Inside Blank Street’s barista training lab
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.
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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