The Rise Of The Bean-To-Cup Brewer

Aug. 7, 2015

Bean-to-cup brewers are satisfying many office coffee service (OCS) needs. For consumers, bean-to-cup brewers fulfill a desire for hot beverages to be fresh, gourmet and single-serve. For operators, they offer a product that is generally lower in price than single-cup cartridges, providing better profit margins. Many of today’s bean-to-cup machines have sleek designs with easy-to-use touchscreens and make more than a cup of coffee. In fact, some come with refrigerated dairy components and are equipped with technology to relay data in real time. The challenge, some operators find, is discovering the right brewer and how to create a profitable opportunity.

Customization

Consumers’ desire for a customized cup of coffee has helped the single-cup industry, including bean-to-cup brewers, mature. Bean-to-cup brewers — which freshly grind whole beans that sit in a hopper atop the system — generally make a single cup of coffee, which can be further adapted to the user’s liking. The brewers allow customers and operators to experiment with different beans, too. Even with a premium, specialty bean, operators have been finding the profit margins to be better on bean-to-cup machines. That means offering customers a quality hot beverage at a cheaper price.

And while the brewers are not cheap, the customized, specialty hot beverages they create are similar to those employees can buy from a coffee shop — only enjoyed for free, in most cases.
“As a matter of fact, I don’t have one where the customer pays for a cup,” said Jim Carbone, C.O.O. at The Classic Group and Truebrew Coffee & Tea Outfitters. “And it’s good for us because we can have tiers of pricing and it’s profitable.

But with good coffee comes high volume use, Carbone says. “Bean-to-cup brewers can be difficult to maintain.” Carbone has one client with 25 machines across their campus and so he dedicates one employee to those machines to keep them maintained. It’s about experimenting to determine the most profitable brewing method while offering a taste that consumers want, Carbone says. And though bean-to-cup can be a challenge to maintain, the benefits are worth it.

Chuck Walton, co-owner of Ace Vending agrees. “We’re trying to find what’s the right mix; what’s the right type of equipment that makes sense in each location,” said Walton. “There is a population of operators who are willing to do that kind of testing, to stick their neck out in some regards, to bring something in for the longer-term opportunity.”

And that includes offering bean-to-cup brewers that may take a little maintenance, in order to appeal to consumer trends.

High-tech

Although many bean-to-cup brewers feature a modern touchscreen look on the outside, some also provide another high-tech feature for operators: telemetry. This telemetry option allows for information to be sent back to the operator in real-time, including usage, maintenance issues, etc. In the end, it’s all about consumer experience. “I think that’s what customers and clients want to see,” said Scott Berman, vice president of refreshment services at Canteen. “Countertop bean-to-cup machines with high definition touchscreens, national branding, milk cooler options and even vacuum extraction. Both the inside and outside of these units are being upgraded to give a better user experience and more customizable hot beverages.”