Melbourne coffee vanguard leads from the front again – developing the innovative Caffe Assist, an automated milk steamer that provides fast, consistently high quality steamed and textured milk at the touch of a button.
Bill Purton knows coffee.
A leader of the second wave movement in Melbourne back in the 90s, Bill was a co-founder of Fitzroy’s Atomica Café, a café and roastery that was influential in Melbourne’s move away from large, industrial scale, second crack roasting towards the more subtle styles and single origins that have helped define Melbourne as one of the world’s pre-eminent coffee cities.
A tinkerer by nature, Bill has always worked on ways to improve what we serve and how we serve it. So when he got stuck in a take away coffee queue for 25 minutes one morning a few years back, he saw the barista was struggling to steam the variety of milks quickly enough, he wondered if there might be a better solution.
By the time his latte arrived, he’d sketched up the idea for the Caffe Assist, an automated milk steamer that steams and cleans as it goes, halving the time it takes for a barista to make a milk coffee drink.
“Not only does Bill’s invention remove one of the biggest hold ups when it comes to coffee service, it’s a machine that ensures a consistent milk every time,” says Georgina Sangster, Marketing and Admin Manager for Caffe Assist.
“You can look at how your best barista stretches their milk and your barista can easily program the Caffe Assist to replicate their exact style to deliver the quality you want to achieve.”
The Caffe Assist sits beside your espresso machine and either plugs into that machine’s boiler or uses its own dedicated boiler for steam. Your barista simply puts a jug of milk on the jug rest of the Caffe Assist and presses a button. The milk is then steamed and textured automatically while they pull their shots. Once the milk is ready, the steam wand withdraws back into the unit where it is purged and steam cleaned, ready for its next order. This not only removes another time-consuming task for the barista, but also reduces with the risk of cross-contamination between milk types.
Bill’s invention debuted at the 2017 Melbourne International Coffee Expo and can now be found all around the country, covering everything from small independent cafes to iconic larger venues like Brunetti’s and even QSR coffee offerings like Jack’s Cafe.
DeAnn Silver, a well recognised industry professional and coffee trainer in Melbourne was brought in to help develop Caffe Assist’s onboarding program for food service industry. She sees the strength of the machine being its consistency and speed.
“Having worked behind espresso machines at several high-volume cafés, I wish I’d had one of these during the morning rush to take the pressure off,” DeAnn says.
“The most prominent thing I hear about in the industry from different roasters is consistency. It’s why we have automatic tampers, thermo-controlled coffee machines, and most new products in the coffee industry. Caffe Assist achieves that while making things faster and easier for the barista. We’ve had a unit in Brunetti for the last four years and the machine effortlessly keeps up.”
With the ability to set different milk parameters via the touchscreen display, Caffe Assist is perfect for use with all varieties, animal, or plant-based milks. Georgina says some cafés have even begun to use Caffe Assist alongside their existing automatic milk steamers thanks to its ability to handle several different milks.
“As plant-based milks have become more popular, cafés are expected to carry at least three milk alternatives in addition to full cream and skim. Without some kind of automation to help manage all those milks is just another way your barista is slowed down during service,” she says.
“With COVID, more customers are ordering takeaway, so you need to reduce queues and turn out coffees faster, but at the same time, hospitality is experiencing staff shortages. If Caffe Assist means producing more coffees per hour, or one less barista during a busy shift, its return on investment is impressive.”
Taking milk steaming out of the hands of the barista also helps reduce milk wastage, which DeAnn calls one of the biggest hidden costs when making coffee.
“The steam wand automatically detects the level of milk in the jug and just does the necessary amount of texturing,” DeAnn says. “It even optimises steam use from the boiler, purging exactly the amount needed compared to a barista who may purge more than is required, preserving the boiler and energy usage too.”
Like roasters working closely with espresso machine manufacturers to help them get the best out of their shots, Caffe Assist is collaborating closely with roasters providing the same opportunity for the milk.
“Our site in North Carlton is becoming a bit of a hub for the industry, with a lot of different roasters, technicians, and industry people coming through because they know they’re welcome,” DeAnn says.
“We have a two-group espresso machine and a couple of grinders too, so people know they’re welcome to come by and demonstrate Caffe Assist to customers while using their own coffee.”
That type of connection is what coffee is all about, and Georgina says Caffe Assist brings more than consistency and speed of service. It offers greater opportunity for the barista to connect with the customer.
“It’s really quite remarkable how coffee brings people together. It’s like sending flowers. Serving someone a great coffee is going to put a smile on both your faces,” Georgina says. “It’s one of the best things you can witness and seeing them enjoy it while they engage with other people, or engaging with them yourself, only improves the experience.”
For more information, visit www.caffeassist.com
This article appeared in the October 2021 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.