Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

cafe x

Heard the one about the robot barista?

Man walks into a coffee bar and says, “Waiter, coffee, black, no sugar.”

How anyone can drink coffee without milk, cream or sugar is beyond our understanding of human taste buds, but anyway…

A robot barista would not be making such judgments, and would serve up the coffee just as the man who walked into the bar had ordered it.

It might take a few years, but sooner or later, you will be served some drink or food somewhere by a robot. 

cafe x robot

But if you want it to happen sooner, you could pop into Cafe X, which has just opened branches in San Francisco, in the US, and in Hong Kong, on the other side of the world.

Cafe X employs small robots – manufactured by Mitsubishi – to make the coffee, and according to a report in Wired, the “robot barista makes a dang good latte”.

Established by Henry Hu, Cafe X has raised $5 million in venture-capital funding, and a Thiel Fellowship last year.

Hu, CEO, took what he knew about industrial robots used in automaking factories and decided to put them to making coffee. And he says he wonders what other uses robots could be put to.

Cafe X Technologies unveiled its robotic café in its first US Location in San Francisco about a week ago.

Its unique selling point, perhaps, is its claim to be able to serve coffee “in seconds” – which is good if you’re in a hurry.

Cafe X Technologies says it combines machine learning and robotics, aiming to eliminate the variabilities that bog down today’s coffee experience.

And the company says it is solving for the “time and quality compromises that consumers are forced to make with daily coffee rituals”.

Working closely with local coffee roaster partners, Cafe X claims it can “consistently serve its customers in seconds” with a focus on delivering beverages that taste exactly how the coffee roaster intended.

The inaugural machine is located in downtown San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center, a highly trafficked area that will be the blueprint for future Cafe X locations.

In partnership with WMF, a leading international manufacturer of fully automatic coffee machines, Cafe X Technologies has developed a fully automated robotic café that integrates hardware and software which blend the functionality of baristas and specialty coffee preparation methods.

Cafe X sets itself apart by removing the on-site wait time, the potential for preparation error, and the unexpected variability, setting a new standard for automation technology and the specialty coffee service industry.

henry hu cafe x
Henry Hu, CEO, Cafe X

“I’ve long been a big coffee consumer and there’s never a guaranteed seamless experience,” says Hu.

“In today’s world, you have two options for getting a cup of coffee: you’re either in and out with something subpar or you’re waiting in a 15-minute line for a great cappuccino. I started Cafe X to eliminate that inherent compromise and give people access to a tasty cup of coffee consistently and conveniently.”

Customers can order customized espresso-based beverages on the spot at the ordering kiosk or they can download the Cafe X app onto their mobile device to order in advance.

Once the beverage is ready, customers use the touch screens on the robotic café to type in a four-digit order number which is either sent via text message or displayed on the Cafe X mobile app for iOS and Android.

The Mitsubishi robot arm will then identify the customer’s drink from the waiting stations and deliver it to the customer within seconds.

“This won’t replace baristas or the coffee shop experience that so many people have come to love – we don’t aim to do that,“ says Hu. “What we’re offering is the best possible experience for people who are looking for consistent specialty coffee to-go.”

Cafe X has formed unique partnerships with local roasters who share similar values of delivering premium coffee the way they intended.

It works with its roasters to source specific premium ingredients and create unique drinks that are programed into the automated coffee systems within the robotic café.

Cafe X currently works with the following coffee roasters:

  • AKA Coffee: Based in Oakland, California and specializing in a range of delicate and vibrant single origins along with a spectrum of blends thoughtfully roasted to develop each of their intended flavor profiles.
  • Verve Coffee Roasters: Critically acclaimed and based in Santa Cruz, Verve is bridging the gap in the coffee experience from seed to cup.
  • Peet’s Coffee: A Berkeley based specialty coffee roaster and retailer.

“There’s an entire segment of the consumer population that’s not buying coffee because it doesn’t fit into their present moment,” says John Laird CEO of AKA Roasters, “We’re truly excited to partner with the Cafe X team to expand to those customers we might not otherwise reach.”

Menu prices start at $2.25 for an 8 oz cup and will vary depending on customer’s coffee bean selection which includes single origin options.