The robots are coming! There has been much talk in the coffee industry of late about automation and it seems no matter what side of the fence you sit on it’s the direction things are headed. In the last few years we have seen automatic tampers, gravimetric scales, milk dispensing units, and even a full blown robot barista. Most of the advancements in coffee automation have greatly improved the quality, consistency and efficiency of the barista’s role, and the Uber Milk is no exception, you press a button and silky, frothed milk at the temperature you want comes out the nozzle, surely this is automation headed in the right direction and not the robots starting to take over right?
Newcastle beach seems a world away from a robot invasion, however a few weeks back, in the dead of night, we installed an Uber Milk unit at the Newcastle Beach Kiosk. The Kiosk is literally on the beach, with arguably the best view from behind a coffee machine you’re likely to find anywhere in the world and it pumps! In summer these guys crank out 100’s of coffees a day so it is the perfect environment to put a bit of kit like the Uber Milk. I caught up with owner and manager Luke to see how his new robot friend was going at the Kiosk.
Q. Lukey it’s been nearly a month with the Uber Milk on the bar at the kiosk are you frothing on it?
a) Frothing hard, the last month has been so great. We have gotten busier as the weather is heating up and the UberMilk has noticeably made the coffee setup easier, quicker, cleaner and flow better.
Q. Has the Uber Milk changed your workflows at all? If so how?
a) We have just changed the workflow of the entire venue so everything feels new and exciting. The extra space for coffee has worked out perfectly and the set up couldn’t be better (I got super lucky with measurements and the fridges fit to the mm)
Q. In terms of training, is the unit literally plug and play or does it take baristas a bit of time to get used to?
a) Training was done on the 1st night after one day of plug and play. We covered the cleaning schedule and how to clean it and the flow of it during service. Once you set up the texture and volume levels it’s pretty much turn it on and go. You can get a real flow to using it pretty much straight away, putting uber milk on to match the dockets you have while spinning alternate milks and having shots there ready to go, getting them out super quickly. When it’s hammering we have a 3rd barista pouring but most of the time you can crunch it with 2.
Q. How does the milk texture stack up? Are your baristas stoked or do they think they can do better?
a) The texture is a bit fickle but once we had it set correctly everyone is stoked to pour with it. Almost all of our baristas have big egos about how good their milk is - if I asked them I think most of them would say they can do it better haha
Q. What are some limitations if any, of the Uber Milk?
a) Filling up and changing milk holding vessels becomes a challenge when you are busy because the baristas work in front of the fridge. So you have to stop for a small amount of time to change the milk container. There is no real way around this i guess. And that you can only do 1 kind of milk at a time (we may have to put Almond Milk in the UberMilk and go back to spinning Full Cream soon...) haha. The resources and info online could be a bit better too ;-) But luckily we have Marvell Street and Joe from Barista Group to help us.
Q. Would you recommend the Uber Milk to anyone or do you see it working in certain environments?
a) I would recommend it to anyone smashing out big volume with limited space. I think you really want to be hammering to see the value in it. It helps roll out a big rush so efficiently, cleanly and quickly.
Q. Any hacks or tips you’ve discovered along the way?
a) UberMilk has halved our recycling. The amount of bottles we have reduced from the bins is amazingly noticeable. We are using heaps less packaging and spending less time emptying the bins mid service. Using the right size jug for everything - there is no need to split anymore.
Q. Are you worried the robots are taking over or is automation your jam?
a) Yes, but not at the kiosk. We need all the help and all the space we can get. One less person behind the bar is good for everyone!
Q. Rossettas or Tulips?
a) Swans of course! Haha - no preference, I think you should be doing both to keep it interesting.
The Ubermilk is by no means cheap, at over 10k they are a serious investment, but they are one well worth considering. As Luke mentions, less milk wastage, less plastic waste, more consistency, less staff training and most importantly it frees up staff to perform other important tasks, like giving customers high fives and making people feel awesome, which has immense value for a service based business. If you were to add up the total savings gained from potential wages savings and improved wait times, investing in an Ubermilk could be a very good move, but as Luke says the benefits of the system are most evident in really busy service environments. Personally, I’m all for the robots helping us out when it’s hammer time!