The Australian designed, under-the-bench Tech-Bar modular espresso machine from Coffee Machine Technologies aims to provide a better customer experience and a fresher cup of coffee.
With coffee quality at such a high level across Australia, the customer’s service and experience are the only things separating the best cafés from the rest.
Coffee Machine Technologies (CMT) saw this firsthand, servicing and supplying thousands of cafés with equipment across Australia. So, the company applied its years of experience in coffee and engineering to create an under-the-bench espresso machine that could create new levels of customer engagement. A little more than two years ago, the Australian designed Tech-Bar hit the market.
“There’s no barrier between the barista and the customer. We’ve pulled down those walls created by the coffee machine and all those cups on top,” says John Colangeli, Founder and Managing Director of CMT and creator of the Tech-Bar.
“There’s an opportunity for the customer to see the barista at work – the whole theatricality of grinding the coffee to brewing it and texturing the milk.”
The Tech-Bar is fully customisable and available in practically any colour and finish that bests suits the venue. The modular nature of its components means the machine can be set up however will best improve the workflow of the barista.
“We’ve got Tech-Bars where the coffee is made on one side and the steam wands are on a right-angle bench. For some people, that’s what works best,” John says.
“You can actually install a two-group model, then in six months or a year’s time when you’re getting busier, you don’t have to buy another machine. We can add the third group to the existing machine.”
Each group head is controlled with a touchscreen interface, which also displays information like shot times and water volumes or pressure. John compares it to using an iPhone.
“You can swipe left or right, up or down, to change whatever parameters you want,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything else like that interface on the market.”
As the machine’s inventor, John takes part in each installation, and with a team of skilled technicians, CMT can jump on any issues that may arise. Having the parts spread out and modular also makes the machine easier to service and maintain.
“A traditional coffee machine has everything in one big box. Basically, we’ve split that open. The ‘engine room’ is safely underneath the bench and out of the way. It’s easier to maintain everything above the bench because you’re not working inside a tight casket,” John says.
Unlike single- or dual-boiler machines where one boiler heats water for every group head, the Tech-Bar uses a pre-heating chute to bring fresh water straight to the group head. The piping brings water to 70°C to 75°C, then the group head uses a thermoblock to take it to the set temperature.
“This delivers freshly filtered water, maximising the oxygen content. When water boils, it releases oxygen, which is important for improving the flavour of the coffee. At no point does the water go above the boiling point, so it doesn’t lose any oxygen,” John says.
“If you look at companies that specialise in tea, they never reheat the same water. They always tip the old water out and heat fresh water. The Tech-Bar does the same.”
This is one of the many reasons Peter Elasmar of San Pedro Coffee has been recommending the Tech-Bar to the roaster’s busier wholesale café partners for the last two years. Peter tells BeanScene the quality of coffee the machine provides, its reliability, and the customer appeal have been game changing.
“Hospitality is all about being reliable and there when your customers need you. These machines have modern systems and maintain a fresh water flow to the front of the head,” Peter says.
“The maintenance has been very easy, which is very important as a café and a roaster. You don’t want any disruption of service. There’s nothing worse than telling a customer ‘no’ when they ask for their coffee.”
San Pedro supplies coffee to a small chain in the Melbourne CBD called 365 Food Store, which has particularly enjoyed the benefits of the Tech-Bar.
“They installed a Tech-Bar in their third store. They were so impressed that they wanted it in their first two as well. We helped get it in one of them and the volume of coffee they sold jumped by about 50 per cent. So, we installed it in their other café and a fourth one they opened as well,” Peter says.
“It does make a difference and the volume of sales does increase. I think customers like going somewhere that has something new, and that takes its coffee seriously.”
Another early adopter of the Tech-Bar was Calvino Coffee, which operates several coffee shops along Victoria’s highways, where it faces stiff competition. Co-owner Bill Hudson says Tech-Bar has offered the five venues in which it’s installed a massive point of difference.
“The first store we put it in was unbelievable. We’re in service centres where there are also McDonald’s, Oliver’s, and the service centre’s automatic machines serving coffee. It’s fairly competitive, but the sales were growing by 20 per cent month-on-month,” Bill says.
“I spoke to the Operations Manager and she said it’s because while they’re working, they’re constantly engaging with the customer and giving them a good experience. They’re doing more than just serving them a cup of coffee.”
When Bill took over Calvino Coffee about a decade ago, he expected the freeway location would mean having almost only one-off customers. However, he says roughly 40 per cent are regulars, showing the importance of building long-term relationships.
“In a busy coffee shop, often your staff might hide behind the coffee machine and not make eye contact with the customers. That’s not a problem here,” Bill says.
“If people walk in and see a queue for coffee, but you acknowledge they’re there and will get to them as fast as you can, they’ll be more willing to wait. If you hide behind the coffee machine, maybe not.”
On a regular day, Calvino Coffee’s busier stores will serve up to 1500 cups per day, making consistency and performance extra vital.
“The standard coffee machine has one boiler for three heads, so if something goes wrong with the boiler, the whole system chucks in the towel. Whereas with this machine, you can keep going,” Bill says.
“But if an issue does come up, I can call John and a technician will be there that afternoon.”
CMT’s John says the Tech-Bar has quickly built momentum since it made its debut in 2018. Other successful cafés to feature the Tech-Bar include iBean in the Docklands, Melbourne Airport, and Marvel Stadium in Victoria, and Hennessy Coffee and Northern Beaches Hospital in New South Wales.
The machine has seen interest from overseas, however, with the Tech-Bar well established in Melbourne, CMT’s next step is putting it in more hands of the Sydney coffee community, with a few in the pipeline for 2020.
“A lot of cafés today are scared to lose business to the guys across the road, and sometimes, it’s because they don’t have that relationship with the customer,” John says.
“Now with Tech-Bar, you can expose everything, giving it that clean look and see customers when they walk in. You can pull that wall down.”
For more information, visit www.coffeemachinetechnologies.com.au/tech-bar or contact (+613) 9335 2293
This article appears in the August 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.