Designing for delight

Navigating the complexities of coffee innovation

image of Spark employee

Ruud Schatorjé

There are two things that really get us going in the morning. First, the anticipation of developing incredible innovations, and second, a good old cup of coffee. Wouldn't it be fantastic to combine these two passions?

Well, we have done exactly that. Through numerous projects over the past few years, we have delved into the aromatic wonderland of coffee, uncovering captivating insights sip by sip, and delivering ground(s) breaking innovations.

Cultural immersion for user-centered design

Coffee culture varies across the world, from local coffee resellers in the Netherlands to popular coffee shops in Australia and traditional cezve brewing in Turkey. As designers, we immerse ourselves in these diverse worlds to create products that exceed user expectations. We have witnessed the impact of factors like professional focus and cultural backgrounds on flavor preferences and essential functional requirements. For instance, the Instore Grinder for Douwe Egberts prioritized speed and ease of use, while the La Marzocco straight-in project focused more on consistency and reliability.

Managing the unpredictable

In our endeavors within the brewing industry, we have learned one thing above all: coffee often surprises us. Even with our experience, we cannot predict exactly what will happen during the initial test runs of a new design (why else would it be called test-runs). However, we have gained valuable insights into potential occurrences and factors to consider. By incorporating flexibility into our prototypes and test models, we ensure that we can handle and efficiently convert any challenge that comes our way into valuable knowledge. This approach results in a product that is not merely a fortunate discovery we partially understand, but one that we can control and fine-tune to ensure a successful launch.

Perfection lies in details

For an award-winning barista, having complete control over every step of the process, from delightful beans to the perfect brew, is of vital importance. Their focus lies in consistency, repeatability, and adjustability. On the other hand, as a customer grinding freshly bought beans for home use, one desires a fail-safe guided process that is easy, quick, and straightforward.

Regardless of the context, the key to a successful freshly brewed innovation lies in mastering the nuances. During extensive testing of our prototypes, we discovered that no two types of coffee are alike. We had to taste a lot of poorly brewed coffee to fine-tune our process for optimal consistency and repeatability.

While one type of coffee might make us feel confident in our decisions, the next batch would bring us back to reality, highlighting areas for improvement. Did you know that grinding coffee can create an electrostatic charge? We didn't until we ground an entire bag of coffee and saw none of it end up where it was supposed to. By designing with unexpected scenarios in mind, we were able to tweak and modify our designs, gaining a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms, resulting in a reliable and efficient product.

The final sip

Developing products for baristas, whether at home or in professional settings, is an incredible experience. The world of coffee combines culture and technology beautifully, embracing innovation wholeheartedly. However, it also presents significant challenges, often requiring countless cups of less-than-stellar brews before achieving that desired liquid sunshine. Over the years, we have accumulated invaluable experience in developing coffee-related products, and as you can sense from reading this, we are eager to continue building upon it.

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