It’s no secret that robots are changing the way the food and beverage industry is creating food, serving its customers, designing products and automating tasks that used to belong to people. Startups like Cafe X are actually staffed with fully robotic baristas who will make you a delightful (and fast) cup of coffee with no real human involvement.
But it’s not just Silicon Valley startups getting in the mix – companies like Breville are thinking about how to automate tasks and deliver appliances that give consumers quality without leaving the house. Enter Breville’s newest invention, the Oracle Touch, which is the closest you can probably get to hiring a barista to come to your house and make you the perfect espresso-based beverage. The Oracle Touch has – you guessed it – a touchscreen and a bunch of advanced technology inside that gives it the ability to create a drink from scratch without much human input at all.
The Oracle will grind the beans, tamp down the ground espresso, infuse and pour a shot and steam your milk of choice to the exact desired standards (without anyone having to hold the wand or container.) In a market where fancy espresso machines usually require some know-how and Keurig-type machines make brewing coffee with a button-push super simple, it makes sense for Breville to try and create the best of both worlds.
The machine, of course, isn’t cheap and not meant to be a hugely mainstream device. But Wired reviewer and food writer Joe Ray has a lot of great things to say about the Oracle, including:
“The Oracle cleverly straddles a line, offering an impressive amount of customization and hands-on time, while automating enough that you’d have to try hard to make a bad drink…for those who are able to plunk down $2,500 on an espresso maker, Breville has created an outstanding machine.”
I took first balked at the price, but when considering my $4.50 a day soy latte habit, I spend about half the cost of a Breville automated espresso machine in a year on barista-created beverages. And I have to leave my house to get them.
Does this type of technology mean we’ll see the downfall of the traditional coffeehouse? Not likely. Robotics and automation are certainly disrupting many areas of the food service industry, but coffee shops still offer a product and an atmosphere that many people can’t or don’t want to replicate at home. While the price points of home automated espresso machines might come down over time, the more likely impact will be to baristas themselves as automation and advancements in robotics are coming close to replacing the job of grinding, measuring, stamping, steaming and combining ingredients to create the perfect caffeinated beverage.