Good Thinking

The walk-in coffee machine

The walk-in coffee machine
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April 16, 2008 The Javabot is the coffee machine of the 21st century. We have written about every major coffee innovation of recent times and apart from the portable $30 Aeropress, which delivers replicable quality in 30 seconds, the Javabot blows them all away. It delivers a coffee with your favourite blend of seven beans, plus how they are roasted, ground and the temperature at which the coffee is brewed, all inside 30 seconds. It’s the only walk-in coffee machine in the world right now, but we suspect the number will grow rapidly once people understand what it delivers.

Coffee and computers seem to go hand in hand. Perhaps it is the ever increasing speed of the computer that has entrained our synapses to fire ever faster, perhaps it's the reward mechanism we've set up for ourselves that causes us to seek ever more productive ways to produce money. Forever striving harder and longer and faster, many humans use coffee/caffeine to stimulate productive behavior. Caffeinated softdrinks dominate beverage sales, and the caffeine-rich coffee bean is not only the world's most valuable crop, it is the world's second largest traded commodity, behind only oil. When the working day starts, most of us turn to coffee when concentration and mental performance is required – fuel for the think tank. More than 1.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.

Our article on the Aerobie AeroPress, the best bang-per-buck coffee machine in the world began with the words "There’s always a better way", and the Aeropress turned out to be living proof. QED!

But this next sucker inspires and beckons to the way after that.

We constantly write up new coffee innovations because most of the Gizmag teams exists on a staple diet of coffee and … errr, well, we like coffee … okay! We loved Nestle’s take on gourmet coffee creation at home ( Nespresso ) and have subsequently written about the capsule-based single cup brewer market comprised of Nespresso, Senseo, Illy's E.S.E Espresso pods, Keurig, Tassimo et al. We raved about the cleverness of the intelligent coffee drinker's mug and the low-cost simplicity and engenuity of the colour-changing disposable beverage lid because they all enhanced one of our favourite past-times.

Not only did we get our hands on the AeroPress, it’s now part of the core traveling kit carried by our most traveled writer – the AeroPress might look like a French Press, but it works quite differently and lived up to our initial expectations by consistently delivering the smoothest, richest, purest and fastest cup of coffee (under 30 seconds) you’re likely to find. Every hotel room has a hot water jug, meaning that at least one of the key variables is taken out of life’s complex travel equation – getting a kickstart with coffee the way we like it, ,consistent in quality and on demand when work calls.

The aforementioned capsule-based single cup brewer market is largely addressing the consistent quality issue – sure it removes much of the mess and hassle, but by packetizing coffee, you can get it consistent.

The Javabot is the coffee machine of the future – completely next generation. It is the fully-automated system that runs the Roasting Plant Coffee Company in New York and its design is illustrative of what can be achieved using new thinking and methodologies to something that was previously regarded as a back art.

The system is part of the experience because the coffee system runs throughout the shop – it’s the first walk-in coffee machine in effect, and customers sit there and watch as their coffee beans rush past in pneumatic tubes, as they move from storage bins to staging, roasting station, grinding and a brewing machine where they are dispensed with the repeatable accuracy of a purpose-built machine. Customers can choose from any blend of seven different beans and every aspect of the process is controlled.

It’s more a small, fully automated production plant than a coffee shop. Designed with best practice supply chain and operational efficiency in mind, the Javabot was built with one purpose in mind – to produce the most flavorful cup of coffee available, regardless of how you like it.

Cups of coffee can be ordered with meticulous control over such matters as coffee bean selection, roasting, grinding and brewing times and temperatures, with every cup custom made to fine tolerances. Whatsmore, it removes so many variables from the traditional process (including the human Barista) that it enables you to see how small changes to roasting temperatures (does your coffee shop roast its own beans?) or the fineness of the grind contribute to the end result. There’s even a sampling serve option where you get three small cups with changes to the key variables to help you zoom in on your preferences.

There’s only one Roasting Plant at this stage, and you’ll find it here. A larger store is planned in the near future and the potential for franchising with an automated quality control system built-in must surely portend well for the globalization of this inspired enterprise. The automated coffee store already has a patent in Europe and has a U.S. patent pending and we all know how difficult it is to find a good cup of coffee when we’re on the road.

Finally, there’s the efficiency aspect. Once the machine has the specs of your coffee, it takes less than 30 seconds to dispense. Such a machine has application in any busy train/transit hub in the world.

The whole story is told beautifully by Joseph Ogando in Design News – if systems interest you, this is very instructive reading about how to take the mystery out of a black art.

Interestingly, the brain of the outfit are being migrated to Apple Macintosh for the Javabot Mk 2 and beyond. Apple already supplies the point-of-sale system.

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