Robots, automation and deforestation: the future of coffee

Robots, automation and deforestation: the future of coffee

Last year in Melbourne, a new café opened its doors. This is not at all unusual; a new café opens in Melbourne pretty much every day! What was unusual about this café was the fact that the barista was in fact a robot… Yep, an actual robot! This thing slung espressos for the coffee-loving folk of Collingwood every single day, hour after hour… and it didn’t even ask for a lunch break!

We live in an exciting time. We are innovating at a rate never seen before. New technology is constantly making its way off the production line and into our lives. The coffee industry is never far behind when it comes to innovation. It makes you wonder how coffee will change and evolve into the future. As a barista, it also makes me wonder; with the advancement of technology will I still have a job in the future? This article is going to look into the future coffee prospects. The weird, the exciting and the confronting.  

‘Once Alike’ are the creators behind the amazing coffee slinging robot concept. They opened a café of the same name in Collingwood in December 2017 where ‘Rocky’, as the robo-barista was called, was the sole staff member! Rocky was engineered to mimic the techniques of a real human barista. This was intended as a trial to see how the technology would fare in the real world. Customers had to be fairly patient; coffees would usually take anywhere from 2-6 minutes to make. This is because ‘Rocky’ was engineered to dump any coffees that didn’t fall within certain strict parameters. The goal was to get this time down to a much more normal (or human!) speed of 60-90 seconds.  

Rocky the Robo-Barista

Yeah ok, it’s a cool novelty, but can the bot actually make a decent cup of coffee? Well according to Google reviews (4.5 stars): yeah it can! The Melbourne trial has since ended and the engineers have gone back to the lab to give Rocky some refinements/ get the coffee grinds out of his robo-beard.

So should we expect to see robots/automated machinery completely replace the baristas at your local Adelaide coffee shop in the near future? As a barista, I like to think there’s more to my job than just making lattes. When you walk into a café, it should be an experience. There should be someone (with a brain and a conscience) to welcome you, ask you how you are, maybe engage in a bit of light-hearted banter if you’ve got the time! Human interaction is a psychological need that we all have. At First Things First Coffee customer service is the thing that motivates us, excites us and gets us out of bed at all hours! We bloody love that we can have a positive impact on people’s day with a brief conversation at the window. It would be a sad world where this isn’t part of the customer experience.

While we might not see robots taking jobs away from baristas at your local Adelaide café any time soon, there is no doubt that coffee making will become way more autonomous in the future.

LaMarzocco has recently launched some new technology imbedded into their machines which has baristas all over the world excited. They’ve just started releasing machines with a technology they call ‘Auto Brew Ratio’. Basically, under each group head is set of scales; incorporated into the drip tray. The scales feed back to the computer within the machine and will automatically turn off the flow of water through the group head once it reaches a set weight. This allows baristas to nail their desired shot volume every single time. This technology will apparently be far more accurate than relying on the machines ‘flow meter’ alone. Read about the auto-brew ration on the Strada here.

Ubermilk is another product in the market making coffee-making more autonomous. It’s essentially a commercial grade automatic milk steamer that produces well-textured milk, steamed to a desired temperature at the push of a button. This would work really well for super busy cafes that go through heaps of the same type of milk.

These are just a couple of examples of the rise of autonomy in coffee making. Both are designed to get coffees out quicker and more consistently. Both still require an actual human to operate them!

So far we’ve talked about some of the cool innovation we can expect to see in the coffee industry in the future. Imagine however, a future world without coffee! Unfortunately climate change is putting the production of the very thing we all love so much at great risk. Coffee requires very specific growing conditions. It’s highly susceptible to even slight changes in climate. Scientists say that 60% of coffee plants are now at risk of extinction due to climate change and deforestation. It is predicted that 50% of the land used to grow coffee will not be farmable by the year 2100. Aaron Davis, coffee researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, says “Ultimately, we need to reverse deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

As unthinkable as it sounds, a future without coffee is a reality that our world may soon face unless we drastically change the way we live.

Have you seen any cool futuristic innovation at your local Adelaide café? Have you got a cool idea that the coffee industry could implement? Comment below!

