When restaurant diners, specialty coffee cafés, or c-store customers take that first unforgettable sip of coffee, high technology is most likely the last thing on their minds. But once you fully understand the complex systems and multitude of people behind that experience, you see that technology indeed plays a very prominent role in today’s commercial coffee service.
The machine’s the thing
Since most people associate technology with equipment, let’s start there. The introduction of all digital controls on coffee brewers back in the nineties was laid the foundation for some of the advancements you see today. By eliminating knobs, levers and unreliable mechanical or analog adjustments, digitization provided a quantum improvement that has carried through to today’s third and even fourth-generation systems.
One-touch, pre-set recipes based on coffee type, grind, and weight help ensure the perfect cup of coffee. But the latest technology goes many steps further, offering all the features all on an intuitive touch-screen screen. Furthermore, many modern systems provide self-diagnostics to identify issues such as water flow and lime scale conditions, so operators can ensure that brewers are always ready to serve delicious coffee. RFID (radio frequency) technology is another interesting development. It employs communications and flashing indicators affixed to decanters to track freshness right from the point of brewing, alerting when a new brew is needed.
Plugging in major convenience
The ability to produce an excellent cup of coffee across multiple brewers, stores or outlets is extremely important for many restaurateurs, QSRs and c-store owners. And technology has come to the rescue here, too. Accordingly, many modern units now come with a USB port that allows operators to update firmware, install custom recipes, change display messaging and more. All they need to do is load the data onto a thumb drive, plug it into each machine, upload, and they’re done in minutes.
Perfecting back at the factory
If you look at brewing machines as the “engines” of great coffee service, one can say that building a better engine will help produce a better cup. That’s where technological advancements in design and engineering come in. Many manufacturers take a lean design approach which helps them build products that are simpler, offer less to break or fail, and can be tailored to appeal to a wider range of consumer tastes. Computerized CAD design helps bring new innovations to market faster. Plus, high-tech laser inspection systems make sure quality is top notch.
Online training brings big time benefits
The Internet has also been a great technological force multiplier when it comes to critical things like training. Think of the point of coffee service as the tip of a pyramid of personnel, including sales reps, technicians, restaurant owners, plus all the people they employ. Distributing training materials to these individuals—often across the country and the world—was once a monumental task. But the Web has eliminated that problem, and made it relatively simple to give everyone the information they need to keep equipment at peak performance.
Social media, the Internet’s golden child, has also had a significant impact on the coffee business, helping customers connect to brands, keep up with the latest trends, and form a kind of coffee-serving “community.” Many manufacturers now use outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo with great success to push out company updates and maintain critical conversations with our customers.
Technology and nature combine
Technology continues to drive our business unlike any other factor. And when it unites with brilliant natural forces that create a great coffee bean, it only magnifies the aesthetic experience. Add to that the legion of coffee devotees who staunchly dedicate themselves to making one great brew after another, and we have a rich future ahead in this exciting business.
Kevin Curtis, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Part of the third generation of the Curtis family, Kevin oversees all of the sales and marketing operations for Wilbur Curtis. After attending California State University, Northridge in 1978, Kevin quickly learned the Curtis dedication to craftsmanship and quality from the ground up, working in plant operations in their Los Angeles facility. An active member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, Kevin has been an instrumental part of the success and global presence Wilbur Curtis enjoys today.
Kevin lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife Jan and enjoys surfing, sailing, golf, the desert and international travel.