Continuing our exploration of the future of espresso machines La Marzocco Global Product Manager, Scott Guglielmino, shares his insights on why new technology should always empower the barista and what café operators value most when choosing their machine
"Without consumer willingness to pay more for higher quality coffee, the audience for all other innovations would simply not exist" – Scott Guglielmino Global Product Manager, La Marzocco
Consumer willingness to pay for quality has fundamentally driven espresso machine development
The coffee industry has made massive advancements over the last 15 years, but without consumer willingness to pay more for higher quality coffee, the audience for all other innovations would simply not exist. Coffee knowledge and emphasis on each phase of the value chain has increased during this time. Subsequently, the espresso machine manufacturer’s role has grown in its business sophistication, and social responsibility accordingly.
When I began my coffee career, the third wave had just started in the US. Few cafés were truly focused on quality, and in order to gain new business each wholesale customer had to be taught a new way of making coffee. Levelling up the skills of the barista in order to improve consistency was frequently part of this process.
To reach this goal, semi-automatic machines were primarily used because we found forcing the barista to stop the extraction manually increased their ‘participation’. This dynamic can also be seen in those early days of barista competitions, where competitors would be considered ‘good’ simply if they were able to complete their set within the 15-minute timeframe. Comparing this to today, we see the craft of the barista has been greatly advanced, and machines now focus more on supporting the barista.
"Design, performance, and reliability are the core tenets that will continue to drive the future of espresso machine technology"
With recent global events, consumer trends are changing faster and in ways I would have never predicted. That said, design, performance, and reliability are the core tenets that will continue to drive the future of espresso machine technology. We see a great future for expanding our product line while supporting our commitment to these three tenets. In the future we will be doing so with espresso grinders and connected technology. We feel these are both areas that have lacked in innovation, and we hope we can bring our skills to these areas.
The non-specialist operator market holds tremendous opportunity
Increasing demand for specialty coffee among operators not traditionally driven by quality has been a tremendous opportunity for the global specialty market, and I hope this trend continues. Like in every segment, there is a range of execution, from excellent to poor.
We find operators that strive for and achieve excellence in their primary field tend to be successful when adding specialty coffee. The business model is well defined, and often is repeatable. The majority of these new actors are retailers and not roasters; they provide new opportunities for growth across the specialty market.
Café owners value reliability and first-class design most
When a café looks for an espresso machine, I believe they are looking to satisfy two very distinct requirements; a reliable, consistent, economic engine to power their business, and a signal of their product value conveyed through aesthetics and design. When designing a machine, La Marzocco focuses on combining these factors, and we see our greatest successes when this is achieved.
Knowing that an espresso machine brand can provide a solution for your needs, from prospect purchase to strong aftersales support, drives operators. They need to know someone has their business’s back, and delivering that is one of our core values.
Technology should always empower the barista
There are some aspects of the barista’s role that will never change, and other areas that could change massively. My hope is that we continue to remove the repetitive, difficult, and otherwise inconsequential tasks required of the barista to prepare fantastic coffee. As different markets develop, it seems each area is in its own way defining the evolution of the barista. But generally, the role of the barista is becoming more focused on hospitality and guest experience.
Today it has never been easier to make great espresso. We have approached the tasks of the barista holistically when designing our latest machine, the KB90. We have used existing technological innovations like Auto Brew Ratio (ABR) to allow baristas to reach sub-1g consistency with less active monitoring.
We have also introduced new tools to help streamline the workflow of the barista. Steam Flush is a great example of these innovations. With this technology the frequency of back flushing is greatly reduced, allowing the barista more time to focus on the customer instead of the machine.
From an article originally published in Issue 4 of 5THWAVE