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Kitchen appliances keep getting smarter

It’s hard to say where we’d be without those small appliances that make life just a little bit easier — the microwave oven, for example, or the countertop coffee-maker. At CES 2020, which runs this week at 11 venues around Las Vegas, most exhibitors of those devices, some in the planning stages and some that have become reality, were at Sands Expo. Here’s a selection of some innovative food-related small appliances at the show.

Other manufacturers have worked to make a Keurig-style device for cocktails; now Keurig has done it, with the Drinkworks Home Bar. You can make cocktails with the push of a button in less than a minute using Drinkworks Pods and the Home Bar, which supplies a Pod-specified mix of chilled water and carbonation, when appropriate. Pods are available for a Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned, rosé spritzer and 20 other chilled cocktails.

It’s being delivered to some states; in Nevada, pre-orders for the $299 device are being taken at drinkworks.com, with shipping estimated for Sept. 30.

During a demonstration at the Keurig booth Tuesday morning, the Lemon Bubbly carbonated drink, one of the lighter offerings in the portfolio, still supplied a pretty fair kick, but maybe that’s because it was 10 a.m. The Old Fashioned, with its higher alcohol content, provided somewhat more.

“It’s cool,” Dylan Garrett, a CES attendee from the St. Francisco Bay area, said of the Drinkworks. “It’s convenient, especially if you’re a big cocktail drinker. For me, I enjoy the process of mixing a cocktail. I feel that way about a lot of tech — you kind of miss the old-fashioned way.”

That appeared to be in the thoughts of attendee Aaron Crookes of Cincinnati at the Cooking Pal booth at CES — but maybe not. Cooking Pal has created the Julia, an intelligent autonomous cooking system that can chop, mix, steam, knead, emulsify, weigh, boil and steam. Controlled by a smartphone app or the Smart Kitchen Hub Tablet, it has touch-screen capability or can be controlled with a physical dial — or voice commands using Alexa, which is built in, or Google Assistant. The user goes to the hub and selects a recipe; if they’re missing an ingredient, the system can order it from Amazon Fresh. Text and video instructions provide guidance through each step of the recipe. It’s expected to be available in the third quarter of 2020 for less than $1,000.

Tuesday morning, the company was using the device to make smoothies, which can be prepared in any blender and didn’t show off its capabilities. Still, Crookes said, “I think it’s a pretty good concept. It breaks cooking down into simple terms, layman’s terms. But I like to cook, so I’m a little skeptical.”

About not being able to enjoy the process?

“No,” Crookes said. “Put a robot arm on there so it can add the ingredients for me.”

Conversely, less was more at the N2Falls booth in the MIK Innovation Hot Spot, a cluster of South Korean startups at Sands Expo.

“You don’t need to buy the machine,” said Abraham Kim, N2Falls’ senior executive president. “Most of our current customers use the machine.”

N2Falls uses only a nitrogen ampule — that’s the “N2;” the “falls” represents flowing water — inserted into the lid of a cup of water to produce cold-brew coffee, berry drinks and more. Kim said the ampules are being sold in Korea and should hit the U.S. market in the second quarter of this year. The ampules, he said, will be about $3 each.

Heatworks’ Duo Carafe is battery-operated, has a built-in filter and heats water instantly — while the water in the glass carafe, which holds a quart, remains cool. So you can make a cup of green tea with 175-degree water, then mix baby formula with water that’s been heated to about 96 degrees, and pour yourself a cool drink.

“If you and I were sharing a cup of coffee or tea, we can actually, out of the same canister of water, I can have my hot water at 201 (degrees) and you can have your hot water at 215,” said the company’s Melissa Verzwyvelt.

People who are interested in the Duo Carafe can sign up for updates on the company’s website, myheatworks.com.

And at the SmartyPans booth, brother-and-sister founders Prachi & Rahul Baxi were demonstrating their cookware, which has weight and temperature sensors and is linked to the company’s app via Bluetooth. When you call up a recipe and begin to add an ingredient to the pan, the app tells you when you’ve added the right amount. Users can share their recipes (and comments) with others and transfer nutritional information to a fitness tracker. The pan is $229 at smartypans.io.

“I think the pan is really cool,” said Mollie Wheeler, an attendee from Chicago. “It’s something I would use, and I hadn’t heard of it.”

Devices such as SmartyPans that encourage their users to interact have created their own trend, said Shelly Palmer, an advertising, marketing and technology consultant. They’re changing not only how we prepare food, Palmer said, but also are creating communities united by common interests.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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