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Stopping by at Starbucks to kick start your day with a shot of espresso has become a ritual for many people. The rich bitter, sweet espresso tastes far superior to those served at other coffee shops. What is the reason behind its unmatched taste – what’s their secret?
It starts with the coffee. Starbucks uses proprietary coffee blends, so even the coffee shop on the corner won’t be able to match the taste profile exactly.
But apart from the type of coffee they use, the espresso machine actually plays a more significant role in how that espresso tastes. So, what espresso machine does Starbucks use?
Want to get your hands on one? If you think you can buy the same espresso machine used at Starbucks, you might be in for a bit of disappointment.
Keep on reading to find out why.
What Brand Espresso Machine Does Starbucks Use
If you’ve come looking for a direct answer, I’ll cut to the chase. The machine Starbucks uses for espresso is manufactured by a Swiss company called Thermoplan AG.
The model used varies slightly from different outlets around the globe, but the most widely used model fitted in almost all Starbucks stores is the Mastrena super-automatic espresso machine, with the latest model currently at version 2.
This is an exclusive coffee maker only used by Starbucks and not sold commercially.
Is there anything special about the Mastrena super-automatic? No. Not really.
Apart from being Swiss-made, it functions like any other super-automatic espresso machine.
What’s So Special About The Thermoplan AG Company?
Starbucks signed on the dotted line for their exclusive deal with Thermoplan AG back in 2008.
Nestled in a tiny part of Switzerland, the small Swiss company employs around 230 people and has a long history that dates back to the 1950s. Before their venture with Starbucks, they were relatively unknown in the world of coffee.
Today the partnership is booming, and the machines they manufacture for Starbucks are big business for them. in 2013, the company made about $130 million from those machines alone.
History Of Starbucks Espresso Machines
In the early 90s, Starbucks didn’t have an exclusive espresso machine. Instead, they used a pretty standard unit – the La Marzocco Linea machine.
Compared to the newly installed espresso machines. The Marzocco Linea actually required a bit of skill to operate, and some knowledge of pulling the perfect shot would have been vital for any barista working behind the counter.
Once Starbucks began to expand and franchises popped up in major cities worldwide, they switched from standard espresso machines to the more expensive super-automatics.
The first model of the Mastrena espresso machine was launched back in 2008 with the purpose of making Starbucks baristas’ jobs easier and quicker.
These hands-off machines take away all of the guesswork from pulling a good espresso shot. With a push of a button, everything is calibrated and done for you. To be honest, it doesn’t require a barista’s skill; anyone can push a button.
Although super-automatic machines can cost as much as 4 to 6 times the amount as a standard coffee maker, they can be operated by pretty much anyone.
By investing in these machines, the cost to train new staff members is significantly reduced. Over time, the investment will pay for itself – especially in outlets with significant staff turnover.
I would still like to think that the barista working behind the counter at Starbucks, at the very least, has some knowledge regarding espresso and brewing coffee? And isn’t entirely reliant on the machine doing “all” of the work.
What Is The Mastrena Espresso Machine?
Essentially the Mastrena CS2 espresso machine is one big computer designed from the ground up for easy operation and fast production. It’s a state-of-the-art commercial espresso machine that can produce over 240 shots per hour. It’s a beast!
It features a large bean hopper on the top of the unit that holds enormous amounts of whole coffee beans. The coffee is fed into the machine and automatically ground with the built-in burr grinder before each espresso shot.
As impressive as this machine is, The Mastrena CS2 is slowly being phased out and replaced with a new Mastrena II model.
This newer machine operates in the same way but features some additional functions that the CS2 was lacking, such as artificial intelligence.
The Mastrena II isn’t just any ordinary Starbucks espresso machine because it harnesses the power of artificial intelligence.
The machines connect to the “internet of things” and transmit data to a central office.
The data received from the coffee shop is constantly analyzed and tracks information such as customer preferences, when a machine needs maintenance, updates recipes digitally over the internet, and even predicts potential future breakdowns.
“We can see every shot of espresso that’s being pulled, and we can see centrally if there is a machine that’s out there that needs tuning or maintenance,”
– Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson
As long as it keeps the espresso flowing and doesn’t connect to Skynet, I think humanity will be okay.
How Much Does The Mastrena Espresso Machine Cost?
So you’re ready to pull out your wallet and buy the Mastrena espresso machine for your home coffee bar.
The Starbucks espresso machines are exclusive to only them. Under their deal with Thermoplan AG, only Starbucks gets to use the Mastrena.
So, unfortunately, you can’t just walk into their store and buy one. But if you could, here’s the lowdown on how much they cost – the Mastrena costs between $15,000 and $17,000 per machine.
But even if you had that kind of money lying around, they wouldn’t sell you one.
Sorry to shatter your dreams of owning a Starbucks machine, but it’s impossible.
Or is it?
Listen up. Nothing is stopping you from buying an older model that has come onto the second-hand market; even the units from the 90s are still kicking around for a few hundred dollars. Are they going to be reliable? Probably not.
It’s best to forget about owning a Starbucks coffee machine. If you do find one, it will cost you an arm and a leg, and the maintenance for a personal machine is nonexistent. Yeah, good luck finding a technician who’s willing to pop round to your house.
You can buy far better espresso machines for the home that are not that expensive. And they aren’t calibrated to brew enough coffee to keep a small football team happy.
Unless you have a small football team, you’re better off setting your sights on a smaller unit manufactured for the home.
So there you have it. Starbucks has an exclusive deal for their super-automatic espresso machine with a small Swiss company called Thermoplan AG.
If you want to buy one of the machines, good luck, unless you want to hunt around the second-hand market to find one – but is it really worth it?
If you want to brew great-tasting coffee, I think you’re better off investing in a new espresso machine made for the home with a dual boiler, steam wand, and built-in coffee grinder, not one built for a commercial environment. Then again, if you have a small football team, have at it!