Anyone that’s ever dabbled in a barista’s craft – making real coffee, the proper way – will understand that the process is an equal blend of art and science. When a large volume of coffee is required, it’s a tedious physical task too.
Tamping, the name given to that fiddly step when a barista compresses the coffee prior to extracting, is a critical part of the coffee making process that Australian company, Barista Technology, is fine tuning.
The company’s CEO, Brett Bolwell, says tamping can make or break a perfect espresso.
“I had a conversation recently with the number one barista trainer in Australia and I asked him, ‘how to do you train people in the art of tamping?’ He just looked at me, smiled, and said ‘it’s a challenging variable – manual tamping may soon be a thing of the past’.
“I know I’m biased, but I certainly agree. He’s spot on,” says Bolwell.
Barista Technology has taken the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry and specialty cafe arena by storm, proving its new patented invention called the Puqpress Automatic Coffee Tamper is the future of consistent coffee. According to Bolwell, this product is bringing a long overdue, sophisticated level of automation to tamping and it’s revolutionising the café industry.
“Puqpress removes human error in tamping. It’s insurance for a brand – if coffee roasters or retailers are spending millions of dollars developing a particular style of coffee, and leaving it up to a barista to tamp correctly, it can turn a great product into dishwater. That’s where we step in,” says Bolwell.
As McDonald’s scales up its McCafe offering, Bolwell says the Puqpress is a smart investment for franchisees wanting to streamline the consistency and quality of coffee – even with junior baristas behind the counter.
“McDonald’s has a pretty ambitious goal to snap up a 20 per cent market share of the coffee industry in Australia and McCafe is already experiencing double digit growth, so this is well underway,” said Bolwell.
“Our product allows restaurant owners to lessen the amount of time and labour that it takes to create consistently good coffee. The process is completely simplified, so baristas with varying levels of skill can easily turn their hand to it.”
Barista Technology’s products reduce the amount of training required for baristas instore and importantly, the number of injuries caused when they perform the same task of tamping coffee, hundreds of times.
“There’s a strong argument for improving occupational health and safety in the space of coffee making. We recently conducted a large body of research into the physical injuries caused by tamping in large volumes and the results were staggering,” he says.
“It’s a tough gig for people making 500 – 1000 tamps a day – their bodies are subjected to physical exertion that is proven to cause long term physical issues.”
The Puqpress is a relatively modest investment for McDonald’s franchisees.
It costs around $1500 per unit and has a work life span of 3-5 years, with low annual maintenance costs for services. The product was hand picked from a manufacturer in Amsterdam and tailored for café operators in the Australian and New Zealand markets by Bolwell himself, prior to launch in October 2015.
“I grew up in Melbourne, Australia’s coffee heartland, and I was greatly influenced by the Italian community there. They helped to build my knowledge of what great coffee is and the different tools to prepare it properly. Needless to say, I’m passionate about perfecting the art of turning average coffee into great coffee,” says Bolwell.
“Our company independently led the redevelopment of the Puqpress as we now know it in this market – it has been completely transformed in terms of functionality, aesthetics and reliability to suit Australian cafés’ needs. We listen to our customer’s feedback to continually improve the Puqpress.”
The Puqpress has a built-in sensor, so when the handle is placed into the Puqpress it automatically settles and tamps the coffee to the pre-programmed pressure between 10kg-30kg.
Bolwell says the company is committed to refining every stage of the coffee making process to ensure their clients can maximise profit margins – and of course, support customers’ love affair with their favourite caffeinated brew.
“Reducing the time it takes to make quality coffee is one of our biggest priorities for McDonald’s. That means aiming for a total time of delivery of 2.5 minutes per cup – the industry average is between 4-5 minutes per cup, so it’s ambitious but definitely doable,” he says. “This is particularly important for servicing McDonald’s drive thru customers. We know people are increasingly time poor and no one wants to hold up someone when they’re on the hunt for coffee fast!”
Barista Technology is already working with over 70 McDonald’s restaurants across the country and with uptake proving to be consistently strong, its 11-person team looks set to quickly grow.
“As a family owned and operated business, we’re really proud to be supporting McDonald’s. It took around eight months to get through the approval process as an accredited supplier – which is actually really quick and an endorsement of its quality – and now we’re steadily growing our network of clients within the McDonald’s family,” says Bolwell.
Bolwell is passionate about the reasons why businesses, particularly those selling large volumes of coffee in the QSR industry, should consider automating the tamping process. McDonald’s is the company’s priority client for Puqpress in the Australian and New Zealand markets.
“It’s wonderful to see a large, leading restaurant chain in Australia investing in the right technology to grow and improve its coffee offering. We’re personally really excited to be helping to guide this process with McDonald’s.”