High-end coffee machines even master flat white

New super-automatic coffee machines promise everything a coffee drinker desires – even superior flat white

In recent years, the coffee business has moved considerably towards automating coffee preparation, and now it has gone much further – we are now in the world of “super-automatic” espresso coffee.

Not so long ago, coffee made by a barista was considered ideal for serving coffee and push-button machines were looked down upon. Today, nine UK coffee chains use super-autos, a leading coffee and bakery chain has 2,000 machines and one of the biggest coffee brands has 10,000 serve-yourself machines operating in various staging areas…all, it is claimed, providing quality barista-coffee.

In total, according to coffee research house Allegra, the premium automatic coffee sector has doubled in the past five years, and consumers now expect the quality of push-button beverages to be higher. a level equal to that served in cafes.

Steam up

In the modern coffee trade, it is the quality of milk preparation that can make a great drink, and the automation of milk frothing and steaming has made great strides in recent times. Unsurprisingly, all brands of super-automatic machines claim that their milk system is the best among the expected variety of cappuccinos, lattes, etc.

Some even claim to be able to do flat white. This drink requires “texturing” of the milk, which has long been considered a real test of a barista’s manual skill, and if it really can be done by a machine, then the super-auto standard is certainly something. thing for hospitality. trade to respect.

So the question is: how good are these machines? Do they make true flat whites or just double strength lattes?

A quick poll among vendors of manual espresso machines produced, unsurprisingly, some skepticism. One supplier, summing up the general sentiment, said: “Although the frothing and texturing of milk in grain machines, especially the higher end ones, is constantly improving, an automatic frother cannot produce the same texture dense than a human-shaped well – you get a “kind of flat white”, which a lot of people can enjoy, but it’s not the best experience.” And, he added, “A machine can’t pour a latte art design on top…”

“Our machine can produce a flat blank,” replies James Nicholson, managing director of Franke. “We can do this because we can control the flow and speed of the milk, we can control the heat, and we can control the froth of the milk, all at different stages in the production of the beverage.”

Franke’s A300 is a multi-award winner, which he says is an extremely compact fully automatic machine, brewing at a level normally seen in larger, high-volume machines. “Space should never get in the way of taste,” the company says. “The A300 is ideal for small restaurants and coffee shops where space is at a premium. It features our exceptional Foam-Master, offering an unlimited choice of foam consistencies, which is unique in this industry – the milk froth as a barista would do is unique in this machine size.”

The A300 has won awards in America and Germany, and won last year’s award for best beverage equipment at the Caterer’s Supplier Awards, with judges noting its EasyClean automatic descaling system.

dead days

Cleaning is especially important on super-autos, which the coffee trade knows can be more sensitive than traditional espresso machines, due to their complexity. Brita, who has recently been very active in her business research, offered a statistic that suggests the average hotel business has to deal with equipment failures for 84 days of the average year; all operators agreed it had an effect on business, and four in five admitted they should do more cleaning and maintenance to protect machines.

It’s “absolutely possible” for a fully automatic machine to produce a good flat white, agrees Coffeetek’s Alba Urriza, saying that while the barista or beverage manager is responsible for determining the texture and density of the milk foam he needs, once they have set their instructions, the automation then continues to produce the milk to a more consistent standard than a human would.

Similar claims come from Crem, which says “nothing beats our world-class fresh milk frothing system…which automatically delivers a variety of different milk textures, flat, moist, and dry.”

Eversys goes into a little more detail with its Everfoam, featured in the Shotmaster machine, which was named “best fully automatic machine” at this year’s London Coffee Festival.

Milk needs are variable, says Eversys, so its machine allows for either traditional manual frothing or an automatic process where the barista sets the amount of air needed for the “thickness” of froth required; in particular, the machine will infuse and then pour its espresso while separately preparing its milk in a different container.

“The barista then combines the two and they can focus on their latte art, not the froth – they get greater consistency, quality and speed, and no waste.”

The Evershot is described as “a beast of a machine”, potentially churning out 700 drinks per hour. This remarkable figure seems theoretically possible, as the machine uses more than one integrated bean hopper, more than one milk system and has space for two baristas to connect to the machine at once.

It’s actually possible, says marketing manager Kamal Bengougam: Operators would need to replenish the beans, and production would depend on the need for milk, but the machine will dispense coffee at the required flow rate. “We did it in fully automated mode, and it can be achieved.”

Capsule collection

The movement towards quality automated milk has extended to the capsule coffee sector, with Lavazza now creating its Classy Custom Milk system. The brand has long maintained that capsules are the easiest way to serve quality espresso coffee in small quantities, such as in a small bar or breakfast room. The latest development of the system means that once the capsule is inserted into the machine, the user only has to select the drink they want and the machine prepares the appropriate type of milk. There is an override whereby the user can specify a hotter espresso or more froth on the milk.

Meanwhile, two brands have put their machines under the counter. At Scanomat, managing director Simon Bracken says his Top Brewer sits under the counter and is “the most minimalist super-automatic machine on the planet”.

In this format, only the spout appears above the worktop. The out-of-sight brewing section of the machine includes a dual milk cooler, allowing for a non-dairy option, and two bean hoppers and grinders, to allow for a choice of coffees.

Scanomat claims its milk system, “the smallest milk frother in the world”, will provide the correct pressure to froth fresh milk to the right level for lattes, cappuccinos and, indeed, flat whites.

Came from the cold

Dublin’s Marco Beverage Systems has been a champion of under-the-counter systems for some time, having started by inventing the Uber, the “boiler” that would produce hot water at a remarkably precise temperature. Its latest invisible item is the Pour’d, which is based on the modern trend of cold brew coffee. It is, says Marco, an unprecedented automatic cold brew dispensing system.

While researching the cold coffee market, Marco discovered that even though consumers demanded the drink, it caused practical problems for the trade. All operators want to avoid having to mix their own cold brew, which is a job usually done overnight – it takes a coffee shop around 10 hours to brew a batch, it’s a messy and unnecessary exercise , and it takes a long time. space at the back of the house.

In response, several coffee roasters came up with the new idea of ​​offering pre-brewed cold brew coffee in concentrate form. These concentrates are very stable liquids and will last quite a long time in a coffee.

“Pour’d automatically dilutes a coffee concentrate with hot or cold water,” says Marco’s marketing manager, Gemma Keirnan.

“Police can connect to running water, a bag-in-box or other container of coffee concentrate and a hot water boiler. The user sets their preferred dilution rate and the machine automatically draws the correct dosage of concentrate, and the correct amount of hot or cold water.

“The result is the right drink at drink strength, without wasting coffee or space.”

Branded drinks

In the world of automated coffee, UCC has introduced what it calls “the most customizable automated bean-to-cup coffee machine on the market.” In the hospitality industry, this means placing a high-quality self-service machine in a situation such as after-hours coffee service, branded either for the location or for a brand of recognizable coffee – Caffè Nero is one of these identities. .

The UCC To Go machine is based on a Thermoplan Black and White, from a recognized fully automatic specialist from Switzerland. This, according to UCC, offers “the smartest super-automatic espresso extraction ever – it self-calibrates, measures core variables and adjusts for consistency, and the Thermofoam system constantly monitors the texture and temperature of milk”.

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