Automated Pour-Over Coffee Machine is Caffeine Fiend’s Dream
Poursteady makes up to five cups simultaneously without sacrificing the quality of the brew
A team of four makers specializing in robotics and product design has set up shop in the old MakerBot stomping grounds in Gowanus to fine-tune its latest endeavor – an automated pour-over coffee machine. A shining, robotic barista helper, if you will. The caffeine contraption, Poursteady, makes up to five cups of pour-over coffee concurrently. This isn’t a barista replacement, but rather an invention speeding up the pour-over process without sacrificing the ritual or brew quality.
The Poursteady machine hasn’t made its way onto coffee shop counter spaces (yet), but in its roughly year on the scene, has piqued interest in the tech, coffee and maker communities – it has been selected as one of twenty teams to compete in Engadget’s Insert Coin competition, served up over 900 cups of coffee at the Maker Faire in New York, and the team has been recognized as one of New York’s Next Top Makers.
PSFK spoke with Poursteady co-founder Stephan von Muehlen on how redesigning the traditional pour-over apparatus with ultramodern technology will bring the brewing ritual to locales otherwise too busy to serve up that perfect cup of Joe.
What do you envision the finalized design for the Poursteady looking like?
The hardware is very close to the final design for the first manufacturing run, which we hope to kick off in the next few months.
While the number of pouring stations may change–or more options may be become available–the current design with five stations was chosen for the best combination of throughput and efficiency. Having five cups at a time lets the barista keep the cups flowing at about one-per-minute without breaking a sweat.
The rest of the details are pretty much set. The combination of CNC-machined aluminum and stainless steel sheet metal allows us to really control the manufacturing ourselves without sacrificing the design or build-quality. Having one button and one light per station has proven to be the most elegant and simple interface, while having an app for setting up the profiles of the pour provides us with a lot of freedom for adding functionality without cluttering up the machine. We also now have an under-counter hot water heater with very fine temperature control that is matched to the throughput of the machine.
How will this robotic pour-over machine disrupt the coffee shop scene? What kind of feedback are you getting from baristas & caffeine fiends?
Pour-over coffee is the best way to prepare freshly ground, quality coffee beans. It honors the great care that the farmers and roasters have taken to get better coffee beans to their customers by controlling for every variable in its preparation–from the grind to the water temperature to the wetting of the grounds to the timing of the pours. This takes more time and is ultimately very difficult to maintain consistency, even when a very skilled barista is doing it day in and day out.
Poursteady relies on the barista to set up the machine to their own standards and to serve their customers. We are not trying to change that. The “disruption” we hope will be that it allows coffee shops and restaurants that would otherwise not serve pour-overs to do so, even at their rush hour and even with servers who would not be able to. Their customers will get a perfect pour-over without having to slow the line or patiently wait while a barista focuses on preparing their cup of coffee. It is really meant to let pour-over coffee compete with espresso-based drinks. We also like to think that is does that with a better user-experience…it’s fun to watch.
Fans of pour-over get it. Caffeine fiends who care about a better cup of coffee get it. Baristas in busy coffee shops understand the need. We have taken a lot of time to make sure that our machine works for them. The grinding and measuring of the grounds are still in the hands of the barista. The app that the barista uses to set up a machine takes everything else into account. That includes the amount of water, the shape and size of the spiral, and even the time between the pours. Scheduling all those things, and giving the operator the freedom to make as many or as few cups at once, while keeping track of it all makes sense for the computer to handle. This keeps the coffee consistent and allows the barista to better serve their customers.
With a companion app able to wirelessly control the machine from any iOS or Android device, is the future coffee shop one evolving to the Internet of Things?
We have been careful to make sure that experience of the customer and the server is not being replaced by a robot or an app. Getting a perfect cup of coffee is a ritual that should be respected. That said, it only makes sense that we make the best use of the technology available. Touchscreen devices are ubiquitous and really good at setting up a careful list of preferences. Keeping track of what your customers like and giving them convenient ways to place their order and pay for it seem obvious, but we will see.