Puqpress automates the coffee tamping process using advanced technology to solve a simple problem and take pressure off the barista.
Jackup rigs are huge ships that weigh tens of thousands of tonnes. Once set up in the middle of the ocean, these behemoths raise themselves above sea level using long and sturdy stilts that shoot down to the ocean floor.
Not many people would think to take this powerful technology and apply it to coffee. But that’s exactly what mechanical engineer Laurens Pluimers did in 2011 with the Puqpress automatic tamper.
“Laurens’ job was to design the stilts for these rigs, so basically he was responsible for stabilising the entire ship. He could see a comparison between stabilising a boat and stabilising a coffee bed,” says Tjeerd Schravendeel, Chief Marketing Officer at Puqpress.
Since its launch, Puqpress has become active in 47 countries. It took a while to catch on globally, but Australia was one of the first countries to embrace the tamper.
“It went quite fast in Australia. It’s a very mature market where everybody knows what a great coffee is, and where such a big part of the industry serves a high-quality cup,” Tjeerd says.
“Cafés sell a lot of coffee and it’s obviously a very important product to them. If a Puqpress will make their team more effective, they feel it’s something they need.”
Despite this, Puqpress saw some friction when it reached the market, at a time when automation was almost taboo in coffee.
“The tamper was like the ‘holy grail’ for the barista. It was such an icon of the craft that no-one in the industry could imagine it was not the best way to do the job. It needed an outsider’s perspective to see how tamping could be improved,” Tjeerd says.
“As Laurens was new to the specialty coffee industry at the time, he just noticed that tamping is quite labour-intensive. It’s a weird task that requires heavy force with high precision and a soft touch. A machine is just more capable of doing this repeatably than a human and Laurens was convinced that automating this part would actually improve the craft.”
Tjeerd adds every person who has worked behind the bar knows the stress of hospitality.
“The line starts to form, printers rattle, and it keeps going. You have all these variables, people want their coffee in different temperatures, types of milk, the list goes on,” he says. “The more pressure there is, the harder it becomes to maintain quality. Now you have a little friend at your side that does the heavy labour for you. So that’s less fatigue not only in your arm, but mentally too.”
Tjeerd says that’s where it becomes interesting.
“People working with coffee do it for a reason, because they like to make beautiful things. They have an eye for detail and are basically advocates for quality. If we can help these guys to do their work more focused and relaxed, that quality will improve, which is the big win for us.” he says.
“We’re believers in semi-automatic solutions, mainly because customers are influenced by a lot more than just their mouth when ordering coffee. A good coffee in the morning, crafted especially for you, has some sort of Disney-feeling to it. So finding the sweet spot between craft and efficiency is a thin line.”
While Puqpress has proved popular with the specialty market, the automatic tamper has also resonated with larger coffee chains, like McCafé and Retail Food Group.
“These guys are doing an amazing job if you look closely at it. If you are able to serve consistent quality with a group that large, it is just admirable. McCafé adopted Puqpress because they could see it means everybody tamps the same. When baristas switch shifts, there isn’t a sudden change in quality, and far less need to dial in the grinder to their own hand,” Tjeerd says.
“Sometimes, making coffee is one of many tasks staff are responsible for, and it needs to be done quickly. If there’s high turnover in staff, it becomes difficult to control and explain these things with each new staff member. These companies know that consistency is king when it comes to awesome coffee making, so they have to do it. Now that is one less thing to think about.”
The success of the automatic tamper has let the company broaden its portfolio. The fourth generation Q1 caters medium-volume venues while the Q2 is designed for high-volume cafés. The Puqpress Mini will be launched during 2020, providing an alternative for low-volume coffee shops that still want to serve consistent quality easily.
Puqpress will also expand its line of under-the-grinder models, aiding workflow and freeing up space on the bar. At the 2020 Melbourne International Coffee Expo, the company will release models compatible with the Mahlkönig E65s and E80 and Fiorenzato F64 and F83.
“We still produce everything in house and each machine is made by hand. That’s where Laurens’ engineering background really helps,” Tjeerd says.
“When we designed the Puqpress, we thought about the entire lifecycle. It’s easy to build and to maintain by our technical partners. There’s an extremely low fault rate which enables us to give a two-year factory warranty, which we think is just the right thing to do.”
While the Puqpress would go on to revolutionise coffee tamping, that was not Laurens’ goal when he built the machine.
“The first Puqpress was used in Laurens’ brother’s café. There was a pretty girl working there who complained to Laurens about her sore arm from tamping all the time. He wanted to impress her and the next day came in with a machine half a metre high that tamped automatically,” Tjeerd says.
“It was big and bulky, but it worked brilliantly. The girl was happy because her arm wasn’t sore anymore, all the employees liked working with it, coffee was tasting the same from different baristas, and the bar was moving faster.
“I still think it is pretty funny that Laurens can literally lift boats that weigh more than 10,000 tonnes out of the water, but decided to build a career out of tamping coffee beds.”
This article appears in the April 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.
For more information, visit www.puqpress.com