Coffee and tech go hand in hand, and they always have. New technological developments affect the coffee industry at every step along the chain, from the growers right down the line to the coffee shop brewing the drink and the end consumer with cup in hand enjoying the result.
Here, we look at some of the most exciting developments and trends of 2018 – in terms of tech for coffee producers, tech for coffee shops and baristas and tech for those who brew their own coffee at home.
1. Data management software
This is not something new that happened in 2018 but rather something that has been a trend over the last couple of years and has continued to develop throughout this year.
Living in the day of the “Third Wave” of coffee as we are, knowing more and more precise details about the coffee we are drinking has become increasingly vital.
Gone are the days when consumers were happy with a packet of coffee with no more information than the name of a country on the label; now, consumers want to know about the farm where the coffee was grown, the altitude, the processing method, the varietal and a whole lot more.
Software, notably Cropster, which has established itself as the industry standard, is helping farmers, roasters and sellers to manage and share much larger quantities of data than ever before.
Furthermore, this data is then fed back into the system, allowing farmers to focus more attention on things that work, further enhancing the quality of the coffee produced.
Roasters are also able to keep track of much more information, allowing them to fine-tune the roasting process more than ever before, in turn giving them the ability to roast with even more precision.
2. Thermal carafe coffee makers
Again, this is not something that suddenly arrived in 2018 but rather is something that has been developing over the past few years. However, it is an area that is set to continue to grow and so is worth a mention on our list.
In the past, traditional drip coffee makers percolated the coffee down into a glass carafe which then sat on a hotplate to keep the coffee warm.
The problem with this is that coffee on a hotplate quickly becomes stewed and bitter-tasting – in a matter of only 15-20 minutes in fact.
This means that if you want fresh coffee, you have to finish the carafe quickly, with no option for keeping coffee both hot and fresh for longer periods.
Nowadays, as the many coffee maker with thermal carafe reviews attest, thermal carafes are taking over.
They offer the advantage of keeping the coffee hot without the need for a heat source – which results in the coffee remaining fresh and delicious for up to two hours or so.
Additionally, since no electricity is consumed keeping the hotplate switched on, users can soon recuperate the initial outlay through their lower monthly electricity bills. Thermal carafes are good for your taste buds, good for your pocket and even good for the environment too!
3. App technology – iBeacon in Starbucks and the Starbucks app
Starbuck, always a pioneer when it comes to innovative tech, has been experimenting with Apple’s iBeacon software to push ever more targeted promotions to potential customers even as they walk past stores.
At the same time, Starbucks has made a subtle but significant change to how the chain’s app functions. Unlike before, it is now possible to log in, order and pay as a “guest” using a number of payment options rather than having to use money pre-paid onto the app.
This is allowing the store to attract ever more users than before, specifically those who were not interested in pre-paying their money onto an app for a future coffee purchase.
Of course, this then allows the high street giant to harvest ever more customer data – which can then be fed back into the system to allow for more targeted promotions to be sent out to customers based on their purchasing history and much more.
4. Data management for baristas
One of the biggest problems when you want to scale up an operation, has always been standardization across outlets. Even with the best and most careful training, when baristas hit the shop floor, there is always going to some variation between the drinks they produce.
This is an issue because a loyal customer in Detroit is going to expect the exactly the same drink in Denver – but more than this, a customer in Boston is also going to expect to be served the same beverage in Beijing.
Until now, this level of standardization has been little more than a dream – but with modern technology and data management, using tools like Acacia scales and the accompanying app, a higher degree of standardization than ever before is now becoming possible.
In this way, whether you scale up from owning one coffee shop in a town to two or three, whether you branch out into new cities or whether you want to turn your brand into a global enterprise, you can now serve exactly the same drinks across all your branches.
5. Robot baristas
Another innovation that promises to remove variation from barista to barista is to take out the baristas altogether and replace them with robots. This is not an idea from some futuristic science fiction novel, this is something that is actually being trialed now.
(We should point out that we are talking about automated machines here, we’re not quite at the stage of having humanoid robots working in coffee shops just yet!)
Will an automated barista ever replace human ones? Perhaps in some places where people want their coffee ASAP and nothing else.
However, the skills and art of a highly trained barista will perhaps never be replaced by a robot and nor will the friendly chit-chat – at least not for quite a long time to come. There will still be a place for human baristas for the foreseeable future.
Many exciting developments -what’s next?
As we can see, innovation within the coffee industry is alive and well, and some truly exciting developments are being seen. All that remains for us to do now is to sit back and wait and see what 2019 has in store. One thing’s for sure, it’s set to be yet another exciting year for coffee lovers.
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari food blog. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.