Why doesn’t my homemade coffee taste anything like café coffee?!

Why doesn’t my homemade coffee taste anything like café coffee?!

Have you ever watched the barista at your local Adelaide coffee shop and thought “I reckon I could do this at home!”. Have you gone out and bought yourself a home espresso machine? Have you forked out some serious coin in the hopes that making coffee at home will save you money in the long term? If you have, I’m willing to bet that your first reaction to trying your at-home creation was something along the lines of “Dammit…this tastes nothing like café coffee!”. In fact, I bet there’s a good chance that the espresso machine that you went out and bought from the department store is currently sitting in the cupboard, taking up space and gathering dust! Why? Making café quality coffee at home is really bloody hard! Many try and only a handful actually succeed.

So why is it so hard to reproduce café quality espresso coffee in the home? Can it even be done?

We’re going to explore some main differences between café vs home espresso set ups and go over a few tips and tricks to help you improve your home espresso!

First Things First Coffee talking all things Adelaide Cafe coffee vs home coffee. 
Adelaide's cafes.

Get a Good Grinder!

Most people don’t even think about grinders when they begin their home espresso set up. The fact is that your coffee will only be as good as your grinder!

Using fresh ground coffee is one the most important variables that go into making quality espresso. Cafes grind on demand; that is, they grind just the right amount of coffee to go into portafilter for that one coffee. Once you grind coffee it will begin to lose its freshness within minutes. After a few hours it will just about have lost all of its flavour.

Many Adelaide coffee suppliers will offer pre-ground beans as a means of convenience for their customers. They will usually provide these in a fully sealed bag with a one-way valve so that oxygen can’t seep in. Yes, this is convenient and no you won’t need a grinder, however the fact remains that pre-ground will never taste as good as fresh-ground.

So herein lies our first challenge; we know fresh-ground coffee is best, but have you seen the prices of grinders! You could easily spend more on the grinder than the espresso machine!

The main measure of a grinder is consistency in granule size. It’s in our best interest to have coffee granules that are consistent in size. Think about cooking diced pumpkin in the oven. If you chop your pumpkin to a vast range of sizes then the small bits will cook first and the bigger bits will take longer. The same basic principle applies in coffee extraction. The most consistent grind will be achieved from grinders with ‘burrs’ (either flat or conical).

Another question you should be asking when looking at grinders is: “does it grind fine enough?”. A lot of the cheap grinders will simply not grind fine enough for espresso.

Fortunately there have been some great entry level grinders pop up in the market recently that won’t hurt the hip pocket too badly. The Baratza Sette series grinders have been getting some good feedback within the industry.

How’s your steam pressure?

Ok, we’ve got our espresso tasting at least somewhat like our favourite Adelaide café, now we need to nail our milk. Milk steaming is a skill. Like any skill, we need to practice! Unfortunately, a lot of the entry level espresso machines simply don’t put out enough steam pressure to allow us to achieve anywhere near the silky, well-textured milk we’re used to from our local Adelaide coffee spot. If you’re stuck with an espresso machine with this issue there isn’t a hell of a lot you can do I’m afraid; short of buying yourself an additional steam unit. The Bellman Stovetop Steam Unit is a neat little inexpensive milk steamer that this author can personally vouch for. It’s a super simple design  (essentially a pot with steam chamber and a steam wand) but I’ve personally been very happy with the milk it produces. Fill with water and place on the stove (just like a cooking pot) and she’ll soon start filling with steam.

Nice, well textured milk is a super important component of our coffee (it does after all make up about 90% of our drink!). Choosing an espresso maker with a decent steam unit will take a lot of the frustration out of making coffee at home!

Keep it fresh!

It is true for any culinary pursuit: fresh is best! Coffee beans, like any fresh food will go stale over time. A little tip once you open the seal on your coffee is to keep the bag in a sealed container. Oxygen is the enemy of coffee, so keeping it properly sealed will allow it to stay fresh for as long as possible.

Keep it clean!

Learning how to properly clean your espresso maker will not only allow you to get the best possible flavour from your coffee, it will also maximise the life of your unit. Using chemicals to ‘backflush’ your machine will effectively remove gunk from the internal parts of your machine. Oh, and nothing says ‘I don’t care about my coffee machine’ more than a steam wand covered in old milk- so purge and wipe thoroughly after every use.

