Super automatic machines have been around for a while now – and by super-automatic, we mean espresso machines that with the push of a button, create your coffee of choice from scratch. It grinds the coffee fresh, tamps, extracts, froths and heats the milk and combines it all into a cup. You usually see these machines living in homes, or on the client floors of big offices.
Most people don’t associate these with good quality coffee. But why? Surely making a cup of coffee can’t be that hard? Well, it turns out these machines can in fact make a stunning coffee… If dialled in properly. The problem, and perhaps the reasons a good barista continues to be highly sought after, is that coffee extraction changes from blend to blend, day to day, and sometimes hour to hour.
So to get coffee of the highest quality, one has to be continually monitoring the extraction variables (e.g. extraction time, coffee mass out and the dose of coffee from a grinder), and making changes to keep within a recipes tasty, tasty parameters. For the most part, these machines can control one or two of these variables, but not all of them.
What’s different about the Eversys Cameo?
The Eversys Cameo is basically a studio apartment for a tiny barista. It houses within a grinding and dosing system that self-monitors and self-calibrates: grinding, dosing and tamping coffee in a similar way to a barista in a shop. The machine pours a couple of test shots (each morning and on-demand) to test whether the grind size is appropriate for the recipe. Then, on demand, a shot of espresso is freshly ground, tamped and pulled within 45s – in a similar time to your typical café.
The result? A shot of espresso that rivals even the most tattooed of baristas.
And if tattoos are to espressos as beards are to milk: there are even two methods of frothing milk to satisfy all manner of operators. For the basic barista, there is an auto-milk froth system that will inject steamed milk simultaneously with the shot – a la traditional super automatic systems. Additionally, for baristas keen to create a creamy caricature: one can simply insert an automatic steam wand in a pitcher of milk to make genuinely silky steamed milk, from which latte art can be poured. And from our tests, the milk quality is as good as any poured from a barista (or high-end automated system like Ubermilk). So, it’s a highly calibrated super-automatic machine, great. But isn’t it more complicated than your traditional superautomatic then? Does this make it hard to work on? Well no, actually. There’s a touchscreen built in to the machine which makes on-the-fly and servicing adjustments relatively simple. Let’s break it down:
Espresso FeaturesWhat can the machine do? Or at least, we want to show you some variables the machine controls to see if it fits your recipe:
- The brewing chamber for the coffee holds up to a massive 25g of coffee, allowing for a wide range of brewing recipes.
- The dosage of the ground coffee is controlled by volume, and is easily calibrated manually by weight. Once you’ve punched in your ‘cake thickness’ in mm, and tested it compared to a weight, the machine will fill to this thickness time and again. This needs to be recalibrated with coffees of different origin / roast degree, as a darker roast will require more thickness per gram.
- The machine has two grinders allowing for two recipes to be set, and you can even choose to dose some from each grinder for the one extraction.
But the thing that really sets this machine apart is the self-calibration.Type in the dose of coffee you want, how much water to pass through, and a desired brewing time, hit calibrate, and the machine will adjust the grinder itself to achieve this target. Not only this, but each morning a consumer comes in to use the machine, it will force you to recalibrate the machine by the press of a single button. This is a machine that is really trying to focus on the in-cup experience.
Milk FeaturesIn terms of milk, this machine can be used as a one stage or two stage machine. One stage means with a push of the button, the machine will produce the espresso and the milk into the cup. Two stage means you can extract the coffee, and the user can froth the milk. The milk systems in this machine are excellent. For the one stage, it uses electronic milk texturing, which is a heating and steaming module. It delivers this into the cup at any point you program. This means you control the espresso/ milk delivery sequence to occur before, during, or after the espresso extraction – each changing the taste of the final product. The steam wand on the machine for the two step process has even more control. It’s called the e-foam, and micro inputs air into the steaming process, allowing you at the touch of a button to create the texture you require. In our tests this produced barista quality milk, with silky mouthfeel. It also has a thermocouple on the back of wand, which can be set to stop at your desired temperature.
Cleaning and Hygiene
On a machine of this type, cleaning milk lines is critical to avoid the risk of food poisoning. In addition, dirty coffee flowlines can lead to machine malfunctions, and poor tasting coffee. Thankfully, the machine has easy-to-load ‘cleaning balls’ that are put in a specific hopper above the machine. The machine auto-cleans in a predetermined and automated sequence. Once the machine has run out of ‘cleaning balls’, the machine prompts the user to add more to the hopper. Easy, effective and with a minor amount of attention, foolproof.
The Cameo can be calibrated and controlled remotely. The machine uses telemetry to send information regarding the technical performance of the machine, along with remote access for set up and diagnostics, reports, notifications for breakdowns and quality control. So, if a fleet of these machines are installed across multiple sites, diagnostics & preventative maintenance can be managed from a central location. This has the potential to significantly reduce downtime.
So, the barista wins this round in terms of consistency…but only just.And keep in mind this is a highly experienced barista using equipment that has been tuned to accuracy and consistency.
Who is the Cameo best suited for?
In-office coffee experienceThis produces some very tasty coffee. For an in-office experience, this is an excellent option, providing barista quality coffee. This could stop employees from leaving the office to do a coffee run… imagine the increase in productivity!
Multi-site operatorsWith multiple sites and regular turnover in staff, the consistency of the product can vary greatly. This system would allow you to monitor and control the extraction remotely, and still have a barista steaming milk, providing a familiar customer experience. This could reduce the training costs and improve consistency.
What about Cafes? Could it eventually replace a barista completely?
While the machine has shown itself to nearly be on par with a barista, we don’t think it’s very far away from being suitable for installation and operation in cafes. Once dialled in, the Eversys Cameo produces high quality coffee - and it does so just as fast as a barista. From what we can see, there are still a few technological barriers to overcome for a machine to completely take over the repetitive tasks of a barista’s role. For example, it cannot adjust to taste (rapidly enough). The gap, however, is closing, and we expect that this machine and others like it could make a better product more consistently in the future.
What this machine and its successors can’t replace, is the knowledge and craft of the barista.
And we feel that, on this point, this is where the role of the barista is going to continue to move towards. Perhaps eventually, a barista could be the new sommelier – matching coffees with food choices, and really finding the flavour the consumer wants. A cafélier? We certainly hope so. We’re shaping our education centre around the changing roles of baristas in cafes – futureproofing our baristas and arming them with the knowledge and the tools to enhance customer experience, and championing tools like this that provide even better coffee to the customer. We’d like to thank Geoff and Nick at Tiger Coffee for the opportunity to have the Eversys Cameo for a week to test. We look forward to seeing how things progress in the future!