Opinion: The future of espresso, Kamal Bengougam

Eversys Commercial Director Kamal Bengougam discusses the consumer trends, operator requirements and technological innovations that are shaping espresso today, tomorrow, and beyond

Kamal Bengougam, Commercial Director, Eversys | Photo: Eversys


 

Rising expectations have profoundly shaped espresso machine development

Twenty years ago, most people associated quality coffee with traditional, Italian-made espresso machines. When Starbucks replaced its La Marzocco machines with super-automatic Thermoplans in the mid-1990s, it sent a shockwave through the industry. Just as Nestlé popularised capsule technology with Nespresso, Starbucks championed a new generation of super-automatic machines.
 
The World Barista Championship (WBC) in 2010 was also an important moment for espresso machine development. As competitors introduced increasingly sophisticated brewing techniques, flavours, and technology, the instruments had to improve in step with the musicians. Traditional machines, which were still little more than a kettle with a few buttons, started to become more automatic.
 
We saw Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) measured using refractometers. Pressure profiling and temperature control became prevalent. Grinder technology evolved rapidly as people realised its vital role in the final product.
 
Super-automatic technology also enabled operators, especially non-specialists, to deliver greater coffee quality at more locations. Convenience stores, which historically bought the cheapest coffee available, realised that in order to increase sales they needed to increase quality, so they invested in better equipment.
 
This what I call market transformation from the bottom up. Supermarkets now offer very good takeaway coffee and you can go to a petrol station anywhere in the world and get a fantastic product because of super-automatic technology.
 

"Pursuing quality is vital, but ultimately futile if not executed consistently"

 

Consumers covet consistency

In the 1990s, instant coffee was often the only choice. Today’s consumers are far more discerning. As demand for higher quality coffee has risen, it has driven the evolution of espresso machine technology to cater for the needs of the market.
 
The importance of consistency is frequently underestimated. Pursuing quality is vital, but ultimately futile if not executed consistently. With traditional machines, if you’ve got a top-quality barista serving you one day and a lesser skilled individual serving you the next, you will end up with a very different product.
 
A super-automatic machine will consistently deliver what it is programmed to do. I believe consumers value consistency and quality in their coffee flavour, milk texture and temperature. Convenience is also hugely important, as people have limited time.
 

Baristas will become more like coffee sommeliers

Instead of baristas making coffees like factory workers, one after the other, the role of the barista will evolve in two dimensions. The first will be improving recipes, developing new products, and educating customers. The second will be the service element and engaging with customers. The barista will become more like a sommelier with a wealth of knowledge to marry different flavours and ingredients.
 

"The balance of power between traditional machines and super automatics will shift within the next 5-10 years"

 

Investing in quality enables businesses to grow

Investing in a quality espresso machine is hugely important. Many people prioritise getting the cheapest model, but too few calculate the five-year cost of a machine when you are making hundreds of products a day. The difference between the cheapest and the most expensive machine over that timeframe is less than two cents per cup.
 
Having a better espresso machine is the right decision to future-proof your business. Investing in quality means more volume growth potential, so businesses do not have to remain static.
 
I have also learned that choosing a piece of equipment is seldom a rational decision – very frequently it is an emotional choice. Instead of focusing on continual product development, manufacturers should spend more time developing their brand narrative. This is what companies like La Marzocco have done so well – they have understood that the heart sometimes governs the mind.
 

The future is super-automatic

I believe the balance of power between traditional machines and super automatics will shift within the next 5-10 years. There will be far more super-automatic machines sold than traditional machines because they are a better fit for our age. The diverse opportunities that super-automatics offer will become far more compelling than the traditional scenario of a barista behind a machine taking two minutes to make each coffee.

To compete in the future, companies must develop products and brands that are flexible and can be customised – at Eversys we don’t have stock because all our machines are built to order.
 
Super-automatics will create an environment where the customer becomes the barista. Imagine walking into a coffee shop, choosing the type of coffee you want, the number of shots and the cup size. Millennials and Generation Z are already demanding greater choice and autonomy. Empowering customers to make their own choices will revolutionise the way machines are made and the way businesses operate.
 

From an article originally published in Issue 4 of 5THWAVE.


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