Starbucks Coffee announced today that they had acquired Coffee Equipment Company, maker of the much vaunted Clover coffee brewing machine.
You may remember that they were the trendy single cup brewer that all the cool kids were putting in their shops in 2007 (for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 apiece). Stumptown put four in its Stark Street location; be sure to ask for their Starbucks crafted coffee when you go in for your next cup. Oops! I’ve now been told that Stumptown will be removing the machines. Let me get this right: a month ago, they were touted to be some of the best coffee machines in the world. This week they aren’t good enough anymore. Isn’t nature amazing?
Now then.. what was next? Oh, that’s right; halogen coffee pots. They will come and go too.
Starbucks purchase of Clover has gotten lots of press attention. One thing I didn’t know, is all the machines could talk to each other over the internet, comparing settings and whatnot. Some coffee houses were pretty upset that this data was now going to be in Starbucks hand’s. The drama! Late last week, Clover issued a press release saying they would not give Starbucks that data.
From The NY Times:
CloverNet is a system that automatically sent information from any Clover connected to the CloverNet. As a Coffee Equipment press release says about it, CloverNet “allows users to program specific recipes (brew time, dose and temperature) for all the coffees they carry.”
So baristas “simply select a recipe from the Clover interface, and are more easily able to brew their customers a perfect cup of specialty coffee.” In other words, after a cafe tested and tasted their way to satisfaction with a formula for a particular coffee on their Clover, they could create a recipe for it and share their recipe with other Clover users via CloverNet, to help each other highlight the best way to brew particular coffees on the machine.
Frankly, I don’t care what technology Starbucks has; until they do a decent roast, lousy coffee is going to taste like lousy coffee.
I don’t get why they are removing the machines. Are Clover machines too “mainstream” now, or is there actually a legitimate reason?
i suspect whatever forces are at work (and no doubt there are many of them), i cant help but believe part of it is business/political/marketing. (and dont get me wrong, i have not given up my belief that stumptown operates based on principals more than most businesses.)
starbucks is a huge threat, and small roasters need to keep one step ahead, so it makes sense. and i dont mean necessarily ahead in technology — but also PR, association, smoke and mirrors, and whatever else small(er) business needs to stay alive.
all that said, it would have taken some real chutzpah to *keep* the machines if they were really so good, and stand by your choice of quality/technology. the political downside of that is, of course, one could argue you are then financially (and otherwise) endorsing the parent company. so i think its wise to not do this. kinda like dumping use of a product if the company making it merges with some bigger company who makes weapons and you dont want that association, say.
It does make me wonder if the machines they removed are for sale on craig’s list. Will a Clover fit in my kitchen? Will Starbucks issue an arrest warrant for anyone caught using Courier in a Clover?
Starbucks is not a huge threat. If it hadn’t been for them we wouldn’t have Stumptown. If one looks at the history of independent roasters and cafes, they would see that the number of business in existence has spiked since the inception of Starbucks.
Both businesses serve a similar product, but totally different in quality. That is where Stumptown and many of our favorite cafe’s excel. The little guy will always have the potential to serve a better product than any monolith. And in that way, their existence is secure.
Food Dude says
I’d like to think, with all this restructuring, Starbucks might even start adding butter to their pastries again, and let us worry about what we want to put into our bodies.
Starbucks is a good coffee company, but they are a better marketing company. I feel the purchase of Clover will benefit them by re-focusing them on coffee in the public eye and they will be able to “market” origin coffees much like the independents do now. Will they be of the same quality? Will the staff understand the complexity of Clover settings and brewing principles? Time will tell i guess. There are more uneducated consumers than there are educated ones. People will be able to get a $2.50 cuppa Clover brewed coffee and then Starbucks will be able to sell a crappy lemon poppyseed scone with their new loyalty card.
I don’t think they are trying to compete with the independents. They are more worried about the volume of coffee they are going to lose from McCafe drive-thrus and Dunkin in the in the store shelves. The Clover purchase and loyalty cards become great marketing for Starbucks so the customer remembers what they are all about. They are about quantity. Always beaten by quality.
And lose the “zero trans fats” marketing slogan?! Croissants made with soybean oil…Mmmmm. People who like the coffee and convenience of a Starbucks just make the already lengthy lines a bit shorter at the good coffeehouses.
Good to see Starbuck’s is still all about the employees, though. . .
I am trying to compile a comprehensive list of locations that have Clover machine in place and collect as many recipes as possible. All the data is for public use, just to keep the Clover community going. I started with locations and have quite a few now. Would be great if someone could share recipes as well at http://www.beclover.com