Hopefully some of these pointers will improve your at-home coffee prospects. Reckon you’ve got a great home set up? Or even a handy hint for at-home coffee making? Is there a question you’d like answered? Comment below.  

Coffee Myths and FAQs

Coffee Myths and FAQs

Be honest; do you know what your coffee order actually means? Are you the sort of person who has ordered a flat white every day for the past 10 years without actually understanding what a flat white is? Have you ever wondered why coffee costs as much as it does? Do you have questions that you’ve always been too embarrassed to ask your barista? This article is going to answer some of the frequently asked questions that I’ve received whilst behind the coffee machine at my Adelaide café. It’s also going to tackle some of the common myths that surround coffee and the coffee industry.

Flat White/ Latte/ Cappuccino… What the Difference?

One of the most frequently asked questions that we receive is “what is the difference between a flat white, a latte and a cappuccino?”. Well firstly, they all have the same amount coffee. No one drink is comparatively stronger or weaker in actual caffeine content. Secondly, they all have basically the same amount of milk! The only real difference between the three beverages is the amount of foam in each. Technically speaking (and this will vary depending on who you talk to) a cappuccino has about 2cm of foam, a latte has about 1cm of foam and a flat white has less than 1cm of foam.

Make it Strong!

Another one that I hear quite a bit is ‘I’d like my coffee nice and strong, so can you just run the shot for longer’. Your barista should never, ever run a shot for longer in order to make it stronger. To understand why this is never ok, we must first understand that when we extract a shot of espresso, we are in fact extracting the soluble ‘oils’ from the coffee. Only around 30% of the coffee we put in our group basket is actually soluble. When we extract a coffee shot, we only want to run our shot long enough to extract these oils; any longer and we’ll only damage our espresso. It’s the job of the roaster and the barista to work out the optimal ‘yield’ (the amount of liquid espresso to be extracted) from that particular coffee in order to achieve a nice, well balanced espresso. If we run the shot for longer than deemed ‘optimal’, we’ll end up with bitter, watery liquid diluting our otherwise beautiful espresso.

If you want a stronger coffee, my advice is to ask for an extra shot!

Coffee is Cheap as Chips to Make!

Nope. Just nope!

My favourite coffee myth of all? “Coffee is dirt cheap to make”…

There’s a reason why Adelaide Café owners generally aren’t driving around in Ferraris and lounging on private yachts. Coffee is not as cheap as you think and margins aren’t as great as you think!

Think about any product that you’ve bought lately. It might be a car, or a television or a packet of biscuits! If you pay very little, you can expect a relatively poor quality product. If you pay more, you can expect a better quality product. This is absolutely true in coffee. Your favourite Adelaide cafés don’t have a line out the door because they buy the cheapest, nastiest coffee they can find… They have a huge, loyal following because they value quality and are happy to shell out the extra dough for high end coffee.

The other thing that is rarely considered is labour. Next time you’re in your favourite Adelaide coffee shop, have a look at the number of staff on. Now, multiply that by the hourly award rate. Now add superannuation! Ok, sure, you’ve come in during a rush and the hard-working staff have just pumped out 10 coffees in a matter of minutes… but what about the quieter periods? What about the set-up and pack-up time that brings in no revenue. For many businesses, labour is their single biggest expense.

The truth is that most coffee shop owners opened their business not to become rich, but because they are passionate about coffee.

‘Annoying’ orders

The final myth I want to bust is around ‘annoying’ orders. Every so often I have a customer that orders their extra hot skim latte with half a stevia filled ¾ full, then apologises for their ‘annoying’ order! If this sounds like you, I want you to stop apologising! In fact I want to reassure you that there is nothing annoying about your order. As professional baristas we are adaptable, efficient and precise and if your barista moans about how complex your coffee order is then you probably need to change baristas! Have your coffee the way you want and don’t be ashamed of your decaf, caramel ice mocha with whipped cream!

