Cold brew and new coffee tech

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This week [retail bytes] explores the latest developments when it comes to our three main addictions: retail, technology… and coffee!

No rush for cash: 160% growth the in use of cashless payments was reported by Visa, as plastic fantastic is leading the rapid shift away from ‘real money’. Coffee shops are also benefiting from our new enthusiasm for cashless – it’s massively cheaper not to mention more convenient to run a small business where the frothy cappuccino is paid for via card. Our favourite London coffee shop, Browns of Brockley, have actually banned cash altogether. To get your hands on the hot cup of your favourite Tanzanian blend there, you need to bring plastic. Sweden, eat your heart out – the future is in digital Peckham all the way!

Red Bull or nitrogen coffee? “Coffee is what we drink till it’s respectable to drink wine” is what the caffeine addicts say. However, in Edinburgh it has just become perfectly possible to indulge in stronger coffee-based drinks till well past midnight. Nitro Cold Brew Martini is only one of the drinks based on Cold Brew that may well replace your Red Bull. Nitro does what it says on the tin – the concoction is explosive enough to give your heart a flutter. Worth a trip!

Say ciao to your handsome baristasCaffé Culture is the yearly coffee tech London meet-up for the thousands of independent café owners from all over Europe. This year Scanomat from Denmark has made a splash by offering Top Brewer, a stylish curved copper finish tap for the self-service of cold brew drinks. The actual coffee-making machine part is hidden under the counter, so the delicate curved tap is all customers can see. The best part is that it offers an iPad-based menu with options for the strength of your brew, size of the cup etc., so what you get is truly bespoke.

No appy customers at Starbucks: Starbucks lets their coffee fans order from the office, so the freshly made cup is waiting for them when they get to the café. However, it causes endless drama as the baristas are occupied with office orders and can’t serve customers who were already in the café, right in front of them. This has led to coffee angst and coffee rages (a malaise of the modern world). To solve the problem, Starbucks is rumoured to be setting up basement coffee-making stations, but we think consumers would still prefer the self-service in the main space. Scanomat has developed the full monty of all coffee options, including a frothy cappuccino. No tattoo and no beard, this automated barista can make up to 350 cups per day. Whistling noises can be added as an option.

Guilt-less coffee cups? Ever since Dustin Hoffmann was advised in The Graduate that ‘there was future in plastics’, we have followed the tangled web of land-fill-bound plastic coffee cups. So far recyclability has escaped the humble cup, and our daily sin of coffee has led to increased landfill impact – worse than the eponymous Nike sneakers. However, new plastics BioMe, developed by York University with Bioplastics allow the cup to retain temperature and protect the inside, while still being fully compostable thanks to a clever use of eucalyptus. Whatever it is, we welcome this step in the right direction.

New shows: “Did you know that your robot can hum Pink Floyd?” As we replace our barista with self-service coffee-making machines, it’s time to stop and pay tribute to Douglas Adams’s future forecasting ability and marvel at the progress in robotics. Check out Music, Machines and The Sounds of Science Fiction – this month at the Barbican.