Will Automation Take Over for the Baristas?
Will automation take over for the baristas or will it take them to the next level? A view on running efficient coffee business without losing the passion for the product.
As third wave coffee becomes increasingly prevalent, customers with a taste for the good stuff are setting a new standard in the overall coffee experience. Whereas coffee evolved from a morning pick-me-up towards a high-end delight served by tattooed baristas in big city coffee bars, customers are now also expecting high quality coffee in general catering business and restaurants.
We asked Jan Adriaens, CEO of Schuilenburg and Belgian engineer behind smart autofoamer Perfect Moose, how he saw this evolution take shape. “I have been working in the coffee industry for over 25 years now. We meet a lot of passionate people but unfortunately, you can’t run a business on passion alone. Real issues such as time management, temporary staff and training costs are not always taken into account. We saw the same frustrations over and over again and decided to do something about it. We started out with automating Probat coffee roasters, enabling our coffee roasting customers to upload preset roasting profiles and even to control them via smartphone or tablet. This allows the coffee roaster to move about during the roasting process while remaining in charge of the quality.”
How did this trend translate into the coffee bar?
Adriaens continues: “As specialty coffee bars became more and more popular, we also focused on tuning shop roasters and got a lot of feedback from our clients about other bottle necks in their business. One always popped up: getting the milk froth right, a true skill and quite a time-consuming part of the coffeemaking process. When you know that almost 80% of coffees now served are milk-based, it was clear to us what the next step was. Automating the milk frothing process…and that is how Perfect Moose was born.”
Does automation not also involve giving up the personal touch?
“On the contrary. The role of the barista is evolving from a créateur behind the bar into a new type of host” Adriaens says.
“Personal attention for the customer, personal attention for the product…that is what it’s all about now. Whereas the wine sommelier dazzles customers with his product knowledge and way of serving, the barista now knows where his coffee is grown and takes up a whole new role as coffee connoisseur. Automation enables him to do so without losing attention for the bar.”
Will automation not lead to sameness and boring uniformity?
Adriaens has a clear view on this. “Both chains and independent coffee bars are up for the idea of automation. For us, the passion of creating always remains key. The Perfect Moose autofoamer for example can be used with the liquid of your choice, enabling you to experiment, make new combinations, go veggie, buy local milks…
It is never our intention to impose a certain taste or uniformize the coffee experience by automation. Quite the contrary… we encourage baristas to keep an open mind. Big companies are using the smart steamer to test their recipes before going to market, trendsetting restaurateurs are experimenting with steaming certain ingredients… automation yes, but always with a personal twist.”
So will automation take over for the barista? We don’t think so. Just consider automation as the next step forward in the coffee business. Embracing innovation always takes courage…. But providing quality without the queue is something foodies and coffee lovers will only applaud.