Background: Roasting Plant
has a handful of locations around NYC, founded by a former Starbucs exec and engineer. He developed a trademarked machine called a "Javabot" (no joke) where the beans are roasted on site, sent to vertical hopper tubes for storage (pic here), and then upon ordering, are shot across the store into the all-in-one Egro brand Swiss Coffee machine that grinds the beans and brews them to order.
Flavor: Customers are prompted to pick which beans they want in their drink, no matter what type of drink you order. I was a little overwhelmed by the bean choices (approx. ten) and after tiring of trying to read over each one, settled on the Kenyan in the middle of the row (beans are arranged from raw to roasted, lightest roast to darkest). In mere seconds, a full cup of coffee appeared before me, complete with a thick crema. The coffee was clean, with berry tones and low acidity and the crema was rich and fresh. I admit I was a little jealous of the machine to produce the perfect crema sitting on top of the brew.
Source: The beans available were sourced from locales in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia and the website describes "an eye towards organic agriculture and fair trade practices".
Rating: Having a cup of coffee brewed individually to order seems to me like an event that one should savor and feel a bit luxurious about, so ordering from a flatscreen menu and having the coffee appear in front of you untouched by human hands kind of put a damper on the experience. I was too skeptical of the Javabot's tamping skills and milk prep to get a latte, but will definitely try one out next time so I can fully judge the "woman v. machine" battle when it comes to preparing a coffee drink. I wonder if a Javabot that can produce latte art is in the works?