A Snells Beach inventor and entrepreneur has devised a novel piece of engineering that will help baristas deliver a perfect espresso every time.
Scott Nightingale’s invention was first trialled at the Little & Local café in Snells Beach and it is now being piloted by major chains in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
As the former owner of Little & Local, Scott became passionate about serving coffee that was perfect every time.
“I really appreciate how disappointing it is when you get a coffee that is off and how common an experience that is,” he says.
But producing a perfect espresso is a fine art.
The drink is made by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely ground, compacted coffee.
But the amount of water, the quantity of coffee used and the time taken in forcing water make a crucial difference to the quality of the product.
Coffee roasters specify the optimum measure for each variable for every blend they produce, but it’s near impossible for a barista to get this exactly right, especially if creating multiple drinks at the same time.
Spend too long in forcing water and the coffee will taste excessively bitter; too little time and the coffee becomes too acidic – spoiling the chocolate and caramel flavours discerning coffee drinkers love.
To help baristas get it right, Scott programmed a credit card-sized computer known as a Raspberry Pi and linked it to existing sensors in an espresso machine.
The computer graphically displays critical variables on a monitor, which tells the barista in real time how well they are tracking toward the roaster’s specifications.
The data for each cup of coffee made is collated, allowing management to determine if a barista requires more training.
Scott says currently there is a lot of focus on using computer technology to measure the performance of coffee-making equipment, but believes this is the first time a technological approach has been taken to measure the performance of the barista.
He adds that a huge amount of pressure is being applied to developing-world farmers and roasters to produce a high quality product, but all this energy goes down the toilet if the customer receives a poorly made cup of coffee.
“We almost owe it to the farmers, who are earning a lot less money than us, to show the hard work that they put in is worthwhile,” he says.
Scott sold his interest in Little & Local last year after finding the time demands on himself and his wife, Melody, conflicted with raising a young family.
He now works full-time on his coffee technology idea in association with Goat Ventures, which has invested in the technology and provided office space in Parnell.
Companies currently trialling the technology include Columbus Coffee, Mojo Coffee, Cerebos-Greggs and Flight Coffee.