The one thing I have missed the most during quarantine is going to cafes because I have now realized that someone else making coffee for me is a joy I took for granted. Baristas often aren’t respected enough for their craft and maybe it is so because people can’t visually see their process. So Starbucks has redesigned the bulky espresso machine to a slim, sleek tower that uses the bottom-fill method for a smoother espresso and experience!
The Phantom Espresso was born out of a need to make the experience a consumer has with the barista better. You tend to love what you eat or drink more if you have an appreciation for the person making it. The traditionally large espresso machines are obtrusive to the craft and become a barrier between the craftsmen of the beverage and the curious coffee drinkers. By moving the espresso engine below the counter and incorporating bottom fill espresso glasses it enabled the bar to become more open up the bar and let the customers enjoy the brewing process, especially for the seasonal and limited-edition drinks! From the customer POV, it has a tower that supports a cantilevered horizontal bar that holds the espresso glasses. The fluted-vase tower is the bean funnel which leads to the brewing of the coffee. The ends of the bar can be twisted 180 degrees to pour the espresso into the cup and then to be auto-rinsed. The milk steaming happens under the counter but the control dials for foam and temperature are on the top. In front of the tower, the team has placed bean hoppers and sensory bowls invite customers to get closer to the beans, putting quality ingredients before them to see and smell.
The bottom-fill process is unconventional in cafes, especially global chains like Starbucks. But it was chosen for the redesign because it produces a clean, sweet flavor due to gravity keeping bitter particulates suspended in line. The tactile treatments like the knurled bar handles create intuitive touchpoints for the barista and the appearance of the espresso is like magic for the customer. Phantom is easy to clean and the partner-facing angled grille hides the mess from the customer’s view while excess liquids are channeled directly into a sink basin below for drainage. When you see the crema fill up the cup the next time you go into a cafe, be sure to thank your local hero who keeps you caffeinated in these complex times!
Designers: Starbucks Industrial Design, Starbucks Equipment Development, and Thermoplan AG