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Bean vs Instant office coffee vending machines

Bean vs Instant
Golden Milano bean to cup coffee vending machine

Keeping it real!

In my last post I mentioned how easy it was for me/us (delete as applicable!) to get trapped in the thinking of the past.

While reminiscing on all that has changed, and being in the coffee trade, I got to thinking that one massive area of “past-meeting-present” is the “Nestle vending machine call”. It goes something like this:

Caller: “Hello is that Frontier Coffee?”

Us: “Yes it is…how can we be of assistance?”

Caller: “I’m looking for a Nestle coffee machine. You know the one where you press a button and get a cup of coffee?”

Us: “Sure we do”. Now of course, not all coffee vending machines are Nestle machines, just like not all vacuum cleaners are Hoovers. “We have a range of coffee machines – were you looking for a coffee machine that uses instant coffee or bean coffee?”

Caller: ” Er…” and now comes one of two responses…either ” Um, don’t they all make instant coffee?” or “don’t they all make coffee from coffee beans?”

Us: “No not really…you see there are two types of coffee machine…let me explain….”

We then go on to explain that in the good ol’ days, vending machine coffee was based on instant or soluble coffee. The reason: no-one had invented the automatic brew unit that could use real coffee beans! So most of us grew up in the office around a kettle, click/click machine or if we were reaaaally lucky… an instant coffee vending machine… avec chocolat!

Then came the “coffee culture”…(bless you Starbucks) …and suddenly instant coffee wasn’t going to do it for some anymore. So out came the “bean-to-cup” coffee vending machines! These were so radical at first that some office folk would laugh at us when they saw us loading coffee beans into them. “Nice try” they’d say “trying to fool us that this machine works with coffee beans! We all know it’s <Nescafe/Ricoffy/other coffee> and the beans are just for show.”

But they weren’t. Powerful minds had done for coffee what the Wright brothers had done for flying and invented the automatic coffee brewer. Pressing that button gets 7 to 14g of beans ground and dropped into a brew unit where hot water and pressure combine to manufacture the fix we desire each morning! Having done so, the coffee grounds are ejected into an internal waste tray. Brilliant! A real, real, real espresso in the office…and usually for free because South African companies appreciate staff more than paperclips (sorry Dilbert!).

So good have these machines become that even Starbucks uses automatic machines in most stores to remove the variability that their staff introduce into the manual process of espresso based coffee making. The only real difference would then be the steamed fresh milk as opposed to the powdered milks used in a vending machine. That said, the good news is that even these powders have been getting more like the taste of real milk over the past year or two. New formulation cappuccino powders are now so close to the real milk taste that you might get to believe you are in a cubicle at the local coffee shop!

So no, not all coffee vending machines are the same, and getting a decent fix at the office is no longer a daydream to be interrupted by the boss screaming in your left ear! Be sure to decide if your office is “instant” or “bean”. Our advice, unashamedly stolen from those great Windhoek Lager ads, “keep it real!”

The copyright to all and/or parts of this article is held by Frontier Coffee. It may be freely copied and reproduced as long as this is in its entirety and that the source is acknowledged as being “Frontier Coffee Website at

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