Can This $14,000 Coffee Machine Make Your Beer Taste Better?

Coffee shop Rubies + Diamonds is betting on it

Beer cocktails are boring. Beer is delicious by itself, and cocktails even more so, but when combined they tend to cancel each other out and become a sad, watered down mess.

However, Rubies + Diamonds, a high-tech coffee and tea shop in Hollywood’s Columbia Square, claims to have created a brand-new, supposedly more flavorful beer cocktail. This is due to the shop’s BKON craft brewer machine, a $14,000 single-serve gadget that uses Reverse Atmospheric Infusion (RAIN), aka a vacuum which extracts and imbues certain flavors of added ingredients to the drink in about a minute. Have your eyes glazed over yet?

The purpose of BKON, which first hit the coffee and tea scene in 2014, was to allow anyone to customize their perfect cuppa (tea or coffee) by adding ingredients like tea leaves, lemon rinds, and salt to the brew basket and program temperature, steep time, and vacuum levels to taste. Using a vacuum when making coffee isn’t a new technique (see: siphon) but BKON employs multiple vacuum cycles to extract “an organic material’s cellular structure to enhance the way in which infusion occurs and how soluble elements are extracted into a beverage.”

If you don’t get all that science talk just know that the end result is a tasty beverage—either hot or cold—with balanced flavors. More importantly, it’s something you couldn’t get by simply stirring ingredients together. “It’s very elegant,” says Rubies + Diamonds beverage master Precy Betiong (formerly of LA Mill). “It’s better than squeezing lemons because then it becomes lemonade. So you just use the zest to get the flavors out of it without it being citrusy.”

And Betiong not only recoups the store’s $14K by using the BKON to create basil and lemon-infused water (which is bottled and sold), bergamot oil-infused assam black tea, and a vibrant single origin Tanzanian coffee, but also a souped-up beer. Her beer creation, called BKON Cocktail X, infuses Mother Earth Brew Co.’s Boo Koo IPA with ginger ale green tea and lemonade, which accentuate the IPA’s hops.

So, no, this actually isn’t a beer cocktail because it lacks hard booze. But it’s made of a combination of flavors making it is an interesting version of beer: Smooth but mellowed hoppyness, followed by a citrus flavor, finish with a bite of spice and sea salt, according to Betiong. She pours it into a cup garnished with a salt rim and orange slice so it resembles a beerita. Personally, I’d like it on a sunny day. The beer isn’t diluted or the flavors muted but it does almost taste like a citrus beer soda.

Right now Cocktail X is the only “cocktail” on the menu. Not only because R+D doesn’t have a full liquor license but it takes quite awhile to create a recipe using the machine. “First you have to figure out what flavors you want to accentuate and also flavors you don’t want to be part of the drink composure,” says Betiong. “Once you know what flavor profile you’re looking for, then you go into the BKON software and dial in ‘less vacuum’ or ‘more vacuum.’ You do it on your computer first and then import the recipe. It takes awhile as far as getting it really dialed in.”

R+D has been tinkering with other cocktail possibilities with wine, sake, and soju but doesn’t have anything concrete yet.

Rubies + Diamonds, 615 West Sunset Boulevard, Suite 150; 323-465-0400