Enrico Bracesco, Chief Commercial Officer, Gruppo Cimbali, shares his thoughts and insights on the future of espresso machine technology, the role of the barista and the fundamental elements of the business of coffee
Enrico Bracesco, Chief Commercial Officer, Gruppo Cimbali | Photo: Gruppo Cimbali
Traditional machines remain flag bearers of quality
The evolution of super-automatic machines with digital, programmable interfaces has enabled operators of all kinds to deliver higher quality more consistently across larger portfolios – regardless of the skill or competency of the staff involved. Super-automatics have become important democratisers of quality coffee, and this is why sales are thriving across all market segments, from offices to large branded chains, and even high-end restaurants.
However, while super-automatic technology has opened up new market segments for the espresso machine industry, manufacturers must remain true to themselves. Italian espresso machine manufacturers have always been obsessed by coffee quality. While super-automatics can produce very high quality beverages, it is no secret that the best quality coffee still comes from a traditional machine.
Super-automatics remain a minority of La Cimbali’s sales and our core business will always be traditional machines. Whenever we embrace new technology, it will always be driven by the obsession for coffee quality, regardless of the market segment. That being said, technology, whether super-automatic or traditional, is a tool to reach different segments of the coffee market. Manufacturers able to do both are well positioned to meet the challenges of the future.
"Today, there is an incredible hunger for data covering every aspect of our daily lives"
Today, there is an incredible hunger for data covering every aspect of our daily lives. One of the biggest innovations in the espresso machine industry in the last decade has been the integration of digital technology and Internet of Things (IoT). This connectivity has enabled machines to become smarter and allowed operators to measure and refine productivity.
Traditional machines have been transformed into smart products with the emergence of super-automatic technology, enabling operators to understand new consumer trends through operational insights. Data collection on coffee extraction, product order frequency and remote diagnostic tools can all contribute to building consumer insights for operators and manufacturers alike. In the near-future, artificial intelligence will offer predictive marketing insights on consumer habits and trends.
The influence of the Faema E61 continues to be felt
Despite all the technological advancements in espresso machine technology, the Faema E61 is still considered an icon the world over, and has changed very little since it was launched in 1961. The E61 impacted the industry in two major ways: From a technological standpoint it made the transition from lever to volumetric pump – improving the ease of use of espresso machines. All espresso machine manufacturers since 1961 have adopted that technology.
From a design standpoint, removing the piston and the lever made it possible to reshape the machine and have external, self-standing coffee groups. It also introduced a customisable back panel, still widely used today, that resulted in the familiar and desirable aesthetic that continues to influence espresso machine design.
Baristas will remain essential to industry innovation
Baristas are important decision-makers who greatly influence and enhance product quality across the coffee industry. I passionately believe this will remain an essential role. Even in more automated coffee services, where less technical involvement is required, there will always be a barista to fulfil a fundamental customer service and hospitality role.
Then there is the more advanced individual, who I call the ‘barista 2.0’. These highly skilled professionals can be tremendous assets to roasters, acting as an antenna for early trend spotting. They can also contribute to espresso machine development and innovation by providing operational insight and ways to improve customer service. We see this kind of barista as a decision maker and an influencer who can elevate the cultural profile of coffee.
"Coffee has a unique capacity to bring people together and can be a key driver for returning society to normality after coronavirus"
Coffee will remain a powerful force to bring people together
Coffee has a unique capacity to bring people together and can be a key driver for returning society to normality after coronavirus. The industry’s continuous drive to improve quality, both at-home and out-of-home, helps tremendously in this time of uncertainty, which has brought so much disruption to coffee businesses.
Not many industries can boast the blend of design, complex technology, solution scaling, service and passion – not to mention the pleasure of a good cup of coffee. This is what makes the coffee industry so important to economies and so resilient to crisis, and this makes me optimistic for the future.
From an article originally published in Issue 4 of 5THWAVE.