Reblog: Office Essentials St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Kaldi’s Coffee

I do some writing for my company’s (Office Essentials) blog on occasion and this is my most recent piece. You can find the original HERE and feel free to browse, share or comment on past articles, by me or any of the other excellent folk there. 

As part of my ongoing look at how St. Louis companies use technology, I recently had the opportunity to talk with Frank McGinty, Director of Sales and Marketing for Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, Missouri. Kaldi’s is just one well-known, local partner for Office Essentials and I thought it would be interesting to know a bit about how they utilize technology in their business to bring about the product that is known so well.

Kaldi’s is known for their hand-roasted coffees, but make no mistake, they’re a modern company who understands how to integrate their time-tested, manual procedures with the benefits of today’s technological advances.

I asked Frank to describe the different ways Kaldi’s brings tech into their world of hand-crafted products.

“The first one that comes to mind is with roasting specifically. Everything is still- I call it hand-roasted because the guys are still altering dials that control the open flame, right? But they have a piece of technology that kind of tracks, due to two temperature probes and timers, it’ll essentially track the trajectory of the roast.”

You can picture the massive, old bean roasters, with their rotating blades and huge hoppers, adapted and attached by a few wires to these probes which are then attached to a computer screen or a laptop computer that is tracking the rise and fall of the temperature of the beans in this particular roast over time.

“They’ll pre-warm the barrel, add coffee, then the temperature drops, plateaus and then recovers, then starts increasing as the roast progresses, being able to throw that data on a chart they’re able to save for every roast. Then afterward, as they go back and taste the coffee they can say, “Hey, the recipe you did last Tuesday for this house blend is the best I’ve ever tasted, let’s save that as a new trajectory.” We use that equipment quite a bit.”

Kaldi’s uses these recipes as roadmaps to replicate certain roasts, but it’s nothing that you can simply plug into the computer then set on the roaster and walk away.

“We will kind of copy and paste these trajectories making sure we’re all on the same page with how heat and time are applied to the same product across our brands- We’ve got two other brands. One is Honolulu Coffee Company in Hawaii and the other one is called Frothy Monkey Roasting Company- but the roasters are always there manually manipulating the temperature on the beans, following along with the tracking data we’ve been able to log.”

As you might imagine, they didn’t always have these probes and monitors attached to computers that can log everything and store it for quick retrieval. Technology plays a much larger role in Kaldi’s products today than ever before.

“Yeah, literally only maybe five, six years ago, the guys had a clipboard and pencil and they had waypoints when they would check the time and make notes. As I mentioned, the temperature dips then recovers, and they’d have to log it, things like, “after 1:26 recovery happened- four minutes until the first crack,” throughout the entire roast. The first crack is like the audible sound of popcorn, it’s actually the cell structure of the coffee bean rupturing. They would manually write this down for every single roast we did, and we would just have charts and charts and charts”

So, from the days of their roasters carrying a stopwatch, a pad of paper and a pencil, to today when computers log temperature changes and times for their roasts, Kaldi’s compiles their data and stores it in the Cloud making it easier than ever to share data with their entire company and their partners. This includes all the information they use to run their business.

“We have a guy on our team who built a data analytics program through Power BI (a Microsoft application) and he’s essentially able to pull all of our inventory, sales, and customer information. It’s kind of a combination between a CRM and a data analytics tool. That’s helped us a lot from a customer support, customer service standpoint: What does their product mix look like? How often do they order? And everything in between. And again, before, it was just a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with information.”

The last aspect of technology that Kaldi’s utilizes, and very well I might add, is social media. It’s almost a necessity in today’s business world, to stay in front of customers and investors and I asked Frank if Kaldi’s had someone dedicated to that mission.

“Yeah, for sure. She oversees all of that and all of our community events, charities, donations, event activations, that kind of stuff. She’s managing and she and I work together quite a bit. We’re always trying to figure out through like, Instagram Insights, for example, and all the data we get from that is like, what’s working? What’s not to like? Like lately we’ve been doing giveaways. So, you know, Mother’s Day, give away a free coffee class, or a Cardinals ticket giveaway, and it’s been interesting to see the engagement and how the use of hashtags and all other things that are somewhat algorithm driven, affect what we do. Sometimes it’s just luck of the draw if it works or not.”

I appreciate the fact Kaldi’s relies on someone in-house to accomplish this. Frank mentioned it’s easier now to find someone you can hire from outside, but they prefer to handle it themselves.

“You can pay people to come in, a consultant, to tell us what might work or what all the data means, but you know, we’re trying to figure it out internally, it’s kind of almost beta testing, like, hey, if we do this, then this happens. Then if we do it next week, and it didn’t have the same effect- it’s a learning curve all the time.”

I’d say they’re learning a lot and putting their knowledge to good use. Their list of accolades is available on their website https://kaldiscoffee.com and while there you can also see other ways they’ve integrated technology into their business. You can also sign up for coffee classes, get tips for home brewing and a lot more on their site, including what’s next to come from this innovatively traditional St. Louis roaster.

