June 9th, 2013
Starbucks has spread like wildfire across the world since founded in 1971 in Seattle. Manhattan alone has a reported 225 stores. Some hate it, some love it. But you cannot deny the success of Starbucks.
I've never personally enjoyed Starbucks coffee, it has a slight burnt taste to it. But occasionally I'd give them a random visit for a snack. Recently I noticed that most Starbucks stores changed their equipment from the standard manual heavy espresso machines to more automatic "press the latte" button ones. I was confused, at first. Wondering what happened to the skill a barista can bring to a good cup of coffee.
Today, sitting in a Starbucks waiting for Tina, I realized why. Consistency.
Coffee has one big flaw, it's variable. If you make two espresso's with the same coffee machine right after another, they'll taste slightly different. It's all about temperature, how you tamped the coffee, the grind, the length of the extraction. A good barista will get close but a coffee might never taste the same.
In the world of making the consumer happy, you need to eliminate that variable and take out the human error. That's what Starbucks did. Their machines do the tamping, watch the water temperate and the extraction time. The only thing that's left to the barista is putting it all together and handing it out to the customer. It's brilliant.
I'm not trying to say the baristas at Starbucks don't know their stuff when it comes to making coffee.