Hopefully I’ve answered some of your questions and provided some insight into the topic that we are so passionate about here at First Things First Coffee. Now it’s your opportunity to ask those questions that you’ve been too embarrassed to ask in real life! We like to think of ourselves as a café Adelaide can engage with, so don’t be shy; comment your questions below.

6 Amazing Health Benefits of Coffee

6 Amazing Health Benefits of Coffee

Why does it seem like everything that tastes good is bad for you? Think about just almost anything you find yourself craving; pizza, deep fried food, even bread for goodness sake! So what about coffee? Most of us can’t start our day without a trip to one of our favourite Adelaide cafes, but is our daily dose doing us harm or doing us good?
Well, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of research points to regular consumption of coffee as being good (great even) for our health.
Let’s get you acquainted with some of the literature so that the next time Debbie from accounts gives you that judging look as you swill your 3rd cup for the day, you’ll be able to dish her up the facts!

Coffee drinkers live longer!
A study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who drink two to three cups of coffee per day have a 12 percent lower risk of early death than people who don’t drink coffee at all. In order to come to their findings, researchers followed a huge number of people (almost 5 million participants) aged 38 to 73 from 2006 through 2016. Their findings suggested that the health benefits from coffee are not necessarily just from the caffeine found in coffee. This is because the decaf drinkers in the study also had very positive results.

Promotes mental sharpness
Obviously we all feel that little bit sharper and more alert after our dose of the good stuff. However the mental benefits aren’t just immediate. Yet another amazing coffee prospect is that according to research it can assist with mental decline as we age and can even stave off Alzheimer’s disease.  In short, caffeine blocks inflammation in the brain, specifically ‘adenosine receptors’, which can start a chain reaction that begins the mind’s cognitive decline.
One study (read it here) found that participants who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day had about a 65% decreased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia later on in life.

Acts as an anti-inflammatory
Our body creates inflammation as a way to get rid of bad stuff following infection or trauma in our tissue. Sometimes the body creates too much inflammation and it becomes out of control: this is bad! Excessive inflammation can lead to inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, enlargement and loss of function of the kidney, swelling and loss of function of blood vessels, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and swelling and loss of function of muscles. 
The food that we put into our body plays a big part in keeping inflammation under control. There’s a lot of research around anti-inflammatory diets; one of the big hitters in the anti-inflammatory world is coffee!
According to the Harvard Medical School, coffee contains polyphenols and
other anti-inflammatory compounds which may protect against inflammation. 

Speeds up metabolism
Do you know someone who eats and eats and eats but never puts on weight? Chances are they have a fast metabolism.
Metabolism refers to the rate our bodies burn energy. If your body burns a lot of energy, well then you’re going to need a lot of fuel (food). While we all have a normal (or basal) metabolic rate, certain things can can speed up metabolic rate.
High intensity exercise, drinking water, eating spicy food and getting a good night’s sleep have all been scientifically shown to increase metabolic rate. Studies have also shown that the caffeine in coffee increases metabolism by 3-11%. All the more reason to get the coffee and the cookie next time you’re at your local Adelaide café 😉

Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that drinking coffee actively decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes. They studied a massive cohort of over 100,000 people and found that participants who increased their coffee consumption by more than 1 cup per day had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes over the 4 year study period. They also found that those who decreased their coffee intake by 1 cup per day increased their risk by 17%. The reason for this benefit is once again largely attributed to the polyphenols which we talked about previously; though there also appear to be other substances in coffee at play that actively lower blood sugar.

High in Antioxidants
You’ve probably heard of antioxidants and you probably know that they are super good for us due to their disease-fighting qualities. You’ve also probably heard that tea is really high in antioxidants. Well guess what… coffee is higher! It also appears that coffees grown at higher altitudes and roasted darker retain the most antioxidants.

The health benefits to drinking coffee are many and varied: it’s even shown to make you live longer! The next time your partner has a go at you for the excessive number of transactions from your favourite Adelaide café, you can legitimately argue ‘hey, it’s for my health’!

Cool, Crazy & Bizarre Coffee Trends

Cool, Crazy & Bizarre Coffee Trends

There are approximately 20,000 cafes in Australia. With such a breadth of competitors in the market, what do you do to stand out from the pack? You start a viral trend; that’s what! The last few years have seen the rise (and fall) of a number of cool, crazy and downright bizarre coffee trends. Let’s have a look backat some of the ones that got us talking!

