Cover Keith Tan, the founder and CEO of Crown Coffee

The fully automated coffee machine created by Crown Digital can prepare 200 cups of coffee in an hour—four times faster than a human barista

While most businesses scrambled to assume a digital presence in order to adapt to the new normal brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, the founder and CEO of Crown Coffee, Keith Tan, admitted that this idea had been brewing (pun intended) in his mind when he launched his brand back in 2017.

“I came from a different industry,” confessed the wealth manager-turned-entrepreneur, who encountered huge challenges such as high rental, manpower shortage and staff training during his first few years of operation. That said, Tan and his team wanted "a better way to do" things and through discussions with their industry partners and "coffee tech guys", they came up with Ella—Singapore's first fully automated barista. 

The present-day Ella, located in a small kiosk beside Crown Coffee at CT Hub 2 in Lavender, is the new and improved model after four prototypes and past experiences of serving over 80,000 cups of coffee at more than 40 events in the past two years. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she's powered by a patented technology that has programmed her to serve over 200 cups of coffee an hour (including over 100 coffee varieties) with convenience, quality, and, most especially—consistency.

Ordering can be done via the mobile app, where you'll earn rebates for every Crown point you earn, or through the machine's touch screen. While Ella is preparing the coffee, made with premium Buscaglione coffee beans that are ground-to-order and freshly frothed milk, she will continue to entertain you with a myriad of activities through the interactive transparent OLED screen—whether it's an augmented reality photo booth or quick and easy games. 

While no one could have predicted the global health crisis, Tan admitted that business owners should always "disrupt themselves" to survive in this competitive world.

That said, he and his team have re-examined Ella's role in this climate.

"My team and I hunkered down during the circuit breaker to re-examine Ella's role in this brave new world, and how she could navigate all that, while still trying to achieve what we set out to do from day one—to put a great cup of coffee in every hand."