Starbucks is testing a new single-cup brewer. This new auto brewer is NOT designed for home use, but rather is completely designed to make the store experience better. I found this test product while out and about today, and I ordered Italian Roast, which was the bold pick of the day. I saw that the machine has 5 whole bean hoppers atop of it, and I could see that they were labeled "Pike," "Bold," and "Decaf." I really apologize for the very poor quality of this photo. I really had only one moment to get a picture, and I was literally moving my phone back into my purse as I was taking it. This machine is clearly still in the test phase, and as far as I know, this is only single store that has it. This auto single cup brewer produces a single cup of coffee in about 15 to thirty seconds, by my estimate. The beans are ground, and the coffee is produced that quickly. It tastes exactly like the filter-brewed profile that many customers are used to. The barista at the register had a small device in her hand about the size of an iphone, or other smart phone. The device had lit up buttons that indicated the four standard Starbucks sizes - short, tall, grande, and venti. It appeared as if the barista could start the machine brewing without even turning around and pressing a button on it. That puzzles me a bit because someone is going to need to put a cup under the dispenser. Again, I totally wish I had a better photo of this machine, but the circumstances at this store just wouldn't allow it. I apologize that all you really are seeing here is an an image of the top half of the machine. There is small dispenser and shelf for a cup to be placed and coffee brewed directly into. Coffee can be brewed into a paper cup, or a porcelain for-here mug.
I would note, it seems as though that if Starbucks ever decides to do a wide-scale launch of this auto brewer then it would be a fit primarily for those stores that do not have a Clover brewer.
I can think of many advantages of a perfect single cup auto brewer: There is no coffee thrown out at the end of a thirty minute "hold time." Starbucks partners are liberated from having to worry about any kind of coffee cadence. Customers can easily get bold, decaf, or Pike Place Roast all day long. It's very quick - this is much quicker than the "Pour Over" brew method. The flavor profile is exactly the same as the filter-brewed flavor of coffee brewed in batches and held in urns. The coffee is much fresher for the customer since it hasn't been sitting already brewed for ten minutes or some other period of time.
There are only a few possible negatives to this (that I can think of): There is a small risk that this machine will perpetuate the Starbucks image of 'push button' coffee, since it does appear to be coffee at the push of a button. For those customers who want a flavor profile closer to a French press, than the answer would still be get a French press of coffee, or find a Clover Starbucks. The Clover coffee brewer is closer to a French press' flavor profile rather than a filter-brew system. And the machine is a bit large and bulky in terms of its aesthetics. Lastly, the customer is limited to 3 coffee choices (bold, Pike or other lighter option, and decaf), whereas with a French press, pour over, or Clover, any whole bean coffee may be brewed for the customer.
I have a whole category of "test products" that I've talked about on this blog - everything from the pink lime Frappuccino, to Refreshers, to the Apple Crumble Frappuccino. It is always important to remember that Starbucks tests many many more things than actually get launched nation-wide. Just because there is a "test" going on does not mean that you might see this item soon at your local store.
I am very curious to know what my readers think of this. Would partners want this at their store? It looks like you would have to give up some counter-top space to add this machine.
By the way, I also discovered a few test snacks at this store, but that will be covered later in a future blog post - and really that's not nearly as exciting as what I saw today here! This machine could revolutionize coffee at Starbucks. Goodbye pour over. Welcome big auto brew machine.