Will your next barista be a robot?

Mar 28, 2019

GAVIN PATHROSS likes his Americano at a particular strength, with exactly 2.8 shots of espresso, an order that human baristas struggle to get right. But the baristas at Ratio, his new coffee shop in Shanghai, are anything but human. Customers specify, order and pay for their coffee via their smartphones. A robot arm then grinds the beans, pumps shots of espresso and carries out the rest of the work. The robot can supply water and coffee in any ratio desired—hence the shop’s name. Once it has prepared the beverage, it passes the finished product to a human waiter for serving.

Ratio’s robot baristas are part of a trend. Hamburger joints and other fast-food outlets are starting to be robotised in some places. Now it is the turn of cafés. Mr Pathross’s Shanghai shop is, at the moment, a one-off. But Coffee Haus is a commercial system intended for deployment in airports, offices and other high-volume locations. It is the brainchild of Chas Studor, founder of Briggo, a firm in Austin, Texas. Under his guidance Briggo’s engineers have developed a device that is a couple of metres tall, four metres across, and can turn out 100 cups an hour.

Briggo has cut human beings out of the loop completely. A Coffee Haus machine lets you order and pay for your coffee via an app—and, if you have done so remotely, keeps your drink in a...

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