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Office Essentials St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Boosa Tech

This is a post I originally wrote for my company’s blog. The original can be found HERE and through the many links below the article

St. Louis Technology Spotlight: Boosa Tech

These days nearly everyone we live with, work with, or randomly encounter throughout our day has a mobile phone. We use them to do business, to maintain our calendars, for email, to take pictures and videos, to keep up with our social media and even occasionally to make calls! As such integrated parts of our lives, we rely on our phones to always be working- that is, we count on their batteries to never let us down. We’ve all experienced the dreaded “Low Battery!” alert at inopportune times. What can you do to prevent it happening and ruining your day?

Chris Reimer, friend to OE, author, Director of Creative Services at Maryville University, and now entrepreneur, took matters into his own hands and started his own company, BOOSA TECH. BOOSA is a portable power device designed exclusively to keep your mobile phone charged and ready for whatever your day brings.

We had the chance to speak to Chris about BOOSA TECH, and I asked Chris to speak a little on why we have such a need for something like BOOSA in our lives:

Chris Reimer: “As a marketer, I’m just always burning both of my phones (work & personal) down to zero pretty much every day. When you think about what our phones provide us, even if you’re not a marketer, everything from finding our way with maps to the ability to board an airplane, to mobile payments, voice recording, not to mention phone calls, social media, email- we can make art on them- it’s just so amazing the things we can do with our phones. They provide a connection to the things we love, our families, photography, your work, and it’s just a necessity to be able to stay online.”

“So, to be able to do my work and not have to worry whether it’s new and the battery is strong and you’re still burning the battery down because you use it all day OR you’ve already got your 300 cycles in on your battery and it’s just not what it used to be. Low battery anxiety is a real thing for people. You can pay $1000 for your phone so why not spend an extra $33 with BOOSA and really never, ever have to worry about a dead phone again.”

Chris had a wonderful, real-life example of putting the BOOSA to use:

Chris Reimer: “Tonight, I’m doing a Facebook Live here at work for a veterans event we have on campus where we’re going to have representatives from several large companies who are veterans come in and speak about tips on finding jobs when they come back to the States and want to re-enter the workforce. We can put it on Facebook Live and instantly share it with veterans all over the country, but I’m going to be doing a live video for two hours, and that could burn my phone down. So, my phone’s going to be on a tripod and BOOSA will be taped to that tripod and I’ll be live the whole two hours and nothing’s going to happen to my phone and I’ll finish at 100% battery!”

Knowing there were many portable charging devices already in the marketplace, Chris really focused on finding something that had all the features important to him to set it apart from the competition. One thing I really liked about it is BOOSA is not big and bulky (it’s about the same size as your phone) so it’s easy to carry alongside your device and BOOSA starts itself when you plug in, which can be a lifesaver:

Chris Reimer: “So for instance, when you plug in the thing [your phone] turns itself on, then people forget to turn on their power banks and they go back later and nothing happened and their phones are actually down. That is incredibly frustrating. It’s literally a design flaw. Some turn themselves on and some don’t. Some have USB-C and some don’t, some are relatively good looking and others completely ugly. I’m not an inventor, I just wanted to create one that would try to include the best of everything and the worst of nothing. The USB-C port is really important. It doubles as an output, but it’s also an input, you can use it to charge the BOOSA itself.”

Finally, we joked a bit about the fact so many portable charging devices have, among varying numbers of USB ports (and sometimes USB-C ports) a flashlight! Maybe your lights go off when your phone battery runs out? I don’t know, but it’s very common and Chris actually had a very practical reason why BOOSA does NOT have one:

Chris Reimer:“What happens in a lot of people’s bags, you throw your power bank in and the flashlight accidentally turns on and burns the power down, which is bad, not to mention, they can never put one on a portable charger that’s remotely as bright as the one on your phone. We have older ones at home, goodness knows who made them, and they might get used as flashlights but not as power packs. It’s not bad, it’s just a matter of “what is the point?” For me, typically, I’ll ask the question, what’s the point of this? Why is this here? So when we’re thinking of design or use scenarios there has to be a reason for it to be there. Anytime someone is going to be using a flashlight either around the house, or you know, like the 21st-century version of putting your lighter up at a concert or whenever, you’re going to use your phone. So, we’re not going to have a flashlight on BOOSA.”

There you have it, no useless feature on BOOSA, and you can see it in all its glory, along with a ton of wonderful video FAQ answers on the BOOSA TECH website: https://boosatech.com/

Author
  • Sean Jeffries
    Sean Jeffries, Business Development Manager;  Sean has over 14 years of experience selling hardware and technology solutions for business and has been building his own PCs for at least that long. He enjoys being among the first to adopt and experiment with new technology, PC gaming, and teaching his kids how to integrate and enjoy tech at home as well.
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