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Five minutes with Prufrock: Automation and the Coffee Industry

August 23, 2016


Jeremy Challender, Director at Prufrock Coffee, 2016 UK Brewer’s Cup Winner - not to mention an accomplished blogger and song writer.


Few people know the demands on the 21st century barista and coffee house as well as him.  So we spent five minutes with him to find out exactly what he thinks about automation in the coffee industry…


Hand brewed coffee is a challenge to do commercially…


and that has given rise to the batch brewer. The recent trend in the London speciality coffee market, is the move towards automation, but it’s worth proceeding with caution.  Bill Gates said… “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”


The UK started brewing hand brewed coffee in about 2007…


it was a barista lead trend passionate about high density, difficult to work with coffee, and it took off.  However, as baristas have progressed into owning their own businesses, it has made it difficult to make it sustainable. At Prufrock people know there’s still a true brew bar, and we still try to innovate with hand brewed coffee.


The brew bar is an institution…


someone brews in front of you and there’s dialogue that’s the heart and soul of the experience, alongside ingredient quality.  However, an automated brewer doesn’t come between the barista and the customer. You just don’t have an excuse to stand in front of them for a long chat about the coffee.  Hand brewing is a five-minute conversation without outstaying your welcome.  The engaging part of making filter coffee in a café isn’t watching the coffee grinder. It’s about sharing the coffee flavours in the cup, and that’s information that’s still there in person, or online.


Baristas who can work on a brew bar need training…


and a lot of knowledge behind them before they can make great coffee.  It’s not a four-year apprenticeship, but it’s a good solid week of intense training, which is time and investment.


The industry has demonstrated a hunger for automation


… it’s not impossible to do hand brewed coffee, but it’s a challenging workflow to integrate into an espresso bar.  Hand brewing can work in a concept shop or an environment with a big retail emphasis. But you can see the allure of a large four-litre batch brewer.


Two baristas working flat out can make about 500 espressos in a day…


but you would be hard pressed to make enough filter coffees by hand, even if you worked at full capacity.


What I want from a brewer is…


a really reliable stream of temperature stable water.  I want different temperatures available at all time within half a percent accuracy.


Header Image Source: Sprudge Live

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