Airports have robot coffee now.
But first, consider that moment—you’ve
experienced this—where your multiply
delayed flight finally lands, maybe at the
airport you expected and maybe not.

Then you realize, taxiing across the
tarmac, that it is in fact the middle of the
night. So picture the terminal, the one in
which you are alone. The Hermès shop is
not open. The massage place is kneadless.
The food court is no longer in session.
Should airports also be shopping malls? I
don’t know. Right now this one, which
usually is, isn’t.

Let’s say you’re at San Francisco
International Airport, Terminal 3, across
from the Yankee Pier fish place. There’s a
signpost, up ahead. A glowing beacon in
the night. Since early August, a
touchscreen has offered lonely travelers a
mug o’ mud—exuded by the sleek, cargo-
container-sized structure looming next to
it. This is a “Coffee Haus,” brown,
horizontal window on one side, big
touchscreen on the other, and in the
middle, a white-framed presentation
space. As the great architect and known
caffeine abuser Le Corbusier would
definitely have said, “a Coffee Haus is a
machine for coffee.”

A hundred times an hour, it can make a
coffee drink. Kevin Nater, CEO of Briggo,
the company that builds Coffee Hauses
(Häussen?), says a fully staffed Starbucks
can only do one coffee drink a minute.
Sixty an hour—and that’s with human
people! All that stuff about “third places”
and interpersonal interactions, the thing
where hey, you wanna get a coffee, the
Coffee Haus burns all that away.

This is San Francisco, so the Coffee Haus
isn’t even first to market. Before Briggo,
there was Cafe X, a more compact, more
theatrical iteration with a six-degree-of-
freedom robot arm, like the ones that
build cars or have swordfights, making
the drinks. That company (with venture
funding from Silicon Valley puffer fish
including Khosla Ventures and the Thiel
Foundation) has three baristabots
hashtag-disrupting coffee around the city.
Cafe X competed for the SFO contract, but
Austin-based Briggo’s bigger, more
industrial assembly line-like droid (and
$20 million in series-A funding from S3
Ventures) muscled them out. Briggo has
nine other machines in operation now—at
Austin’s airport and a few corporate
campuses among other places, as well as a
contract for dozens more to come at
airports and train stations across North
America. In the roughly $26 billion US
specialty coffee market, every marginal
advantage makes a difference.

Coffee Haus coffee is pretty good. At SFO,
the beans are a choice between Briggo’s
blend or Sightglass, a beloved San

Francisco coffeeteer—with Verge, another
SF third-wave choice, to come. Of course
the company will carry local favorites as
it expands; every town has a coffee now.
The various milks stay in a refrigerator
unit, subject to public health laws stricter
than the ones non-robot emporia follow,
before they hit the “milk reactor” for
steaming. Finished drinks, 16 at a time, sit
on a carousel inside the Coffee Haus
holding cell. It’ll text you when it’s ready.
You walk up to the big touchscreen, type
in your code, and the door opens. Here’s
your coffee, master.

Caffeine Machine
All day long, all night long, if you ask the
robot to make you a coffee drink, it will.
It has to. That is its function.

You can order from the touchscreen, but
of course you can also download an app—
no duh, you guessed there was an app. It
uses location services to guess which
Coffee Haus is closest. Choose between
coffees and espresso drinks, choose your
milk. And then you can watch a

cardboard cup migrate past dispenser
tubes like cyborg udders. A tiny little
moving arm passes the cups along, places
the finished drinks under a stack of tops
leveled by laser beams, their red targeting
dots visible through the window. The
Coffee Haus can’t be reasoned with. It
doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And
it absolutely will not stop until you have a
cup of coffee.

Slightly hard to see through the window
on the Coffee Haus are bean hoppers and
grinders, precisely weighing and

compacting the grind. A sort of instahot
system brings water up to a coffee-nerd
approved temperature before steaming or
pouring over. Most of that’s invisible,
happening inside ducts. Sensors
throughout monitor the temperature of
the water and the milk, how much coffee
there is, whether the lids are stacked …
and all that information goes back to a
Briggo Network Operating Center in
Austin, monitoring all 10 Coffee Haus
kiosks. They hardly ever clog or break, a
tech tells me. This kind of machinery
actually works better at high volume.
But Can It Make Latte Art?

Given the right software, maybe loyal
subjects of the coffee robot will be able to
email high-fives to the people who grew
the beans, a continent away.
 If you have
the app and you know your partner’s
going to be passing a Coffee Haus, you
can buy them a coffee, and the robot will
text them. “We’re connected coffee,”
Nater says.

As the Coffee Hausroboter spread across
the world, presumably while emitting
some sort of lockstep chugging sound,
they will learn more about the coffee
habits of everyone who uses the app.

They will add our human biological and
technological distinctiveness to their own.
It looks like you’re trying to order a latte?
Would you like some help? Or maybe,
since it has your cell phone number, it’ll
just text you around 3:30. Hey, Adam.
Wanna get a coffee? Click here.