That's Flawesome: Breaking Down the Juicero
Not too long ago, we stumbled across a blog that caught our attention. Started by three friends with backgrounds in industrial design and art direction, That's Flawesome came across as a much-needed reminder that not all designs are created equal, no matter how visually pleasing they appear to be. Each blog entry focused on a particular design to focus on, and what we especially liked was the way these guys balanced constructive criticism with useful suggestions and, of course, a sense of humor. Clearly, these guys were excited about design, and instead of picking each project apart, they approached their critique from a sense of fairness and joy, hence the name That's Flawesome.
We are excited to feature That's Flawesome on the Coroflot blog because we appreciate their honesty and insight when it comes to the design world. Remember that each entry is written in good fun and entirely subjective. The critiques presented by That's Flawesome do not reflect the opinions of the Coroflot team, although we do find them to be entertaining. We hope you enjoy!
It's a tale as old as time...a story about cold-pressed juice from an expensive machine.
Juicero. The "Keurig for Juicers", as it's been proclaimed by various outlets. The Juicero is a home juicer that makes individual glasses of cold-pressed juice using pre-packaged, single-use, sealed bags of fruits and vegetables. Or some approximation of fruits and vegetables.
Just prior to all this Juicero news, my life was immersed in all things juice. My significant other recently purchased a birthday present for herself: a home juice extractor. I've been tasting the results of her first foray into juicing. Let me tell you, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice is delicious. And juicing uses A LOT of fruits and vegetables. No, really. A LOT, ALL CAPS. After using her juicer for the first time, my girlfriend handed me a half-filled glass of some sort of orange (in color) juice. "Guess what's in it?", she said. "Uh, it's kinda bitter...grapefruit? Orange? Carrot?" "Yes! Now guess how much fruit is in there." I really had no clue, maybe a couple of each? "3 big grapefruits, 4 oranges, probably a pound of carrots." Whaaaa...?!? The juice from all that barely filled half of a 16 ounce glass. Rule 1 of juicing at home: you need to buy a lot of produce.
Rule 2 of juicing at home is related to Rule 1: you need to spend a lot of time preparing produce for juicing. It's fairly obvious that the way to get juice from fruits and vegetables is to crush them to a literal pulp. Home juice extractors usually have some sort of spinning disk shredder to break down the produce. But these home machines don't have the power or capacity to shred whole vegetables and fruits like commercial juice extractors, so you have to do a lot of peeling, and cutting, and dicing. Basically, you need to cut the produce into sizes that the home juice extractor can accept...so it can break down that produce even further.
Once the home juice extractor grinds up the chunks of fruits and vegetables you just spent an hour cutting, the pulp it creates is then spun around, centrifuge-style. Like a motorized salad spinner, the solid pulp stays inside a mesh basket, and the liquid juice is ejected outside the basket, and funneled into a receptacle. However, this is not the most efficient way to extract all the juice from the pulp, as the forces applied to the spinning pulp are not very great.
Large commercial juicers, like this Goodnature X-1, used in restaurants, juice bars, or in your local cold-pressed juice company, grind up the produce with a rotating disk (just like the home juice extractor, minus the prep work), but then collect the pulp in a porous bag. This bag is then pressed between two hydraulically-driven plates. The plates exert up to 9 tons of pressure on that pulp to extract the juice. 9 TONS. Just as a refresher, one ton is equal to 2,000 pounds. Do you know what weighs 18,000 pounds? A garbage truck...and this ancient Mayan temple made out of chocolate.
Making juice at home with a home juice extractor is a lot of work, and it doesn't end when you're drinking your glass of fresh juice. You still have to clean the juicer. And if you juiced beets, your kitchen will look like a bloody murder scene, as beet juice stains your counter, and your hands.
And this is why Juicero exists. It takes all away all of the hassle involved with home juicing, and gives users the ability to have fresh, cold-pressed juice at home. It's an improvement on the process, which makes it easier for people who are turned off by old-style home juicing. Instead of buying pounds and pounds of fruits and vegetables, and then peeling and cutting them, the Juicero uses sealed, pre-portioned bags of fruit and vegetables, called produce packs. You put the bag in the machine, the machine (which is connected to the internet) scans the bag to make sure the bag is fresh, and it also scans the bag to know what kind of produce mix is in the bag. Then it presses the bag, much in the same way the commercial juice extractor squeezes shredded produce in the mesh bag. A spout at the bottom of the bag allows juice to flow out, into your glass. The process of juice extraction with the Juicero is exactly the same as the commercial machine, the Goodnature X-1. It's no wonder that they look similar.
Doug Evans, founder of Juicero, wanted to take the quality of cold-pressed juice extracted from commercial machines, and make it accessible to home users. The problem is that the way a commercial machine like the Goodnature X-1 presses juice is going to be difficult to reproduce in a unit that's supposed to fit on a kitchen counter. Remember the 18,000 pounds of hydraulically-controlled pressure (that's the weight equal to a scale model of the Mayan Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, made of solid chocolate!) that the X-1 uses to press previously-shredded fruits and veggies into juice? How does one scale that down to a tabletop appliance?
