If you’re inspired by a pitch video on a crowdsourcing site, you send some money. It’s not an investment; you don’t get rich if the invention becomes a hit. But you do get some memento — a T-shirt or a discounted version of the invention once it’s manufactured — and the rosy glow of knowing that you helped bring a cool idea to life.
There’s only one problem: You have no way to know if the invention was actually any good. That’s where our crowdfunding reviews come in. We test the prototype, find out how much promise it has, and help you decide if the thing is worth funding or buying.
Today’s invention: The Sonic Decanter
The claim: With the help of a 15- or 20-minute ultrasonic session, this appliance will improve the taste of any bottle of wine you plan to drink for dinner. Using an iOS or Android app, you’ll be able to adjust the timing and keep track of what you’ve consumed by scanning a bar code.
Goal: Seeking $85,000.
Status: Sonic Decanter has so far raised roughly $12,000 and has 33 days to go.
What I tested: The Sonic Decanter app won’t be ready until May, when the product is scheduled to ship, but I was able to test the effectiveness of the actual appliance. I tried its electronic treatment out on two wine bottles: one I’d never tasted before, and one of my go-to (relatively cheap) favorites.
What I learned: First, this thing is a bit of a beast. It weighs about 4 pounds and is a couple of inches taller than your average bottle of vino. As someone who lives in a tiny studio apartment with little counter space, I found it imposing. If I actually owned one, I’d have to shove it in a cupboard and unearth it every time I felt like jazzing up my evening drink.
The Sonic Decanter, next to one of my decorative gourds. (Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
But as long as you have enough space on your counter to host an electronic sommelier, the setup is pretty painless. Just plug it in and pour about a cup of cold tap water into its base. (Filling and emptying the Decanter can be sort of messy, because there’s no elegant way to do it.) Then place the bottle in the center of the setup and wait.
If you’re zapping a red wine, you press the red button, which sets the device at 20 minutes. If you’re prepping a white wine, you press the white button to set the timer at 15 minutes. The difference in time has to do with the levels of anthocyanin and polyphenol compounds in each shade of vino. According to Sonic Decanter founder Mike Coyne, white has less of these chemicals and therefore requires a shorter sonic spa treatment.
(Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
Once it gets going, the Decanter’s edges emanate a blue glow, and it emits a loud electrical buzz. Then you just let it be and continue cooking dinner or entertaining, or whatever else it is one does while waiting for her sweet berry wine to decant.
(Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
Once it’s done, you drink it. And this is where you must evaluate where exactly your $250 went.
Before I describe my tasting experience, however, I’ll offer a quick explanation of the patented chemical process that your beverage of choice undergoes when it’s placed in this metal bucket.
The bucket generates ultrasonic energy in the form of sound waves at a frequency that’s above the range detected by the human ear. This technology has been used for a lot of things, but when Coyne’s co-founder Charlie Leonhardt applied it to wine, he found that it helped soften its taste. He backed up his findings with chemistry, discovering that wine’s foundational components actually transform when exposed to ultrasonic energy. Most wines in the Western Hemisphere, for instance, are made with sulfur dioxide so that the beverage will stay fresh as long as possible in a bottle. But when those molecules are broken down, wine immediately becomes more palatable for your average consumer.
Of course, the phrase “more palatable” is both vague and easily contested in an industry with such passionate gatekeepers.
John Allen, a Spokane, Wash.-based wine shop owner who tried the device but says he is not financially involved with this Kickstarter campaign, characterizes the machine’s capabilities a little differently.
“When wine people talk about structure, which is the acidity or tannins in a particular bottle, we’re talking about what promotes its tastability,” he told Yahoo Tech. “This device affects wine’s structure, and when a person is drinking a wine with a diminished structure, it’s much more accessible.”
He reasons that those who are buying a $10 or $15 bottle of wine to drink among friends will likely benefit from the device, while “serious wine aficionados or connoisseurs are [more] interested in having an experience directly out of the bottle that a wine maker delivered.”
In other words, if you are a fan of wine but can’t afford to buy the pricey stuff, this thing will make your bottom-shelf purchases more palatable.
(Alyssa Bereznak/Yahoo Tech)
I found this to be true in my tests. With both bottles of wine, I poured a glass before sticking the rest of the bottle in the bucket. When the loud, glowing, clicking session was finished, I then tasted the untouched wine as well as its ultrasonic counterpart.
I immediately noticed more enhanced aromas from the glass that had run through the Sonic Decanter. When it came to taste, it was clear that the treated wine went down much easier; its flavors were milder and easier to swallow. Though I appreciate all different tastes of vino — and sometimes enjoy something acidic or powerful — I found the ability to make a $10 bottle of Bogle better extremely handy.
The bottom line: If you spend inordinate amounts of money on wonderful wines that have been obsessively bottled in far-off French vineyards, then chances are you will find this machine deeply offensive. But if you’re a casual wine fan — someone who drinks affordable bottles with dinner, in the bathtub, or while you’re watching Netflix — this machine could be worth the splurge.
You have until Nov. 24 to back the Sonic Decanter here. If you’re one of the first to donate, and the device actually ships, you can get it on sale for $99.