Deconstructed coffee
In mid 2016, social media lost its mind after images started surfacing of what was termed the ‘deconstructed latte’. In what many on social media deemed ‘peak hipster’, the images out of (you guessed it) Melbourne, showed 3 science beakers on a paddle; one filled with espresso, one filled with water and the third, filled with hot milk. The idea being that the drinker would combine the three elements themselves to essentially make their own latte! While the original images came from a café in Abbotsford called The Kitchen at Weylandts, it is thought that a number of Australian cafes caught on and attempted to ride the (controversial) ground swell. Jamila Rizvi uploaded the original viral pic to Facebook and stated: “Sorry Melbourne but no. No no no no no. I wanted a coffee. Not a science experiment… Next stage? I’ll just get a chopping board with a bunch of actual coffee beans and an upside down hat on it”.
The news of the deconstructed latte made news all over the world and served to only further solidify Melbourne’s image as the hipster capital of Australia! The fact that we don’t see the deconstructed latte in any of our local Adelaide cafes today is perhaps testament to the fact that the general public didn’t appreciate the novelty!

Read the original article in The Age here

Broccoli latte
Heading once again to Melbourne, where earlier this year news broke about a café called Common Folk in Mornington that had added a rather unusual item to its drinks menu; a broccoli latte! The broccoli latte is made with a special broccoli powder that was actually created by scientists at the CSIRO. The powder came about as a way to get Australians to eat more vegetables. In addition, the product is made from imperfect produce; meaning that farmers have a use for all those crops that would have otherwise been thrown out. This is pretty handy when you consider that one third of the food produced for human consumption never actually makes it to our plates, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
While no one is questioning the motives behind creating a healthy and sustainable broccoli powder, the reviews on the mean, green broccoli latte were, well, mixed!

Bulletproof Coffee

Do you like to add anything to your coffee? Milk? Sugar? Butter? Medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil? Ok, so those last two were meant to throw you off. Butter and oil in coffee?!
Come on… Believe it or not however, it is a thing! That thing is called Bulletproof coffee.
Bulletproof Coffee was created by a Silicon Valley investor/entrepreneur Dave Asprey. He claims that the product suppresses hunger, promotes mental clarity and provides steady, long-lasting energy. The Bulletproof Coffee literature suggests replacing your daily breakfast with a bulletproof coffee. The theory behind this bold suggestion is that Bulletproof coffee puts your body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic process where the body does not have enough glucose to burn for energy, so it burns fat stores instead. For the record the official Australian Government health advice website Health Direct stops short of recommending the ketogenic diet to the general population due to the fact that long term effects are unknown. This author couldn’t help but give in to curiosity around Bulletproof coffee and give it a go- for the sake of good research! Perhaps I used the wrong MCT oil? Maybe the butter to coffee ratio was off? All I can say is that I can’t see the Adelaide coffee scene embracing Bulletproof coffee any time soon!

Nitrogen coffee
Have you ever thought to yourself; “it’s beer o’clock”… only to look down at your watch and realise it’s only 9am? Well then do I have the beverage for you: nitrogen coffee! Nitrogen coffee (or nitro coffee) is cold brew coffee charged with nitrogen. The result is a carbonated, smooth, creamy drink with a head not dissimilar to Guinness! It’s served out of a tap, just like a beer. Many Adelaide cafes are rolling nitro coffee out on their menu so keep an eye out for this refreshing summer option.

Rainbow coffee
Coffee and Instagram go hand in hand. It’s a sexy subject that looks great in photo and video mediums when done well. So how do you make coffee even prettier? Make it more colourful, obviously! In 2016 ‘rainbow coffee’ began to hit our Instagram feeds. Basically this craze saw the barista add a few drops of either food dye or natural colourings like turmeric and beetroot to their milk. They then pour the milk into the espresso in the same way they normally would; only the addition of the colourings creates a crazy colourful contrast in the cup.
Check them out here.

