Apr 4, 2023 - Food and Drink

Inside Blank Street’s barista training lab

The Eversys espresso machine sits on the left of the counter with cups, lids and syrups to the right in Blank Street's barista training lab.

Blank Street Coffee’s barista training lab is in the back of its Boylston Street store. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Steph here. A high-quality coffee chain that has taken over New York City is expanding its footprint in Boston. And it’s all made possible with its automated espresso machine.

  • The folks at Blank Street walked me through the process last week in their barista training lab at the new Boylston Street shop.

Driving the news: The Boylston location is Blank Street’s third in the Boston area.

The intrigue: Co-founder Vinay Menda says having the Eversys espresso machine across all its stores keeps the taste and quality of the espresso consistent.

How it works: The Eversys machine extracts the coffee beans and grinds them at the push of a button, says Mike Thurnauer, assistant general manager of training and operations, who put me through the training lab.

  • Baristas just have to collect the espresso and, if an order calls for it, steam the milk.
  • Bonus points if you can fashion some latte art on top. Mine turned into an amorphous blob, and then I spilled it.
What a fail. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Menda says the technology reduces the workload for the baristas, enabling them to spend more time interacting with customers.

  • “We want to focus a lot more on customer experience, building personal connections and being a brand ambassador versus having to do all these manual steps,” Menda says.

Yes, but: Blank Street’s reliance on the automated Eversys, and its venture capital funding, has prompted criticisms from some who see the chain bumping up against the hand-crafted, independent coffee movement, as the New York Times described it.

  • The stores typically have just two baristas, a smaller team than what you might see at Starbucks or some Dunkin’ stores, though Menda says Blank Street pays more than some other stores, usually between $20 and $30 an hour, depending on the city.

Menda says it’s easier to build a connection with the baristas at Blank Street when they don’t have to make espresso drinks from scratch.

  • “I’m not too worried about criticism because we want to focus on our customers, our baristas,” Menda says. “If they’re happy, everyone’s happy.”

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