Posted on Jul 9, 2021
Coffee has been one of the most popular drinks worldwide for decades - long before home brewing machines or the latest advent of coffee robot baristas in the food and beverage industry. In the most recent history, we have seen some changes in coffee consumption in the US, as COVID-19 brought about record coffee consumption at home because restrictions and closures hindered preparation away from home. At the same time, on-the-go options are flourishing - drive-through and app-based ordering are both up 30%. Robotic coffee solutions for humanless and therefore contactless brewing and delivery of the caffeine beverage were on the rise before the pandemic but always seemed to be ahead of their time. Nothing more than a fancy demonstration of automation technology without a pressing necessity for real-life application and implementation. Well, that has changed. Just as its name implies, a robotic coffee maker is a machine designed to automatically make delicious cups of coffee for people. It may sound like a relatively idiosyncratic idea to have a robot to make coffee for us.
The truth is that there are several firms devoting effort to the design and manufacturing of robot coffee makers. Each of the models has its advantages and traits. Especially with the increased focus on hygiene and sanitary, germ-free public places since the outbreak, robotic coffee makers are determined to transform the beverage industry in terms of automated point-of-sale solutions - without compromising on the quality of the coffee and fanciness of the latte art.
We have conducted a thorough analysis of robot barista manufacturers in 2021 that all strive to provide the most efficient, fully automated technology that delivers the best on-the-go coffee in large quantities. And you will be surprised how many contenders are out there, from all over the world. Let’s first take a look at the pioneers in the endeavour to automate the serving of freshly brewed coffee.
Café X has received a lot of attention since its foundation in 2015 and has become something of a pioneer in the robot barista space. The kiosk-like enclosed design set the initial standard for robotic coffee bars. After it had raised $15 million in venture capital, the company placed its robotic cafes in several locations in San Francisco and San Jose. However, in early 2020 they shut down three locations to focus on airport locations primarily. As we know, that turned out to be a difficult approach in the wake of the global pandemic. Currently, Café X operates at one location: the San Francisco Airport, and according to the company, their robot barista can deliver up to 120 cups per hour to sleepy travelers.(Image Copyright @ Cafe X)
Rozum Robotics is the developer behind the Belarussian robotic coffee solution Rozum Café. The company first showcased its technology in Spring 2019 at international trade shows. In contrast to most of their competitors, Rozum sells their robots directly to interested businesses. Before the covid-virus took hold of the world during 2020, the company managed to sell units in Belarus as well as to Russia, Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia. The automatic café is also an enclosed kiosk with a robotic arm that serves up a variety of coffee drinks. According to the official website, the robot brews up to 300 cups per shift, 20% more than an average coffee business. (Image Copyright @ Rozum)
Briggo was one of the pioneers in the coffee robot market. The Texas-based company started its automation development as early as 2011. Briggo’s so-called 'coffee haus' is a self-contained robot café, so you won’t get to witness any high-tech robotic arm barista preparing your cup of joe, the magic happens inside the box. As with all their competitors, the company’s ambitious plans of how to scale the robot barista business have seen some setbacks, not just due to the coronavirus. But there seemed to be some hope! Coca-Cola subsidiary Costa Coffee acquired Briggo at the end of last year and was ‘excited’ to rebrand it to Costa Coffee Barista Bot. Fast forward to July: Only a few BaristaBots seem to be active, all of them in their original Texas area and there hasn’t been any recent news on what the company has in mind for their robotic tech acquisition. (Image Copyright @ Costa Coffee)
GBL Robotics has a range of automation solutions in its portfolio. Coffee enthusiasts will be especially thrilled about their barista robot Monty Cafe. In terms of design you certainly see some similarities to US competitor Cafe X, however, Monty can also serve delicious ice cream and even snacks like muffins. The robotic kiosk has two robotic arms and even a somewhat human-like head and body - most likely, to create a more intimate experience. So far MontyCafe can be found mostly in its homeland Russia, but the company has also two locations abroad, one in Oakland and one in Abu-Dhabi. With their franchise business model, they are looking for more business partners worldwide to spread the idea of robotic coffee as a viable business. (Image Copyright @MontyCafe)
One of the up-and-coming names in the automated coffee kiosk space is Truebird. The company follows a similar strategy to the aforementioned Briggo (now Costa Barista Bot). The footprint is deliberately kept small to make it more appealing for areas where space might be an issue. The automatic micro-cafe allows for a swift ordering and brewing process and incorporates a unique magnetic transport system for the coffee cups. According to Co-Founder Josh Feuerstein, this design creates a warmer and more approachable user experience for the waiting customer. Clearly, Truebird believes that the emotional component is one of the key challenges for a transformation from human to robotic baristasthat is accepted by the end customer. The young start-up is currently focusing on prototype and location testing in the New York area. (Image Copyright @Truebird)
Taiwan has been one of the world’s most important regions for chipmaking but also machine tool and automation solutions for many decades now. Not surprisingly, Leader Automation, a leading (pun intended) company for machine tool automation equipment on the island has begun the development of automation solutions for the food and beverage industry in 2017. As of now, they have introduced three machines: a beverage robot, a 3D Jelly flower robot (obviously more for the Asian market), and their very own robot coffee maker 'The BarisBot'.
