The $12,500 pourover

Philip Morgan

(Readin' time: 1m 48s)

While in Sebastopol for the move, I went to a new coffee shop a few times.

It's called ACRE, their product is wonderful and seemingly ethically produced, and you can order beans from them if you, like me, don't have a bead on a local roaster you like (yet):

On a funny note, I tried some of this local New Mexico Pinon coffee (ñon?category=coffee0) and it was "LOL, who snuck a pound of maple syrup into my coffee when I wasn't looking?" Not my preference.

Anyway, ACRE coffee in Sebastopol has a $12,500 pourover machine.

At an estimated $15/hour barista wage, that machine costs 833.3 hours of barista time, not including operating costs, etc. If a pourover takes (let's estimate) 10 minutes of a Baristas time and this machine cuts that down to 2 minutes, it's a net savings of 8 minutes of barista time per pourover, meaning it'll take at least 6,250 pourovers to pay for the machine.

It's a gorgeous, well-built machine made in Brooklyn. It automates the pouring-water part of the pourover process, and it works quite well.

It has this motorized pouring spout that zooms around to all the active drippers, dispensing hot water in precisely measured and timed amounts. It's really fun to watch.

I asked the owner why he invested in it, and he pretty casually answered that it was to free up his staff to do other tasks. He had this borderline "eh, it's only money, so why not?" vibe as he talked about the investment.

You do *not* want your entire job or business to be on the receiving end of that attitude. :)

In the case of ACRE and their baristas, there's plenty of other stuff for their staff to do, so this $12,500 pourover machine ain't puttin' nobody out of a job.

But maybe it's keeping them from having n+1 baristas working, even during busy times. Maybe it's making the business more profitable?

For sure, the Poursteady machine has mostly commoditized the making of pourover coffees at ACRE by automating the most time-consuming part of the process.

Two points for you to ponder:

  • If we think of this as innovation, do you consider this internal-facing or external-facing innovation? Why?
  • What investments in your business could you leverage in a similar way? Do you consider this a good investment for ACRE? Obviously we don't have all the context here, but knowing what we know: is this the best investment they could have put $12,500 towards?