Briggo Brother is here

This article on the new Briggo automated coffee house, together with this fascinating Nespresso/handmade espresso taste-off, make for very worthwhile and timely reading. They're getting a good bit of plain in the mainstream media - as evidenced by the fact that I first read them as links from Andrew Sullivan's The Dish. It's very much worth your while if you're in the coffee business to read all of the articles linked to in the main article. You'll learn, among other things, just how high-caliber the Briggo team is, with several recruits from the heart of the Starbucks green sourcing team and many other serious players.

My old boss, mentor and Seattle espresso pioneer (founder and owner of Café Allegro, the city's first great espresso bar and co-inventor of the Starbucks Espresso Blend, among many other key contributions) bristled at the characterization of the jobs of the roaster or the barista as "art." He pointed out that they are neither art nor science, they are craft, and that the "art" of espresso in the traditional sense (the barista having to know about and monitor a slew of variables ranging from barometric pressure and humidity to grind size, tamping pressure and water temperature) is really just bad Italian engineering.

Coffee sourcing, roasting, packaging and brewing need not be automated but there's absolutely no excuse for them not being informed by deep knowledge of the key variables involved. These articles and the serious money behind not only these inventions but what Illy is doing, Keurig, Nespresso and all the rest speak to the giant gulf between the passionate but utterly uninformed handmade Luddites of the Third Wave and the world of professional coffee that understands that the consumer's notions of appropriate levels of ease, technology and convenience are formed by their interaction with their smartphone or iPad.

Some will argue that the theater of the barista on his or her pedestal are all-important, or will try to make lemonade out of the lemons of inconsistent preparation, attitude and sky-high prices, but those who do so remind me of Bill Gates saying that the iPad was a mere gimmick in the PC universe. We all know how that turned out.

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