Barista Equip unveils MilkIQ invention

Barista Equip

Barista Equip’s new advanced post milk system will make benchtop clutter a thing of the past, with the modular unit able to dispense and texture up to five hot and cold products at speed.

Have you ever watched busy baristas at work? For many, it’s a visual akin to an octopus operation with arms moving in every direction; overlapping as they lunge for milk bottles and cartons of dairy alternative products while colleagues interject to use the steam wand. Chaotic? Yes. Necessary? No.

Thanks to a new Australian invention called the MilkIQ, baristas can say goodbye to multiple milk products on the café benchtop, and hello to a streamlined milk distributing and texturing device that, according to Brett Bolwell, CEO of Barista Equip (formerly called Barista Technology Australia), is set to make waves across Australian and international markets.

“Three years ago, we went to some of our biggest chain customers and asked them what their biggest pain point was. They told us they wanted to continue with traditional barista-style machines, but that we needed to fix milk automation,” Brett says.

“We fixed tamping with the automated Puqpress, grind by weight and manual grinder adjustment with the Flow Grinder, and milk was the next big thing on the agenda to automate, so that’s what we did.”

Brett and his business partner, Jason Conis, spent the next 12 months developing a modular-based system that would distribute hot textured milk, and dispense cold milk products.

“You may think the MilkIQ is an automated hot milk system but our fundamental main goal was to create a cold milk system. We knew we had an edge in the market because everyone was going down the hot beverage route, but we know the cold beverage market is a lot bigger,” Brett says.

The MilkIQ comes in two- and five- drink dispensers, with plans to introduce a 10-arm unit in future given the number of products currently used on café benchtops. This means the MilkIQ could hold and dispense dairy, different types of plant-based milks, cold brew, nitro coffee, concentrated chocolate, liquid chai, or iced tea – anything that doesn’t have a pulp base.

“The scope is massive,” Brett says. “One of the most unique things about this model is not only the volume of liquids it can hold, but its ability to mix drinks. For example, you could make a cold brew coffee with textured almond milk – served hot or cold. The hot and cold liquids are stored in separate bladders and can then be mixed to guarantee the highest quality result in the one cup.”

Achieving quality hot and cold beverages from the one unit was an “absolute mission”, Brett says, so much so that it’s taken the best part of two years to perfect.

“The hardest part is volumisation. When you start to volumise hot milk versus cold milk, it’s a completely different process. We had to invent our own intelligent volumisation technology, which we have a patent on. No matter what beverage it is, based on recipe settings, our system will understand the selection automatically thanks to Flow [telemetry] and light to measure the density of the product,” Brett says.

“It knows whether to increase or decrease the volumisation based on thickness of texture.”

Maintaining heat consistency across a range of different temperature and texture settings was another challenge the Barista Equip team eventually ticked off.

“Our heat exchange system and its volumisation is a broader, consistent heat transfer so we can raise the temperature by 5°C to 8°C above traditional settings but not burn the milk. We’ll be the only milk system in the world that can reach 75°C without burning the milk,” Brett says.

In the initial set-up phase, each hot milk recipe is dialled in to a preferred temperature or set to a specific brand’s recommendation and stored in the telemetry cloud’s library of recipes. The chosen beverage is then dispensed to the default temperature unless “overridden” to honour a customer’s “extra hot” request.

On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, a refrigeration system in the drawers is used to maintain cool temperatures for cold beverages. Operators can set a different temperature for each milk drawer, running one at 7°C for cold brew or 4°C for almond milk, for example.

“We are relying on the goods being stored cold, but we maintain optimal cold temperatures in the selected drawers. If you choose to use cold brew coffee, you could dispense that from one drawer, then pull through almond or oat milk from another drawer, and what you end up with is a cold textured milk that tastes like a dessert, which is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before,” Brett says.

Barista Equip is exploring a bag-in-box delivery format with some of Australia’s leading alternative dairy milk brands, as well as pursuing opportunities to do milk filling itself.

To activate the unit, users simply put their milk jug under the tap and make their beverage selection via the screen. Or, they can use the auto-IQ system. This technology uses colour and height detection sensors to read the colour and size of the milk jug and dispense automatically without the operator touching a single button.

For example, a blue, one-litre jug could be set to dispense and texture one litre of textured dairy milk, and an orange jug could be set to dispense and texture 500 millilitres of oat milk.

“If you’re busy, you don’t have to worry about different volumes and different products, you just grab your milk jug and go,” Brett says.

He says the MilkIQ textures “beyond anything anyone has seen in coffee” due to the machine not using steam, just high pressure and air through its volumisation system, resulting in zero micro bubbles.

“We did a blind cupping with eight industry professionals to taste a range of different textured drinks including cold brew and cold oat and almond milk, and they all went ‘wow’,” Brett says.

The MilkIQ can dispense 1.5 litres per minute thanks to its own in-built heater technology – a dry heat exchange system that requires 25-amp power.

“If you want speed, you need power,” he says.

“It had to be fast because milk texturing systems are inherently quite slow and for high volume cafés with a strong footprint in drive-thrive, speed is paramount.

“It’s now the biggest heat exchange milk system in the world.”

Barista Equip is also testing a new pump system to give the product 30 per cent more speed.

Cleaning was another important element that needed to embrace speed. As such, the MilkIQ has a “super self-cleaning system” that activates between drinks to avoid any cross contamination, and an end-of-day cleaning cycle of just three minutes.

The MilkIQ’s footprint is about the width of a grinder. One version includes an on-counter unit with a milk cartridge- based system underneath featuring 10-litre drawers.

Alternatively, the unit can be retrofitted into an existing fridge. Barista Equip will also release an under-counter version early in 2024.

The MilkIQ will make its debut at the Melbourne International Coffee Expo in August. Barista Equip will commence taking orders in Q4 2023 because production begins in Q1, 2024.

“The ultimate benefit of the MilkIQ is time saving and efficiency. Serving cold products traditionally takes so long but with MilkIQ, is takes no time at all. As a result, you’ll see at least a 50 to 60 per cent productivity increase, and you can effectively reduce one, if not two staff members in some instances,” Brett says.

“There’s also the sustainability advantage – we’re getting rid of all the plastic bottles, de-cluttering the benchtop, and removing wastage.

“We’re very optimistic. We believe the MilkIQ will become a world-wide product. We’ll start manufacturing in Australia, but then the opportunities are endless. This is a game changer.”

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This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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