As Chris has already mentioned in the last post, there’s been rather a lot of caffeine consumed this week, all for the cause of research though! Whilst he provided a summary into a few of our idea generation
techniques experiments, Ben and I will give you a bit of background into where we got our insights…
Firstly, on the suggestion of Tom and Utku (who deserve some grand introduction as they will undoubtedly crop up a lot throughout this blog) - the guys that tell us what to do - we went off on Tuesday morning to check out Prufrock Coffee. Having no knowledge of what to expect other than “don’t ask for a cappuccino with chocolate, you’ll find out why”, we entered, prepared for the pretentious, and were met with a welcome aroma of fresh coffee, friendly faces, and a whole heap of pseudo-scientific-coffee-contraptions. Their minimalistic menu consisted of either espresso or espresso with various volumes of milk so we ordered a round of coffee– none of us ordered a cappuccino.
Our task here was to gain an understanding of the place and highlight avenues for potential development through observations and taking to people so we began by enquiring about the coffee machines but ended up learning a whole lot about coffee. It turns out that the flavour of a coffee is not only dictated by the beans but also by the filtration process – hence the array of machinery. Each one provided a different means for the water to interact with the ground coffee which in turn meant that each one created very different styles, textures and tastes within coffee. Alongside the recognisable general coffee machine there was one which filtered cold water though ground coffee over around 8 hours to result in a caffeine intense yet very smooth chilled coffee; one which required the coffee and water to be manually pumped through a filter into the mug; a device for weighing out to-the-milligram quantities of ground coffee then pouring to-the-millilitre volumes of water at equally specific temperature; and one which worked through an iterative process of evaporation, filtration and (seemingly) magic. There was also a nifty wee device called a refractometer which was used to calibrate the automated machines each morning though analysing water temperatures and the coffee extraction rate. We were further informed that the owner of this small chain of coffee shops is world renowned among barristas having won a number of worldwide lord-of-the-coffee awards (not the official title but this conveys the general idea and my impressed reaction).
What came from this crash course in coffee was an understanding that the team behind the bar really were the experts in what they do. They were not pretentious, they were passionate and happy to share their passion! What’s more, the minimalist menu was really just a result of their understanding of how coffee should be made – not with chocolate sprinkles. This was an interesting area: they are a business trying to educate people about the diverse complexities of coffee though many customers will be content with just an americano. This provided a starting point for us to develop our ideas – “how do we share the passion and knowledge of the staff at Prufrock, to generate a wider community of coffee lovers, without sounding like a dickhead”.
One approach to this was inspired by a handy visual map / shelving unit on the walls of Prufrock connecting coffee packs to their place of origin and their recommended preparation device. We felt this was a great means to make background knowledge in coffee more accessible to your usual coffee drinker. Another point of interest was that elsewhere on the walls around the café, there were pictures of other coffee shops around London. These places were not united under the same business banner, they were cafés which Prufrock admired as peers, with staff which Prufrock were mates with. This chivalry among competitors was pretty admirable and another great kick start for ideas.
Anyway, we left Prufrock buzzing on caffeine and ready to embark on some idea development. Not to give everything away right now, we will save the ideas for later posts as we begin to develop them but, for the time being, Chris’s post shows a few methods we used to approach the idea creation. Thanks to the team at Prufrock for providing a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit brief, tea and coffee masterclass!
I’ll hand you over to Ben now to continue.