Starbucks Goes Auto

BeanGrinder

New member
Aug 11, 2004
176
0
North Georgia, USA
I venture through the crowds of pierced-bodied high school kids once in a while to see what is new at Starbucks. Last week it was to find that their old four-group espresso machine had been replaced with a fully automated machine. I had heard rumors it was coming, but was surprised to find it was true.

I'm not sure you could call the guy in the apron a barista anymore, since all he does is push a button...nevertheless, I asked him what he thought of the new equipment. His response: "Well, I don't burn milk anymore."

Tisk, tisk. Perhaps I was wrong to call him a barista before automation. I have this gut feeling that I'll start seeing a lot more connoisseurs in my shop who like to watch the beans exit the roaster, see the hand-tamped portafilter locked into place, and the swirling stainless steel pitcher as it magically produces micro-foam.

If you are tempted to go fully automated, consider your duty to the art and resist!
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
I think it really comes down to the technician being a good Barista. For it is the technician who will setup and test the super auto before its first day of service. If the tech doesn't know what he or she is doing, then they are simply helping produce less then perfect espresso.

There are many settings to a super auto that will determine the overall quality of the espresso. If the tech programs even one wrong it can be disastrous in the long run. So when it comes to supers make sure the person who sets it up knows the machine inside and out!

Just because the machine produces the drink doesn't mean the drink will be good by time the consumer gets it. The Barista still needs to know the underlying structure and presentation of the drink. If either is off, it can taste or look bad.
 

celement

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Apr 17, 2005
130
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Modesto, CA
How many of your customers do you think will know, notice, or care? I'm not trying to be rude but I really think most people care about taste and speed of delivery....the speed is going to pick up for them...and I doubt most will notice the taste since the "mocha" is the number one drink and thats not so much about the espresso as it is the chocolate?
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,724
11
Boca Raton
GRRR...super auto bad....I can not stand them!! I went to a Starbux the other day and asked for a ristretto and they said they can not pull short shots or long...they all come out the same :x also...my experience with super autos is that you can not make as many drinks as on a semi...what are thoughts on this?
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
More then you think. I made an adjustment to change the taste of the espresso for one of my clients. For myself the adjustment was quite noticeable. The espresso wasn't quite as sour and had a little more of a chocolate taste to it.

The client’s costumers noticed right away, especially the regulars who come in on a daily bases. They didn't much like the change.

I know you weren't trying to be rude, but I can't stand it when comments criticize how stupid our patrons really are! If you think all your customers are really that stupid, then why do they keep coming back to your shop?
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
Topher, not true try and Cimbali M2. (Wow I'm a poet and didn't know it!)

With the M2 it is harder to pull a good short shot. The machine was really designed around making doubles and triples. But if you take the time you can do very nice singles.

With the M2 it is now possible to weigh your grind and get a direct number representation on the M2. Basically when the M2 grinds it counts the number spins (pulses) of the grinders. So if you set it for 80 and then weigh the grinds and it comes in around 14 grams, you now have a reference point to work with. Then start making triples and work your way back to a single shot.

Get the grind settings and time done then move on to other settings. There are tons of other variables to change if you don’t like the espresso. You can adjust the group temperature up or down depending on your type of coffee. You can change water temp by changing out a flow restrictor or an injector. You can also play with infusion time, and the backing of the group to change the characteristics of your crema.

With the Cimbali’s M2 there are many things that can be done to make your espresso better. Also there are many hardware similarities between the M2 and Cimbali traditional machines. I have taken some pretty bad coffee and made some spectacular shots on the M2. If you ever have a chance to play with one, give it a shot. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
Also speaking of single shots for traditional machines. I know several places that don't even use a single shot baskets anymore. It is hard to get a good single on a traditional machine.

Singles can be very tricky to do right. Especially if you have to make a lot of drinks. From what I have seen, if you order a single they pull a double and toss the other shot.
 

bergzy

New member
Aug 23, 2005
6
0
The OC, Baby!!!
as with all things...

there are good and bad traits that go along with anything.

the good thing about automation is that IF the tech set the auto machine up properly, it will give a consistent espresso 'almost' all the time.

this means that there is less operator error, less waste, less overhead and esp...less 'skilled' training (ie less $$$ spent on training).

the bad thing is that one is unable to ask for a custom coffee/espresso drink, inflexible to the things one can do because of less training in the finer points in barista-ship and the inflexibility of the machine itself, less knowledge on finer points on what the one in ten (or less) customer wants.

i remember when starbucks was fully manual and got very inconsistent coffees/espresso's. some were great and some were not so good. it came down to the barista. it is hard to keep a barista for a long time if they are being paid slightly above min wage.

