30 May 2014

Starbucks Coffee | Introducing the Clover Brewing System


Like most of us, I drink a lot of coffee. Aside from ensuring that it’s strong and bitter, I don’t often give much thought as to how it’s made - the process surely hasn’t changed much in a hundred years, most likely with good reason. So when Starbucks said at the London Coffee Festival that they had a new (and very expensive) machine that made coffee differently and ‘better’, the skeptic in me decided that here was a marketing gimmick designed to extract more money from customers for the same product.

A month later, I visited the Vigo Street Starbucks in London to see this ‘revolutionary’ machine in action. Vigo Street is a flagship Starbucks - one of three in London - and the bespoke designer wallpaper and ornately carved wooden ceiling, fully restored from its days as a Turkish bath, attest to this. That said, if you’ve not been told you’re unlikely to study the wall or ceiling intently enough to realise. They should probably have a sign. 


As this was a demonstration, I was able to dodge the snaking 9.00am queue and walk to the front (this work has it’s perks!). Sat on the counter was the machine in question. Imagine if Apple designed a coffee machine: a large chrome box, sleek, spotless, and intriguing, although given it’s price tag of around £20,000 and rarity (only three in the UK), it was strange to see it tucked slightly out of sight near the milk and napkins.

It’s called the Clover Brewing System. Using vacuum-press technology, similar to a cafeteria, but machine driven and set-up in reverse - this system sucks water through ground coffee and a dense mesh filter to give a cup of coffee that’s as clean as possible. It’s a futuristic operation that involves smoothly moving chrome parts and that most advanced of technologies for cleaning, a rubber squeegee. The child inside me wanted to order another coffee just to see it in action, but for all the impressive theatrics, was the result worthwhile?

With a barista on hand to talk us through the four-step coffee tasting process, a large French press for comparison, and a selection of baked goods, we started to drink and the difference was noticeable immediately. The filter of the Clover system had stripped the oils from the coffee and left a cup that tasted ‘clean’ and ‘light’; no coffee clinging to the inside of your month and the ‘thickness’ of the coffee had vanished, leaving an experience not unlike drinking coffee flavoured water. And that’s a good thing; no need for the standard glass of water or piece of chewing gum to wash the coffee left-overs away.


After we finished the tasting I compared two cups side-by-side. The French press did have a distinct oily sheen glistening on the surface of the coffee, while the Clover had no visible oil at all. Proof that the system does what it claims to do, and although not everyone will have the luxury of comparing two different cups of coffee, the £2-3 increase in price doesn’t seem to be putting people off giving it a try, with tales from the barista of customers walking a good distance just to seek out a cup. Then again, this is a stones throw from Mayfair where price is definitely not an issue, so it’s unlikely that a Clover machine will be replacing all regular filter coffees across the country, or even the capital, any time soon. Even so, the Vigo Street store is worth a trip, if only for the decor, and you’ll have the chance to try a coffee that, if the price of the machine can be reduced, could become a more common sight in the future.

You can watch a video from Wired.com of the Clover in action, and learn more about the process on the Starbucks website. Has anyone else tried Clover yet or visited the Vigo Street store? I’d be interested to know what other tasters thought... - Nik

You can find Nik at - Conrad's BeerTwitter | Instagram

8 comments:

  1. How interesting! I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but I think that I would try a cup as well. It sounds like such an enlightening and fun experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might not notice the difference if you're not a coffee drinker, but definitely try out Vigo Street Starbucks for the amazing ceiling and deco they have in the place.

      Delete
  2. i haven't had a cup of joe since 1997 so i cannot relate :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I thought London was all about TEA .. my beloved tea <3
    But well, i have to admit once in a while I've sold my soul to a dirty starbuck's frapuccino

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's probably more coffee than tea in London these days. Spoils the tourists vision of the city, I'm sure...but it keeps those of us who live here awake for work! ;-)

      Delete
  4. with my new eating habits, i'm learning more and more about how much processing goes into what we eat. i don't drink coffee but i feel obliged to have a taste!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely do. Less (no) oil in this coffee, and that must be a good thing!

      Delete
  5. Anonymous15:31

    I like the clover for some coffees. However, I still prefer French press for others, especially highly acidic ones as the oils found in a cup of French press coffee will help balance out acidity. More than anything, though, I like what the clover machine brings to Starbucks shelves---artisan coffees. Single origin Peaberries and different methods of removing the coffee cherry (which imparts a different flavor) that you won't typically find with the more mass-marketed varieties of their beans. That is truly where the Clover shines; getting a grande Pike on the clover will just cost more dough for the same mediocre cup.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to comment. Please leave your URL so we can visit your site.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...