on-device interface allows you to save your favourite brews directly onto the device, which means the process of putting a pod in and scrolling to the correct extraction method is very simple and can be done without your phone for a streamlined process. If you're happy to pre plan in this way and you have the correct capsules ready to go this workflow makes sense. The on-screen interface is easy to navigate and the visuals are informative and deliver all the critical information.
If you are, however, attempting to dig a little deeper into the settings you have to do it directly on the machine behind a push-and-hold menu interface. I had been briefed on all the functionalities prior to testing, but trying to work out how to just pour hot water or changing other on device settings required me to check the handbook.
The app does allow you to save your favourite brews directly onto the device, which means the process of putting a pod in and scrolling to the correct extraction method is very simple. You do only get to save 10 brews on the machine, which makes sense from a user interface, but requires regular prioritization if you're cycling through different capsules.
One design limitation that will be a challenge for many, however, is that the company doesn’t yet have a solid option for heating and frothing milk. At the time of writing there was only a workaround solution – combining milk heated on the stove with the $46 (£45 / AU$56.50) Subliminal NanoFoamer V2 frothing wand. I've heard that it actually makes great microfoam (although I haven't tried it myself), but this is a very different level of convenience for anyone that wants milk with their Morning Machine coffee at this time, so it's something that definitely holds the product back from meeting its full potential.
While Morning might not have milk under its belt just yet, there are enough third-party standalone milk frothers out there that you can use to piece together a compact milk and coffee arrangement. It will be an additional $50 - $200 (£45 plus / AU$50 plus) cost that you’ll have to factor into the overall equation, and while the espresso might be better than other pod machines, milk is the primary ingredient in many people’s morning brew and it’s obviously going to line up exactly with what you can already get.
If you can wait till September 2023, Subliminal has a device called a NanoFoamer Pro on Kickstarter that looks like a significant improvement on today's standalone milk frothers. The NanoFoamer Pro has some clever features like dose markings, temperature control, settings for alternate milks and a built-in spout to pour with more control, so we suspect it'll quickly become one of the best on the market.
The Morning Machine system is already working with roasters to design recyclable aluminum and compostable packaging for anyone keen on keeping their environmental footprint to a minimum, and the device is officially compatible with Nespresso products (and vice versa for the aluminum capsules) for those who want to dabble before committing. Because of the standardized pod sizing, you shouldn’t have any issues with reusable BYO coffee capsules, and the wide variety of water output options means you can use the device for a range of other instances, including hot chocolate, babies bottles or a cheeky cup of ramen noodles.
All up this is a pretty amazing coffee machine that dramatically raises the bar in pod espresso quality… even if it doesn't have an equivalent tool for milk management just yet.
Should you buy the Morning Machine?
|Features||Pressure, temperature and output controls make this the most sophisticated pod coffee machine we’ve ever seen… by a long way.||5/5|
|Coffee quality||This machine is capable of producing rich, single origin flavors that were once only achievable on manual machines.||5/5|
|Design||While the interface and asthetics are great, the solution for milk isn’t as appealing and holds the overall design back.||4/5|
|Value||An approachable price point for a high quality coffee machine.||5/5|
Buy it if...
You want cafe coffee from a pod machine
This is the absolute simplest way to get a premium cup of coffee short of buying one. If you care about coffee as much as you do your time, then the Morning Machine is an absolute must have.
You drink black coffee
If you don’t need milk in your coffee then the Morning Machine’s ecosystem of quality coffee roasters is good enough that it’s a great way to explore the world of coffee without much effort.
You just want a pod machine that makes coffee
If you’re going to drop a decent chunk of change on a pod machine, you may as well make it this one. The basic features are push and play and aren’t any more difficult than the simplest machines on the market… this one can just do a whole lot more if you want.
Don't buy it if...
You need perfect steam-wand milk
There may be an outstanding solution soon, but at present you’re going to have to get a third-party standalone milk frother as a stop-gap solution. I think the machine is good enough for this to be a worthy option, but manual will still be the best for anyone not willing to sacrifice on milk quality for a bit of convenience.
You don't want to use pods
If you’re fully into coffee and love the process of grinding, tamping, frothing and styling your lattes then you’re probably still going to want a manual machine.
You'll just use pods from your local supermarket
If this is you, save yourself some money and get the cheapest pod machine you can find… even this machine won’t be able to make harsh, stale coffee taste great.
If you're not quite sold on the Morning Machine just yet, below are a couple of other options to consider.
|Nespresso Creatista Plus||Breville the Barista Express Impress||Nespresso Aeroccino 3 Milk Frother|
|Price||$649 / £529 / AU$949||$749 / £729.95 / AU$999||$99 / £79 / AU$109|
|Pressure||19 bar||9 bar||NA|
|Temperature||Not adjustable||Adjustable||160 - 170 deg F / 55 - 65 deg C|
|Size||15.4 x 12 x 6.7 inch / 17.1 x 39.3 x 30.8 cm||12.9 x 14.9 x 16.1inch / 33 x 38 x 41cm||6.7 x 3.5 inch / 17 x 9cm|
|Coffee price||$8.20 - $30 (10 pack)||Around $1 per black double shot coffee||NA|
Breville Creatista Plus
The Creatista range is Nespresso’s premium pod machines designed to showcase the best the company can offer. The Creatista Plus is not the top model but offers good quality coffee production and decent temperature-controlled milk foaming capabilities at a price point above the Morning Machine.
Breville the Barista Express Impress
A fully manual coffee machine that’s a similar price once you add up the milk frother cost to the Morning Machine. You’ll be able to make equivalent and even better coffee, with and without milk, with this machine… but you will need some skills and it’s a lot more effort to make each cup.
Read our in-depth Breville Barista Express Impress review (called the Sage Barista Express Impress in the UK)
HOW I TESTED THE MORNING MACHINE
- Tested for one week
- Used at home and compared various blend and single origin coffees
- Used the Drink Morning Android App
To test the coffee machine I used it for a week alongside my existing manual coffee machine to compare the brew produced. I tasted eight different styles of coffees, with the majority of those coming from local roasters (in Australia where I am based) whose coffee I've tasted from manual machines.
I did not test the Subliminal NanoFoamer V2 or the FlowTip milk jug, however years of using French press, Otto machines and other milk heating solutions has taught me how much work stovetop solutions can be.
[First reviewed March 2023]