with automation, i am not saying that where they are now is better or worse but it definitely is inevitable when a company reaches this size: they must grapple with consistency.

go into any fast food chain like mcdonalds and you will get a very consistent burger. i never worked in one but i peek in the back and see that the burgers are all set on timers or something. all the 'cook' has to do is flip them. each burger gets exactly the same amount of condiments from a premeasured squirt gun with the only inconsistent thing is the size of the pickle slices. in fact, go into any mcdonalds and you will see more people taking your money than people in the back 'cooking'. i remember as a kid that it was the opposite.

when i am on the road in the middle of nowhere, i usually will head to a mcdonalds because i know what i will be getting. i am not saying that it is good, i am saying that i know what i will be getting. i have been ill too many times going into a questionable eating establishment only to be sitting on the toilet for many hours after.

this is the same thing that is happening to starbuck's. it cant be helped. it is the wave of the giant corporation disguising itself as the small local corner coffee shop.

if i really want a wicked cup of cap or latte, i head over to little italy, chat with the guy behind the counter (who speaks good english with a very heavy italian accent) and enjoy HIS art of making me HIS rendition of his art.

if i want what i truly like, i make it myself at home on my espresso machine, drip, press etc that i know like the back of my hand.

if i want to hang with my friends outside or need a quick fix on the road, i go to starbucks.

if i am at home and need a quick fix, i drop a k cup in my keurig and brew a hassle free CONSISTENT cup of java in 30 seconds.

hmmm, it's 1 am for me...sounds like a good time for a one pull espresso with two drops of honey! :D
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
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Des Moines, Iowa
What it comes down to is change. People really don't like change. I had a great conversation with a man who ran a coffee shop in the 60's and up in to the 80's with a manual espresso machine. No pump what so ever. He said that in order to be a barista you had to work on a lever machine. He went through the ends and the outs of it all.

So what it comes down to he said is that now you just tamp and press a button. Where is the art in that? So it is the same argument over and over, and 20 years in the future I bet the semi automatic machines will be put out to pastures in much the same way lever machines were.
 
Starbucks is not about art. They are not about coffee. You can ding them for both of those, but it is missing the point.

Starbucks is a marketing company that just happens to be in the coffee business. 85 percent gross margins in coffee don't hurt - funds a lot of growth.

You can always beat them both with art and coffee. Just like most any backyard barbecue will beat McDonalds for taste. With the exception of fries, is anything at McFood really good in its class?

At work, I nabbed a fully automatic Capresso that was collecting dust and got it running. Consistent it is, but doesn't hold a candle to what I can make at home on my Isomac. But I'm not going to drive home 3 times a day just for a better espresso.

Correction - Starbucks is in the real estate business, not just marketing. They have 50 full time professionals in their real estate department. Add to the that network of brokers in each market, there are probably thousands of people all working to decide where the next Starbucks should open. All to land a stinky mermaid where you'd find it more convenient than to go get a great cup of coffee.
 

ds40014

New member
Jan 6, 2006
15
0
Crestwood, KY
SuperAutos

A couple of things on the superautos - have a barista friend who came from a semi-auto shop and went to Sbux because of the $$ and keeping busy - she hates not being able to make a special drink for her customers. Not as much fun.

Two, we just bought a refurbished La Marzocca that sbux got rid of...great deal, thanks Sbux!

Lastly, looking for a place to lease - this is what Sbux is doing - buying land, building stores, selling the land and building to offload them and then leasing back from new owner. Nice way to get what you want and then if store doesn't work out, dump the location.

Sbux isn't in it for the coffee or the experience, it's all about growth and $$. Different mission than us small guys. Thanks SBux for creating a generation or two of coffee lovers that we can take care of!
 

jm21

New member
Jan 31, 2008
4
0
I was looking for some information on coffee machines, read this post, and had to comment.

I dislike Starbuck''s coffee, but there have been MANY times when I or someone I am with on a trip has thought or said \"hey, let''s go to that little coffee shop, it''s got to be better than Starbucks at least, and we''ll be supporting someone local too!\" Then we go in and it''s the worst coffee we''ve ever had. I''ve even just dumped out an espresso or Americano before because I couldn''t stand to drink it (and with how thrifty I am, that''s pretty darn bad).

So don''t go on too much about the \"art\" of being a barista that Starbucks lacks but little coffee shops have...I live in Portland and rarely find a local shop that''s any good at all, despite how everyone always comments on what great coffee there is here.

Besides, most people want flavored coffee drinks like Mochas, cheap drip coffee, and/or don''t have much taste in coffee anyways. Not much pressure to make great coffee at the typical coffee shop.
 
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