BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Cafe Latte with a pump of hazelnut? Steaming concoctions like that require the human touch. Right? A professional barista? Nah – that’s so last year. Meet the Coffee Robot.
The automated coffee grinder-brewer-barista is the brainchild of two college sophomores from Bakersfield. Avya Shukla and Sanat Sharma, buddies since their days at Stockdale High School, aren’t waiting for advanced business degrees to strike out with entrepreneurial ambition. They’re taking a swing at success right here and now.
“The coffee industry is one of the biggest markets in the United States,” Shukla said, “and it’s about time that we upped our coffee game and got rid of these old espresso machines sitting in hospitals, sitting at retail centers and bring on something new, something exciting.”
“You know what?” Sharma said. “I feel like all the Starbucks should be worried, I don’t want to say it, but our coffee just might be a little better.”
The Coffee Robot’s shell and robotic arm are manufactured in China, The two company founders attach the coffee-making equipment inside and program the software. They’ve got several more of the 7-foot-tall units on order.
The logo? Selected from a batch of suggestions generated by AI.
The beans? Procured by humans directly from a Costa Rican grower.
The business partners have been playing well together for a while. Shukla, who attends UC Irvine, and Sharma, who attends Cal State Bakersfield, were the league champion tennis doubles team at Stockdale as juniors. So teamwork comes naturally.
But they’re also each other’s biggest rivals.
“Even though he’s my doubles partner,” Sharma said, “I’ve never competed with someone more than Avya.”
Their Coffee Robot was one of the big hits at this month’s International Deli Dairy Bakery Association Expo in Anaheim, where trade show attendees were lining up before the Coffee Robot even went on duty.
“All of our hard work that we put into our coffee itself, going to the trade show definitely confirmed that our hard work is going to be paying off,” Sharma said.
“We had some pretty big important people coming up to us,” Shukla said. “Like the vice president of the whole show, saying we were the hit of the convention.”
What’s next for the entrepreneurs?
Although they’ve already had offers to franchise out their Coffee Robots, the young entrepreneurs are going to play it close to the vest and deploy multiple units in hospital lounges and similar public spaces.
Baristas beware. Automation is coming for you, too. Not overnight, but perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future.