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What is "bean-to-cup" coffee and why is it becoming so popular in offices?

What is “bean-to cup” coffee and why is this becoming so popular in Offices?

Firstly, let us go into a bit of history on our experiences with coffee vending machines. When coffee vending machines were first imported into South Africa a few decades ago, we only had the instant coffee products available through these machines and the taste of the coffee made by these machines was so bad that many people were turned off for life, but nowadays even instant coffee vending machines can produce an excellent cup of coffee.

The situation started turning around in the late Nineties when new technology was invented for coffee vending machines which started making a much more consistent cup of coffee, but more than this, the ability to be able to program the machines far more precisely allowed the industry to be able to mix the ingredients vended through the machines far better. The manufacturers of the ingredients used through the coffee machines also became more innovative and really started bringing out decent creamer and hot chocolate products which emulsified the products into hot water far better than previously with the help of whipping blades spinning at approximately 30 000 revolutions per minute.

Instant coffee vending machines such as the Nestle variety found at many convenience service station stores are still probably the best known of these and are still popular because instant products do offer a very low “cost per cup” and offer amazing profit margins.

However, at the same time, South African’s taste in coffee changed with the introduction of fresh ground espresso based drinks such as cappuccino, Caffe latte, etc, and slowly we started preferring these drinks to coffee and chicory mixed instant coffee and even pure instant coffee. People also started realising that although fresh ground “bean-to-cup” coffee is slightly more expensive to use, it is nowhere near their perception of the cost difference and can be as little as only 25 cents extra per cup!!!

A little after this, the first proper “bean-to-cup” coffee vending machines were introduced to South Africa



So what then is a "Bean" Coffee Machine (or Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine)?



Well, basically, great technological strides have allowed coffee vending machines to produce the same quality coffee you get down at your local coffee shop and in many cases, the quality of the espresso (the concentrated coffee which gives our drinks flavour), is actually far superior. Instead of just mixing the soluble instant coffee, “bean-to-cup” coffee vending machines first ground the coffee beans into a fine powder through a conical burr grinder which does not transfer heat to the grinds when, the customer presses the selection button. This ensures that the coffee that is prepared is very, very fresh (no ground coffee getting stale in a container, the coffee is also stored in a container in the machine which has a lid to lock in the aroma and freshness, as contact with air will cause the coffee beans to go stale). The coffee is then measured to normally between 6 and 8 grams for a coffee vending machine through a dosing mechanism on the machine and is then dropped into the chamber of the brewing mechanism. The brewer then rotates into position where the coffee grounds are compressed into a tablet form (known as tamping) and hot water (never above 96 degrees Celsius) is then forced through the grinds at 9 bars of pressure to ensure an optimum espresso. Then creamer, chocolate, sugar or plain hot water is added to the espresso to make your favourite beverage such as cappuccino or mocaccino.






You may ask..."Can a machine beat the trained barista down at the coffee shop?" This depends on their level of training, the equipment used, cleanliness of the equipment and their attention to detail. Even Starbucks has invested heavily in automatic “bean" coffee machines in their stores to remove some of the inconsistency associated with a person making the coffee. Why...?  because of the inconsistency between their various barista’s. One very critical part of making an espresso is how hard you compact or "tamp" the coffee into the holder where hot water is forced through it. Too tightly compacted and it takes longer to dispense the 30ml and this results in what we call "undesirable" compounds to be extracted...too lightly compacted and you get a weak, tasteless coffee. An automatic coffee machine exerts the same pressure to the same quantity of coffee for the same time...again and again and again. You also do not have to re-train a coffee machine or train up the coffee machine if someone decides to leave the company, it doesn’t take long to find out how to press one button, does it?



All you have to do is to keep the coffee machine filled with ingredients and it will take care of the rest, apart from a little light cleaning every 150 cups or so.

This is what “bean-to-cup” coffee brings to your office environment

Better tasting a coffee means happier employee, which means better productivity because of the increased sense of value and appreciation that employees feel by being part of a company which values and cares for its staff members?

Also, think about this, when a customer or guest is offered coffee in your reception – how many guests turn down the offer when they are informed that you only serve instant coffee? The whole principle of trying to make the guest feel comfortable while they are waiting is for nothing. What if it is a very busy reception area in a car dealership and this client is coming to spend thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of Rand with you.  Maybe, just maybe, a single cup of coffee will make the difference when this client decides to buy from you and not your competitor?

This is what “bean-to-cup” coffee brings to your selling outlet

Higher sales and higher profits because the taste is so much better.

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