Over at Bolt, Ben Einstein takes apart the infamous $799-now-$399 Juicero, to see why this thing is so expensive. It's a fun read, and an industrial designer/engineer's dream blog post, as he gets into the (literal) nuts and bolts of the machine. Be sure to check it out. The main thing I want to bring to your attention from that Juicero disassembly is the fact that it does, in fact, use the "apply tremendous pressure to the bag" method to extract juice, just like the hydraulically-controlled Goodnature X-1. This is probably one of the main reasons it is so expensive. A unit that is supposed to fit on a countertop can't get away with having a complex hydraulic system to apply that force; instead, it uses an incredibly large power supply, a computer-controlled motor, and a massively-built gearbox, all proprietary to the Juicero. Because of these custom components, and the extracting mechanics, the Juicero can apply enormous pressure to a 8 inch by 8 inch area (the size of the produce bag), to extract the juice from the produce.
Unfortunately, some Juicero investors found an easier way to get the juice out of the bag. And Bloomberg tested this method themselves.
"How is that possible?? The Juicero uses thousands of pounds of pressure to squeeze that bag! There's no way we can do that with our hands." Well, actually, we can. *puts on physicist hat, which is actually a woman's sun hat, because it's the only hat that was close by* In physics, pressure is defined as "force per unit area":
Pressure = Force/AreaP = F/A
In the equation above, let's say F equals the force you apply, and we'll keep the Force constant, and say it's 1 Newton. Now, you'll be able to see how Pressure (P) relates to the Area (A) to which the Force (F) is applied. With F = 1, to make the numbers easy, let's make the Area equal to 100. With F=1 and A=100:
P= F/A = 1/100 = .01
So, if you apply a force of F=1, your Pressure will only be a small fraction (.01) of the Force you applied. Now, let's make the Area very small, so A = .1
P = F/A = 1/.1 = 10
Here, the Pressure is equal to ten times the Force you applied! Pressure has an inverse relationship to the applied Area. The bigger the area, the less pressure is applied; the smaller the area, the more pressure is applied. This is how someone is able to exert enormous amounts of pressure on that Juicero produce bag, and extract juice just like the machine. Force is applied to the bag through a very small area: the fingertips and the palms of the hand. The Juicero, on the other hand, applies a really large force to the bag, but applies it to a much larger area, the flat front and rear of the bag.
So what's the That's Flawesome consensus on the Juicero? Everyone and their blog-writing cousin think it's a joke. That's why we're here talking about it, right? To be honest, the Juicero is not a bad product. The Juicero allows someone to have a glass of fresh, cold-pressed juice at home. The user doesn't have to buy and chop loads of fruits and vegetables. The user doesn't have to feed the produce into a loud machine. And the user's only clean-up is throwing the pressed produce pack into the trash or recycling bin. That's it. Besides the Juicero, the only way to get fresh, cold-pressed juice at home without doing any work is to have someone deliver bottles of cold-pressed juice to your home. But even then, that bottle of juice wouldn't be as freshly pressed as the Juicero juice.
Now, I'm not saying that the Juicero is not without it's problems. It has a few, and this is where things get flawesome. The Juicero works; it's expensive, but it works. And it's expensive because of the way it extracts juice, using a cold-press method that is identical to commercial juice extractors (which are also expensive). The company had to design and engineer a very small, but very robust system to replicate the pressing power of really large commercial juice extractors. But...why did they? Why didn't the designers and engineers think of different ways to apply pressure to the produce bags that was more efficient and less costly? Why did they literally copy and scale an existing product, a commercial juice extractor, instead of designing a different system that can give the same results? It's almost as if Doug Evans, the founder of Juicero, had his mind set on this particular way of extracting juice, and told the Juicero design team that there was no alternative but to make a home machine that functioned exactly like the commercial machines, cost be damned. But it didn't have to be this way. The design team at Juicero should have examined other ways to press these bags. Just off the top of my head, you could have a mechanism that twists the bag, like wringing out a towel. Or maybe have a set of rollers squeeze the bag from the top to the bottom, like squeezing from the end of a tube of toothpaste. In both of these cases, the machine wouldn't have to apply force in such a large area, which could lead to the use of off-the-shelf, less costly components instead of bespoke, proprietary components found in the Juicero.
While I am not a fan of the "Keurig"-product philosophy of having pre-packaged individual servings, I will say that Juicero is on to something regarding their produce packs. It really is a hassle to juice at home, when you have to prepare pounds and pounds of produce, just for a single glass. Having the produce already prepared, with different fruits and vegetables mixed together, is a great time saver. A problem arises when the user doesn't like the combination of fruits and vegetables found in the Juicero bags. There's no way to create your own blend of produce. But, with Juicero's tight supply network, maybe in the future, there would be a way to order custom produce blends.
As for the hand-juicing of the Juicero produce pack, I think it's short-sighted that that's what people choose to discuss. Yes, you can squeeze the produce pack yourself, and get juice to come out of the spout, but are you going to squeeze it with enough force to get all the juice? And the more important question: do you *want* to do that every time you want juice? People focus on the price of Juicero machine, a machine that, seemingly, only does one thing. I look at Juicero as a system, one that allows you to have fresh, cold-pressed juice at home. Customers buy into the system, because they want fresh, cold-pressed juice, without doing any work, including squeezing a bag of fruit and vegetable pulp with all their strength, every time they want a glass.
Article written by Carl Acampado (@trx0x)