Coffee robot now serving passengers at SFO

Baristas beware: You may be on the chopping block as automated coffee kiosks take off.

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If you're traveling through San Francisco for work or pleasure, you might want to stop by Terminal 3 for a glimpse at the future of coffee. Briggo, an Austin-based technology company, has installed a gourmet automated coffee kiosk at SFO, and it will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any on-site staff.

Automated coffee machines, of course, aren't a new concept. You've long been able to shove a few quarters into the vending machine and have lava-hot coffee splash down into a polystyrene cup.

But Briggo represents a leap forward in coffee technology, and it claims to deliver the full-service coffee house experience while eliminating a costly part of the equation: Namely, the barista. The company has been perfecting its automation technology for some time. We wrote about them back in 2013, when its robotic system was coming out of beta testing.

So alluring is the automate coffee concept that Briggo actually won't be SFO's first coffee robot. In 2017, a robotic cafe concept called Cafe X opened to a lot of hype. Unlike Briggo, Cafe X utilized everyday equipment operated by a robotic arm. It felt more like a novelty than a realistic coffee house replacement.

In contrast, Briggo is a fully-contained unit purpose-built to create custom whole-bean blends and add fresh dairy and syrups at a rate of up to 100 cups per hour. That volume is appealing in high-traffic, highly caffeinated environments like airports or shopping centers. 

"Speed, quality, and consistency are at an absolute premium when it comes to airport amenities, which makes Briggo the perfect coffee experience for one of the top-rated airports in the world," says Briggo CEO Kevin Nater. "We're honored to bring Connected Coffee to such a vibrant, tech-savvy city as we quickly expand our presence throughout the Bay Area and beyond."

Taking a page from brick-and-mortar coffee chains like Starbucks, Briggo offers a mobile app that enables customers to order ahead. Drinks can also be ordered via a touchscreen console.

Briggo also has a robotic cafe in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and plans quick national expansion from here, and Fast Company recently named the team one of the World's Most Innovative Companies.

If you like your human barista, it might be time to give them a big tip. With everyone from McDonald's to various grab-and-dash concepts automating the teller experience, there's little doubt coffee chains won't be too far behind.