Automated coffee machines are the baristas of the future

'Technology in cafes has come a long way and it's only getting better.'
'Technology in cafes has come a long way and it's only getting better.' 

I believe a day is coming when hardcore baristas will spend more time talking about coffee beans than dialling in the perfect espresso shot. Technology in cafes has come a long way and it's only getting better.

Over the past five years we've seen grinders hit the market that accurately dose coffee with little need for barista intervention. We've seen espresso machines that extract recipes far more consistently than the most tattooed of baristas. There's even automated milk dispensing units that produce on-demand foam worthy of latte art.

Recently, we tested a fully automated coffee machine that was capable of producing a beautifully balanced espresso. It precisely dosed and ground the beans. It pre-compressed the coffee into a barista-tight puck. It extracted the coffee and measured the extraction parameters against a predetermined recipe. If an error was found, it started over again by changing the grind size, just like a barista would.

The result was delicious and it got me thinking: will we see a day when the skill of a barista will be superseded by the repetitive accuracy of machines? If you like a quick coffee "fix", the answer is yes.

I'm confident that within five years you will be able to get a beautiful flat white, customised just the way you like it in 20 seconds or less. If you enjoy sitting at a cafe and savouring your coffee, the answer is also yes. I think you'll find this technology can enhance your coffee experience.

If you look at cafes that have all the latest automatic and semi-automatic coffee technologies, you'll find that baristas have more hands-free time. Often, hands-free time translates to "brain-free" time and facilitates customer engagement. As most baristas start talking, their passion for coffee is revealed, leading to conversations about roasting, flavour profiles and all kinds of wonderful things. Customers also have the opportunity to develop a better relationship with their barista, and perhaps learn a little more about their coffee along the way.

Adam Carr predicts that within five years you will be able to get a beautiful flat white, customised just the way you ...
Adam Carr predicts that within five years you will be able to get a beautiful flat white, customised just the way you like it in 20 seconds or less. 

These trends have already started. Through our espresso window at Seven Miles, where automation has been embraced, we're better understanding the taste preferences of our customers. We can recommend specialty coffee based on what we know individual customers enjoy. The barista of the future will operate more like a sommelier. A "coffelier", if you will.

The best of these coffeliers will understand coffee flavour as a function of roast level, regionality, plant varietal and processing method. They will be able to translate these understandings into recommendations for the cafe customer, which in turn will help grow connection between the cup and the farm, and eventually, a greater understanding of provenance.

So, while it may seem like automation reduces barista craft, it in fact helps promote it at a much deeper level. I firmly believe that automation is something to be embraced rather than shunned. It'll give baristas more to talk about than tattoos and beard wax.

Adam Carr is the head of Seven Miles Coffee Roasters Coffee Science and Education Centre in Manly Vale, NSW.