Coffee pod systems are convenient, but they beg a question: What the hell is really in that pod? How fresh is the ground coffee inside? xBloom is a bold new idea in the increasingly crowded coffee pod space, offering a machine that uses pods with whole beans instead of ground ones, grinding them on the spot and brewing your coffee immediately thereafter.
The idea is complex and, to be sure, it doesn’t always work perfectly. To use xBloom, you open the sealed container of beans, pour it into a waiting mouth, and drop the empty cup into a special holster below. The cup also contains a filter, and once it’s in place, the xBloom gets to work, reading an electronic code on the cup to dial in grind size, brew strength, and water temperature as specified for that particular coffee. (These parameters can be changed via the xBloom mobile app, should you want to get super-nerdy about things.) First it grinds, moving the cup to the left to capture the grounds. Then the cup slides over to the right, and water is drawn in from a removable basin, heated, and poured over. Place your mug beneath to capture the coffee directly.
Watching xBloom work is half the fun, and while it can be a bit messy in the form of stray grounds, it only choked once during my testing, failing to brew coffee after grinding the beans. The rest of the time I encountered no issues, ending each run with a fitting mug of coffee — albeit after a lengthy process that often took 5 minutes or longer.
The xBloom is an amazing conversation piece but my biggest complaint is that I didn’t really like any of the coffees that it currently sells in the xPod format. The company sent me all four of its current offerings, representing a range of roast styles and origins, and I found that only The Daily and Big Trouble offerings were worth a second cup. No doubt there will be more coffee on tap in the future, but the current selection (priced at the equivalent of $1.50 per pod) is desperately in need of broader selection. It’s also worth noting that pods carry a “best before” date a mere 6 weeks after they are packaged. By the time I received mine for testing, I had only 2 weeks to go before they lost their freshness.
That wouldn’t matter if you could use your own beans but, sadly, you can’t — for obvious reasons: while the company offers some lengthy verbiage about why you can’t use your own beans, essentially the issue is that xBloom will make a lot more money selling beans than it will selling hardware. I’d never begrudge anyone wishing to make a profit, but considering the asking price of the xBloom itself is a whopping $799, that calculus gets a little tough to swallow, awfully fast.
Update: According to the company, xBloom now ships — since mid-May — with a reusable dripper (not seemingly available separately) with which you can use your own beans and miniature filters (not provided). I did not receive one of these with my test unit as it shipped before the dripper was being offered, so can’t speak to its effectiveness, but readers in the comments have positive things to say about it.