How the WMF espresso NEXT can adapt to an evolving industry

WMF espresso NEXT

WMF Head of Global Marketing Axel Fähnle discusses the rise of automation, and how the WMF espresso NEXT semi-automatic portafilter can help businesses stay on top of an evolving coffee industry.

Automation in the workplace is becoming more prevalent, with automatic grinding, tamping, and milk texturing machines hitting the market. German coffee machine manufacturer WMF has long sought to get ahead of this movement, bringing new concepts and technology to the industry so its customers can navigate a changing world.

The WMF espresso NEXT exemplifies this movement. In fact, the company’s Head of Global Marketing Axel Fähnle says the semi-automatic portafilter is an ideal machine for customers who value the highest espresso quality along with artisan preparation. This includes coffee store chains, independent smaller cafés, hotels, restaurants, and businesses that pride themselves on coffee.

“We appeal to target groups that want the best of both worlds: reproducible and consistently high barista-style coffee paired with the undeniable benefits of automation and technology,” he says.

The WMF espresso NEXT is the first WMF machine to introduce the company’s Auto Milk Dispensing technology, which works with dairy milk as well as oat, soy, or coconut alternatives.

“With this new feature, the WMF espresso NEXT offers even more milk expertise than before,” says Fähnle. “At the touch of a button, the system draws the right quantity of milk or plant-based alternative and foams it to the desired consistency. This avoids superfluous milk and thus waste, since only the exact amount needed is dispensed.”

The machine also features the One-Touch Americano function which can create this popular drink. It also includes the AutoSteam concept, which Fähnle says provides an additional performance boost for the barista.

“[AutoSteam] allows the simultaneous use of the two configurable, automatic steam lances on both sides of the machine,” he says. “In this way, service personnel can process two pots with different milk types at the same time.”

WMF sought to reconfigure the operating concept when assembling the WMF espresso NEXT. This includes adding a separate display for each brewing group in arranged areas for coffee and milk preparation.

“The barista is clearly guided, and the machine tells the user at every step what is happening and what needs to be done,” Fähnle says. “Even for workers with very little experience, it is easy to produce delicious coffee.”

WMF’s CoffeeConnect technology has also been included in the portafilter, allowing the analysis of machine data to be presented at any time to the user. Fähnle says this marks a shift towards digitalisation in the coffee industry as it integrates data into upstream and downstream systems.

“Thanks to this integration expertise, we implement business models such as a pay-per-cup model, for example, which enables roasters and franchisors to offer additional financing models,” he says. “Automation in the analysis of machine data is an important basis to maintaining a consistently high coffee quality as well as providing business security by avoiding malfunctions and downtimes.”

In keeping with the WMF espresso NEXT’s technological attributes, the CoffeeConnect feature has been included to make life easier for the barista and the café owner.

“The aim is to reduce the complexity and susceptibility to errors in the individual work steps and thus continuously improving coffee quality,” says Fähnle. “The Auto Milk Dispensing and One-Touch Americano functions play an important role here, as they ensure consistent beverage quality even for inexperienced operators.

“Process reliability is also at the forefront of the new display concept. This includes clearly guided steps that make the beverage quality independent of the machine operator and the speed of machine service, which benefits from new menu structures.”

Fähnle says the WMF team have thoroughly analysed the technological approach to the WMF espresso NEXT to ensure manual errors are eliminated throughout the entire coffee-making process.

“The coffee is ground directly into the WMF espresso NEXT portafilter via integrated grinders in the exact quantity and to the perfect grind,” he says. “From there, the freshly ground coffee is automatically tamped and then brewed with the correct amount and temperature of water.”

The company’s team ensured that, while designing the WMF espresso NEXT, the additional features would not over-complicate the machine’s structure from a user and technician perspective.

“Thanks to the new display concept with its user logic and guidance, the service procedures for the WMF espresso NEXT are even easier. In addition, the continuous training and further education of our certified service technicians and sales partners is one of the quality foundations of our customer focus,” says Fähnle.

Fähnle says a machine such as the WMF espresso next is needed in the coffee market due to the increasing popularity of fine coffee specialties among consumer groups.

“The number of experienced coffee professionals, however, is not growing at the same rate,” he says. “In order to meet increasing customer demand for coffee quality and variety in time of staff shortages, the machines must guarantee high process reliability and be as easy to operate as possible.

“With this new machine, WMF is addressing target groups that want to combine the best of traditional Italian coffee culture with the process reliability of a modern fully automatic machine.”

Fähnle hopes that by helping solve the common workplace issue of staff shortages, the WMF espresso NEXT can alleviate financial and operational concerns businesses may have.

“Semi-automatic concepts such as this can help ensure high coffee quality despite changing staff,” he says. “Compared to conventional portafilter machines, the WMF espresso NEXT reduces the manual preparation steps for a cappuccino, for example, by up to 40 per cent. This leaves more time for customer interactions, which then leads to higher sales due to shorter waiting times and positive customer satisfaction.”

What separates the WMF espresso NEXT from other portafilter machines, according to Fähnle, is the standardised and optimised communication and interaction between the coffee grinder and the extraction process.

“The integration of the grinder into the main appliance [the coffee machine] also reduces the space required on the counter,” he says. “There is no need to buy a separate grinder. It also optimises the workflow of the barista as everything is happening in front of the machine.”

Fähnle believes the possibilities of automation through the WMF espresso NEXT will become more established.

“In the coffee business, this development can be seen in both fully automatic machines with self-regulating systems and in portafilters with an increasing level of technological equipment,” he says. “A shortage of skilled workers and high fluctuation rates, as well as increasing quality demands from customers, are the breeding grounds for important innovation steps, which is why our goal is to maintain consistently high craftsmanship and quality in our products and services.”

Fähnle adds that it is only a matter of time before automation takes over almost all tasks and processes that simplify the preparation of coffee beverages. As such, the WMF espresso NEXT is an important milestone for the company.

“[The WMF espresso NEXT] provides the discerning coffee scene with barista-quality specialties, while at the same time relieving the burden on restauranteurs,” he says.

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This article was first published in the March/April 2024 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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