The BarisBot not only can brew and serve around 100 cups per hour but also has a very special function that sets it apart from all other contestants that we review in this article. It can create cafe latte art just like a human barista. And, according to the company, with even higher precision and reliability. The company sells the machine directly to anyone interested in starting a fully-automated quality coffee business either at a fixed location or a service for individual events. According to Leader the ROI estimates that the Barisbot will earn back your investment in around 14 months on average. See the video below for the first impression of teh Barisbot and its robotic arm in action - robotic coffee latte art included. (Image Copyright @Leader Automation)
Ella was developed by Crown Coffee in Singapore comes in three different sizes and not only brews coffee but can also prepare different types of drinks. According to the company itself, it can handle up to 200 cups per hour - that would be a record number. As of now, Crown Coffee only deployed one of their low footprint units in Singapore at the end of last year. If the test run proves to be successful, the company wants to extend its robot barista network to more locations in Singapore and Japan. Still early days for Crown Coffee, however, the cooperation with chip giant Intel is a huge advantage that might turn out to be crucial to stay competitive in the realm of coffee robotics. (Image Copyright @Crown Coffee)
You might not have heard of the KNEXT coffee robot. When we tell you that no other than KUKA, a world-renowned manufacturer of industrial Robots, is the driving force behind this project, you will know that this is a contender to keep an eye on in the Future. The KNEXT barista was introduced just at the end of last year and as far as we could tell, it has not seen any real-life application as of yet. It will be interesting to see if KUKA’s solution for the coffee automation industry will see a lot of adoption. (Image Copyright @KNEXT)
Also at the end of 2020, a Chinese robot coffee maker made its first appearance on the scene: OrionStar’s ‘Robotic Coffee Master’. Orion Star belongs to Chinese ISP Cheetah mobile and brings forth their very own hospitality solution for the post-Covid era. The company stated at their product presentation that 300000 hours of robotic arm testing and 3000 hours of AI learning went into the development of the Robotic Coffee Master. Similar to MontyCafe, OrionStar's robot barista is a two-arm solution and according to the company it has been already adopted by more than 1,800 organizations, presumingly in China. (Image Copyright @OrionStar)
Alright, so we have a whole array of companies that might bring about the transformation of the on-the-go coffee experience. But do we really need this change? We believe, especially in a post-covid world with greater awareness of sanitary issues, contactless sales, and possible ( fingers crossed it doesn’t happen) new virus variants, coffee robots are bound to make their way into the food and beverage industry. Automated baristas can carry out all the coffee-making procedures much quicker than human workers, which greatly saves time and labor costs. And with hygiene being a growing consideration during the pandemic, they also serve as a marketing stunt to attract more consumers. With the emerging automatic beverage trend, there is no reason not to capitalize on its long-term business advantages.
As a coffee regular, you may have noticed that the brew made by the same employee tastes slightly different each time. You never expect the flavor to be the same for your next order. Fortunately, an automatic solution makes sure that the difference in beverage properties is kept at a minimum. You will consistently be served with precisely identical content in the cup.
When you have a long queue of customers waiting in line, man-made beverages are prone to errors. The conventional barista machine might malfunction unexpectedly or you simply mess up an order. A robot coffee master makes sure that none of these happen. These machines can achieve continuous and fast cycles without taking a break, except for refilling and cleaning.
In a big store, it is hard to keep track of every single customer's orders and requests. As they add up, it is easy to get overwhelmed and errors can occur. This can lead to customer discontent either due to affected serving speed or increased rate of error. Robot baristas have the AI capability to record all the required data without slowing down or deviating from the main objective of serving a cup of joe. The multi-tasking ability not only keeps the customers happy but also allows managers to review and analyze the buying tendencies afterward.
Reduce Cost and Labor Shortage:
Robot baristas are undoubtedly more expensive than conventional barista machines. But hiring human employees for the job generally leads to higher costs in the long run. This includes labor compensations, insurance, training, and so on. When using one of these machines, the only expense to consider is the maintenance cost but is typically minimal due to its automated nature. In areas with a lot of foot traffic, you will appreciate the more automated workflow that your coffee machines provide.
The subject of robotic coffee bars to take over tasks of a human barista, including beautiful cafe latte art with the Leader solution above, is a matter of some debate. Nobody denies the advantages that we talked about. Robots do not get tired, do not get bored, can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and do not require a salary. Café robots are also faster and more efficient at brewing great coffee.
Having said that, barista robots are programmed for specific tasks and (so far) cannot act outside these pre-set parameters. Also, how fast consumers can get accustomed to the absence of human touch when ordering their coffee on the go remains to be seen. It might well turn out that fully automatic solutions only succeed in locations where people are in a rush anyway and don’t pay too much attention to the setting and circumstances under which they get their caffeine shot.
Regardless, many companies around the globe have started to embrace these evolving coffee technologies, as they’re seeing a trend towards automation in the service industry. Many of the related sectors have already begun to explore and incorporate the capabilities of robotic technology, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI). Additionally, many entrepreneurs have taken the opportunity to venture into robotic coffee automation businesses amid the pandemic, job losses, and financial blows. With social distance in effect worldwide, a robot-run café seems to make a lot of sense. Some who have hustled down on these businesses found the robotic service to be fairly user-friendly.
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