The world is familiar with iTunes and iPhones, and now the creators of i-milk are hoping the same reaction will apply to its intelligent milk system.
When you think of the technological devices that use a sensor, such as washing taps and hand dryers or systems with weight-based sensors such as self service checkout machines, it seems logical that milk dispensing would go down the same avenue.
“No matter what industry you’re in, everyone wants to work faster, more efficiently, and cleaner, and we believe we have the solution for the café market with our hands-free automated milk delivery system,” says Autopour’s Robert Swords.
Over the past 20 months, Robert and his team have been dedicated to the research and development of the i-milk.
“At one stage we had about six button functions. But after brainstorming with our designer and café consultant Luke Floyd of Palate & Ply Espresso Bar about what was needed, the idea to become hands-free seemed like the inevitable solution.”
To achieve its hands-free status, i-milk uses three industrial-grade sensors. These sensors work together for the seamless operation of milk dispensing, jug rinsing, and cleaning.
“The hardest part of the project was finalising its precision and getting the i-milk to pour within 1-millilitre accuracy,” Robert says. “It’s been a fascinating journey, and we’re proud of the final product, its ease of use, and the fact that it’s manufactured in Australia.”
To use the i-milk, the method is simple. Place the jug to be filled on the dispenser. “The i-milk detects the size of the jug and fills it to the preset level,” Robert says.
“We started using weight scales in our wine dispenser 10 years ago and found them to be very accurate. Now the coffee industry is using weight scales in coffee machines, drip trays, and grinders for the same reason: accuracy.”
This accuracy allows i-milk to have an inventory system so that the operator can know how much milk has been dispensed for a day or a week.
“Milk is one of the most expensive parts of a cup of coffee. The i-milk inventory system can help better understand the cost of wastage,” Robert says.
I-milk can dispense two types of milk from the one tap, drawn from 10-litre catering packs. It fills a half-litre jug in less than five seconds, which is about 300 litres per hour. Once dispensed, the milk in the jug has the same or fewer surface bubbles than manual pouring. A simple swipe of the milk jug over the sensor will allow the user to select between full cream or skim milk.
Without doubt, Robert says, there’s potential for the i-milk system to integrate alternate milk options in the future, such as almond or soy, but first suppliers will need to start packaging such alternatives in 10-litre catering bladders.
When it comes time to rinse the jug, it is placed upturned on the dispenser. I-milk will detect this position and rinse the jug for two seconds. To repeat the process, simply lift and replace the jug.
“Palate & Ply Espresso Bar in Coffs Harbour was our testing ground for the project. Owner Luke is clear on what a café needs from such a product, and that’s a device that creates a clutter-free work space and increases speed of service, accuracy to reduce wastage, and can increase a café’s profits,” Robert says.
Since installing i-milk in early 2016, Beach Bums Café in New South Wales has achieved just that – more profits. It now uses 99 per cent fewer milk bottles weekly. Its rubbish removal has more than halved, and it’s saving more than 10 litres of milk each day as a result of not manually over pouring.
“Combining the savings on rubbish removal, milk wastage, and reduced labour costs, Beachbums has saved more than $11,000,” Robert says.
Another important feature of i-milk is that it’s a modular system. This allows it to be retrofitted into an existing shop fitout, and using existing refrigeration if suitable.
“This solution is ideal for existing cafés that want to introduce i-milk but don’t want to do a complete refit or customise their workspace. I-milk is designed to be easily integrated and retrofitted into any café – big or small,” Robert says.
The countertop unit, which includes the jug rinser, is minimalistic in its design and footprint at just 170 millimetres wide and 280 millimetres deep. From a sustainability standpoint, Robert says there’s no better time to move away from milk bottle consumption.
From July 2017, New South Wales shoppers will pay an extra 10 cents for cans and plastic bottles, a government initiative to reduce litter by 40 per cent by 2020.
Robert says it’s impressive to see the coffee industry’s heightened focus on milk delivery and steaming quality over the past year. As such, he predicts milk bladders to become the industry standard for bulk milk delivery in the hospitality industry.
“Milk accounts for such a huge portion of espresso-based drinks, but for whatever reason it’s been underrated. Milk is the unsung hero. In the past year, we’ve seen milk price wars, but we’ve also seen a greater move towards milk’s integration in espresso machines and advanced steaming technology, which only tells us that the coffee market is really engaged with the importance of quality milk,” he says.
After attending the Melbourne International Coffee Expo and Fine Food expo in 2016, i-milk team teamed up with Coffee Machine Technologies (CMT). Director John Colangeli has introduced i-milk to some influential industry contacts.
“We’re really excited about our partnership with CMT. Through John and his team we’ve had fantastic discussions with franchise groups who believe in the flexibility of our system and our ability to customise units,” Robert says.
The i-milk fonts are available in matt black, industrial copper, polished brass, and stainless steel, a look Robert describes as “classic and timeless”.
“Just like a café, the compact i-milk system is busy and complex under the counter, and simplistic on the exterior,” he says. “We look forward to seeing it installed in cafés across the country.”
For sales enquiries, contact CMT on 03 9681 8115