The Clover 1s is the latest version of the Coffee Equipment Company's professional brew coffee maker for cafes and restaurants. This heavy (110lb), expensive (US$11K), and beautiful hunk of brushed steel is designed to brew a perfect cup of filtered coffee in just 40 seconds, making it possible for every customer to get the freshest cup of their favorite coffee within moments of ordering it. Originally launched in 2004, the Clover was designed by a small but passionate group of coffee-drinking engineers in Seattle (but you probably already guessed that) and has quickly become a fixture in the finest coffee houses in North America. It runs on a 240V AC circuit and is roughly 1ft wide by 2ft high and 2ft deep. Like any stationary robot, it requires dedicated plumbing connections to take in water and output waste.
The operator (typically a barista) deposits a measured quantity of ground coffee into a recessed brewing chamber on top of the machine and dials in the exact temperature (180F to 210F) and brew time (ten seconds to five minutes). The water is heated to the precise brewing temperature specified before it shoots out of a chrome spigot positioned over the brewing chamber. The barista then stirs the grounds and hot water in the chamber to ensure proper extraction. Unlike most coffee machines, the coffee does not start dripping into the cup the moment the water first hits the grounds. A vacuum press mechanism beneath the brewing chamber prevents any seepage until the brewing time has elapsed, at which point the coffee is sucked through a 70-micron sieve and dispensed into a cup or mug resting on the front of the machine. To dispose of the spent grounds, the entire chamber rises up to the top of the machine, exposing a puck of damp grounds that is easily scraped off of the filter/sieve with a squeegee. The remainder of the cleanup process is handled by "brewing" a cup of hot water through the machine. The Clover 1s could be accurately (but unfairly) described as a ridiculously expensive coffeemaker that doesn't grind coffee, can't make espresso, and barely cleans up after itself, but in its defense, what it can do is make a damn fine cup of coffee, exactly how you want it, with perfect consistency time after time.
Although it sounds like yet another over-engineered shiny object, the features offered by the Clover 1s benefit the customers as well as the cafes. Coffee stored in urns or air pots goes stale quickly, resulting in wasted coffee that can quickly add up to a big expense for the cafe. In some extreme cases, the amount of air pot coffee that goes to waste in just a couple of years could pay for a Clover. Even if wasted pots of coffee are not a significant problem, there's also the problem of limited choice for customers, since there are rarely more than two or three different pots available at one time, and one of those pots is usually decaf. Brewing coffee with the Clover 1s shifts the process to an on-demand model that not only eliminates wasted coffee, but also gives the customer their choice of any coffee bean in the shop. Over time, an attentive barista can also tweak the brewing profile (time, temperature, or both) for certain repeat customers to better match their preferences.
Did I mention its Ethernet port? Since the Clover 1s knows what it's making and when, it is capable of transmitting a stream of data to the cafe's central server for detailed analysis. Rather than engaging in crude statistical sampling, or - even worse - asking baristi to keep detailed logs of what they've been serving all day, cafe management can use the precise data provided by CloverNet to gain a better understanding of their brew coffee business, spot trends, and nimbly adjust to serve their customers better.
Starbucks started using the Clover in a few of their cafes in late 2007 to early 2008 as part of a company-wide campaign to return to their roots, improve overall quality, and experiment with reduced price coffee drinks they hoped would lure customers back to their cafes. On March 19, 2008, during the 17th annual Starbucks shareholders' meeting, Starbucks Chairman/President/CEO Howard Schultz announced the company's plan to acquire Coffee Equipment Company and gradually outfit Starbucks cafes with Clover machines. The acquisition triggered an immediate backlash among some independent cafes who were largely satisfied with their own Clover machines, but weren't willing to support Starbucks by purchasing Clover parts and service. Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland was not only one of CEC's very first Clover customers, but they were also among the first to publicly abandon their five Clover machines after learning of the buyout.