Using software and data to improve performance in coffee shops
Technology has never been so prominent in the coffee industry. Over the past few years, the increasing use of data has helped producers, roasters, and baristas to not only improve coffee quality, but to also make their operations more efficient.
By drawing on an ever-increasing number of data points, baristas and coffee shop owners can understand more about the coffee they are using, which can help to enhance the customer experience.
I spoke to three coffee professionals to learn more about how data and software can be used to improve performance in coffee shops. Read on to find out what they told me.
You may also like our article on how technology has changed in the coffee industry over the last few years.
How is data used in the coffee industry?
Now more than ever, coffee professionals rely on data and technology to assist them in their day-to-day roles.
Scott Guglielmino is the Global Product Manager at La Marzocco.
“Over the last decade, there has been a silent data revolution in the coffee industry,” he says. “From production to brewing, the application of measured data is now front and centre in the coffee sector.”
As the coffee industry has developed, technology has become more and more important across the entire supply chain – helping to drive up both consistency and quality.
David Yardley is the founder and CEO of MoonGoat Coffee. He tells me why data is so important for coffee professionals.
“Data helps us to fill in the gaps on what humans are unable to observe,” he says. “We can watch coffee being roasted, or see channeling in our espresso shots. [We increasingly rely on data] to provide consistent results over time.”
Sam Spillman is the Director of Coffee for Caffe Vita. She agrees that analysing data can improve consistency across the supply chain.
“Data helps to monitor consistency and identify patterns in operations, as well as highlighting certain areas which may need more attention,” she explains.
This is true across every area of the supply chain, starting with production. Today, farmers can collect data on a wide range of variables, including soil nutrition, levels of rainfall, and expected temperature ranges.
By analysing this data, producers can then implement more appropriate and effective farming techniques to improve fertiliser application and pest control measures, for example.
Roasters are also increasingly relying on data, through the use of software such as Cropster Roast, to develop roast profiles. Data, such as temperature curves, airflow, and rate of rise (RoR), can help them to create the optimal roast profile for each coffee they source.
Furthermore, Cropster Roast can also help roasters keep track of their inventory, to make sure it stays as fresh as possible and that they can keep up with demand.
Baristas, meanwhile, can use data to track a range of brewing variables, such as dose, yield, total extraction time, and total dissolved solids (TDS – a measurement of how much of the coffee has been dissolved in the brewing water).
“[By using] data [more accurately], specialty coffee [quality will only improve],” David tells me.
Data and extraction
For baristas, there are a number of variables which must be managed during extraction. These include – but aren’t limited to – water flow rate, extraction time, and water pressure.
However, these extraction variables provide baristas with a range of data points, all of which can be used to improve coffee quality.
Compared to producers and roasters, data and software dedicated to the barista profession has historically been less of a focus.
Scott explains how most commercial software for coffee shops was more limited than for producers and roasters.
“Coffee shops had to rely on the knowledge of their baristas, as well as trial and error,” he adds.
In more recent years, however, there have been significant developments in the digitalisation and automation of espresso machine technology. This has given baristas more control over brewing variables, and allowed them to record extraction data in a more accurate way.
One example of this is Cropster Café, which helps baristas to prepare more consistent and higher-quality coffee.
“Cropster Café democratises access to data, which allows both large and small coffee shops to optimise and improve their operations,” Scott explains. “In order to improve coffee quality, the first step is being able to measure your performance.”
David adds: “Cropster Café enables baristas to dial in [coffee according to roast profile], track extraction consistency of specific dial-ins, set extraction parameters, and have real-world data on how often you reach those parameters.”
Ultimately, this gives baristas the ability to dial in different coffees from different roasters in a number of ways, while still serving great-tasting coffee.
Sam agrees, saying: “Cropster Café allows us to set a recipe that we can then monitor to assess how often we are falling outside of the recipe parameters.”
By using software like this, baristas can pinpoint specific variables which need changing or tweaking to improve overall coffee quality.
For instance, data analysis could indicate that the dose is too high or that the coffee needs to be extracted over a longer period of time – allowing the barista to then make the relevant changes accordingly.
Bridging the gap between roaster and coffee shop
As with any stakeholders in the coffee supply chain, communication is essential to ensure the consumer receives the highest-quality product possible.
While it might seem like communication between the barista and the consumer is a priority, we are also seeing more of a focus on the relationship between the roaster and the coffee shop.
By bridging the gap between roasters and coffee shops, roast profiles and drink recipes can be more refined, helping to represent each bag of coffee in the best possible light.
For baristas, this might mean creating and recording brew recipes that can be traced back to each individual roast batch using Cropster Café.
“[These recipes help to guide baristas] and allow them to identify where they have fallen outside of their brew parameters, allowing them to adjust accordingly,” Sam explains. “By knowing more about each extraction you attempt, you get to know the coffee better and understand how it will respond to different variables.”
Roasters can then access this data on extraction software platforms to understand how their coffees are being used in coffee shops – to ensure that this relationship becomes a two-way street.
“We are working to utilise more aspects of Cropster’s software solutions to create a full circle of feedback, as well as improving record-keeping throughout every step of the supply chain,” Sam adds.
Beyond roasters and baristas, David believes that data and software will also be able to connect baristas to producers in the years to come.
“Coffee has always felt disconnected as it’s such a long process from seed to cup,” he says. “[Data and technology] will [bring baristas] much closer [to producers] in the future.”
Improving coffee shop efficiency using data
Although coffee quality and consistency are key for any good coffee shop, efficiency and workflow are arguably just as important.
We know that the structure of a coffee shop can affect how baristas operate and how customers order. While potential bottlenecks can be identified just by looking at the bar and the café layout, however, coffee shop owners and baristas can also record and analyse data to make further improvements.
For instance, café management software can highlight areas in the coffee shop where service time may be taking too long, which can help staff to readjust setup and organisation to be more efficient.
David tells me how Cropster Café highlighted how baristas at MoonGoat Coffee were using some groupheads more than others when working on the espresso machine. This impedes workflow and causes coffee quality to suffer as a result of more irregular brew temperatures.
“As soon as we balanced out the number of shots we pulled per grouphead, the coffee immediately tasted better,” he says. “More balance between the groups also means that your baristas work quicker.”
Furthermore, café management software can also help you keep track of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks in coffee shops.
A barista’s role isn’t just to make coffee. There are plenty of satellite tasks that they have to execute each day, some of which can fall to the wayside if not properly monitored. Task management software can ensure that these duties are completed, as well as checking if any have been missed – such as cleaning equipment and restocking retail coffee bags and merchandise.
Full-service coffee shop management software, such as Cropster Café, allows managers and owners to monitor tasks, helping to further optimise workflow.
As for how it might evolve in the future, Sam suggests that a focus on technology beyond the espresso machine may be something that we’ll see.
“In order to maximise the use of software in coffee shops, it can be useful to collect data on not only your espresso machine, but all of the equipment in the café,” Sam adds. This could include batch brewers, automated pour over machines, or cold brew systems.
David, meanwhile, believes that technology will continue to focus on improving efficiency and quality in coffee shops.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to [managing a coffee shop], but the information you can analyse from your data will help to drive efficiency, connectivity, and overall performance,” he says.
There’s no doubt that coffee shops have become more and more reliant on technology in recent years, and there are no signs that this will slow down any time soon. As the industry grows, it’s clear that software will only serve to improve and optimise operations in coffee shops.
“Data monitoring and feedback is the next logical step in finding the best solution for your coffee shop,” Scott concludes.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on how coffee producers can benefit from data.
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