At its core, innovation provides benefits for all. Yet, the specialty coffee community has been hesitant to adopt new technology. In this podcast episode, we explore the role of technology in coffee, why coffee professionals tend to be fearful about change, and what possibilities lie ahead if we have the courage to take the leap.
Meet the Guests
Kamal Bengougam is the Group Commercial Director at Eversys, the Swiss manufacturer of fully automatic espresso machines, and ironically a fan of all things old‑school (Linkedin).
Hylan Joseph is the West Coast Operations Director for Espresso Partners, as well as the former chair and one of the founders of the Coffee Technicians Guild (Linkedin).
Jai Lott is the Head of Experience for Blank Street Coffee (Linkedin).
Key Takeaways from the Episode
Let’s review the most important points from this episode.
Fully Automatic Espresso Machines Haven’t Taken Over the Market… Yet
Fully automatic coffee and espresso machines still carry the stigma of “pushing a button” and receiving a lackluster beverage.
Kamal recalls an experience where employees of a legacy espresso machine manufacturer were blown away with the taste of espresso from the super automatic Eversys machine at the 2013 Host Milan event.
“...the look on his face when he first saw the coffee coming out of the dispensing unit into the shot glass and he could see what he would see in one of his machines. When he tasted it, to have basically his taste buds mirror what he saw with his eyes…the whole experience to me, I thought ‘We’re at the beginning of a journey.’”
If these advancements are capable of replicating expert‑level espresso, why haven’t more coffee shops adopted this technology?
The Coffee Industry is Slow (and Fearful) to Embrace Innovation
To understand why machines like the Eversys haven’t exploded into popularity, Hylan Joseph explained the history of coffee shop advancements over the last few decades.
In a nutshell, coffee equipment has gone from basic machinery to complicated digital technology—all under the guise of better quality. But, it still requires a human operator, such as a barista or roaster.
“Humans, in general, are going to resist automation, no matter what. Because your inconsistencies might actually add to the personality of the coffee.”
We’re often fearful that if we push the boundaries or operate in a manner different from the industry, our professional credibility will be on the line.
Yet, innovations provide coffee companies—both small and large—with benefits such as cost savings, training optimization, and consistency.
While Hylan hypothesizes that every major coffee corporation will make the switch to super automatic machines within the next 10 years, perhaps the solution to our industry’s fear of innovation is to pair technology with the feeling of nostalgia.
The one thing a machine cannot deliver is humanity.
The Human Experience Cannot Be Replicated
Kamal and Eversys recognized this critical component was missing from their machines.
“We had not won the hearts or the minds of the market.”
With this in mind, they went back to the drawing board and developed features such as a manual calibration override setting and bespoke aesthetics, allowing the machine to become an extension of the brand rather than an expedited process.
After all, the cafe is not solely a place of commerce. When we confront our fears and focus on customer connection, making the technological leap doesn’t seem as frightening.
Jai Lott, the Head of Experience at Blank Street Coffee, believes wholeheartedly in this statement.
Blank Street Coffee’s cafe pods use Eversys super automatic espresso machines to deliver a repeatable, high‑quality coffee experience that provides one major benefit: it allows baristas to forge lasting and mutually trusting relationships with customers.
Jai’s approach to automation focuses on a marriage between coffee quality and customer experience—not sacrificing one for the other. This courageous path allows Blank Street’s baristas to be creative, personable, and develop repeat clientele.
While the industry may not be ready to make the jump to an entirely automatic bar setup, we’re seeing many brave individuals take steps to improve quality, increase efficiency, and strengthen their customer community through innovation.