Have you come across anything a little out of the ordinary while making your way around our local Adelaide cafes? We’d love to hear about any bold, beautiful or downright bizarre methods of making or serving coffee that you’ve seen.
Comment below!

Coffee- it’s a big deal

Coffee- it’s a big deal

We Australians love coffee. For many of us, starting the day without popping into one of our local Adelaide cafes for our daily brew is an unthinkable concept! Australia is widely regarded as the home of milk-based coffee: we even claim to have created the ‘flat white’! You might be interested to learn that here in Australia we are in fact minnows when it comes to coffee consumption! It turns out that the rest of the world is just as obsessed with the humble bean, if not more so! In this article we’ll look at just how big of a deal coffee really is around the globe. It is after all the second most traded commodity in the world (second only to crude oil).

Australian coffee consumption per capita sits at a very respectable 3kg per year. That means on average, each Australian consumes the weight of a household cat (or a very-very small dog) in coffee! I mean, 3kg is good, but this is a rookie number compared to many countries around the world. In fact, Australia is only the 42nd biggest coffee consuming nation! So which country do you think consumes the most coffee? I’ll give you a clue: it isn’t where you think…

The world’s biggest coffee consuming nations (per capita)

#1. Finland

Yep, Finland! Regarded as ‘the happiest country in the world’, the Finns lay claim to Santa Claus and the Northern lights. They also lay claim to the highest coffee consumption of any country in the world- by a long shot! The Finns consume 9.6kg of coffee per capita annually. That’s 2.64 cups per person per day! Finland’s love of coffee is so strong that employers have a legal obligation to give their workers a ‘coffee’ break! Is it a coincidence that the happiest country in the world also drinks the most coffee? I think not!

Imagine if we all drank as much coffee as the Finns… Our local Adelaide café owners sure would be busy! 😉

#2. Norway

Yes way! Staying in the Scandinavian region, Norway is known for it’s beautiful natural scenery; in particular the world famous Fjords. Norway also has another thing to boast about: it has the second highest coffee consumption in the world, with a whopping annual consumption of 7.2kg per capita! Believe it or not, Norway is regarded as the second happiest country in the world! There’s a real pattern starting to emerge here… Norwegians like their coffee lightly roasted, which means the natural flavours of the bean are truly displayed and aren’t hidden by the roasting process.

#3. Netherlands

Just making the podium is the Netherlands, with an impressive annual consumption of 6.7kg per capita.

… and the rest

I don’t know about you, but when I think coffee, I think of Italy. It was after all the Italians that invented ‘espresso’ coffee back in late 1800s. You might be surprised to find that Italy sits outside of the top 10 consumers worldwide. Coming in at #13 on the list, the Italians go through a highly respectable 5.8kg of coffee per capita per annum. Italian coffee culture is very different to Australian coffee culture. While we Australians have a tendency towards milk-based coffees, the Italians much prefer to sip espresso. Here in Australia we like a combination of light and dark roasted coffee, where as in Italy the coffee is primarily dark roasted. Something worth noting is that if you order a ‘latte’ in Italy you will be given something different to what you’d expect from your local Adelaide café… You’d be given a glass of milk! This is because the word ‘latte’ literally means ‘milk’. If you want a typical Australian latte, make sure you ask for a ‘caffe latte’!

Another country worth mentioning is Brazil. While this coffee-crazed nation comes in at #10 on the list of top consumers, it’s their coffee export that makes them a truly giant player in the coffee world. Brazil is the biggest exporter of coffee in the world- by a long shot! Each year they export around 3 million tonnes around the world; this equates to about 1/3 of the world’s total coffee export. Brazil’s stable, hot and humid climate, along with its rich soils makes it ideal for coffee growing.

It’s a big deal, the humble coffee bean. The world is obsessed and we in Australia are no different. It’s an incredibly exciting industry to be a part of and it’s one that inspires passion and demands dedication to the craft. Even though we are just one small Adelaide café here at First Things First Coffee, we love the thought that we are a piece of the massive puzzle and we take our responsibility of providing Adelaidians with their daily brew very seriously! Drive through and start your day the same way billions of people around the world have chosen to start theirs… with COFFEE!