Snowflake Coffee


This story has been brewing and percolating or a while now and I’ve been meaning to write up this example of the Snowflake Effect hitting coffee and now appearing at Starbucks of all places. 

First the basics of what we are talking about here; the Clover coffee machine.  This relatively new machine is a great story and example to me of innovative thinking around an old or common idea and an example of the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization and uniqueness.  The links below will give you more details but basically this is a story of a few individuals who decided that there had to be a better way to create a great cup of coffee and one that was “just right” for each individual.  As with most such success stories there were a lot of failed attempts leading up to this great success and it makes for fun reading and inspiration.

The Snowflake effect comes from the coffee making process and how these Clover machines enable the very precise control of three key variables (in addition to the beans of course); water temperature, volume of water and steeping time, to create just the right coffee experience for each and every user.  While you would obviously need to be a coffee lover both in order to afford a cup of this coffee and to care this much about how it tastes, these new machines, coupled with great beans are able to deliver a truly personalized and high quality coffee experience.  Mathew Honan wrote about his experience in his Wired article “The Coffee Fix: Can the $11,000 Clover Machine Save Starbucks?”

“He measures out 46 grams of beans, grinds them, and then slides them into the recessed chamber on top. Next, he programs a new brew time and temperature, raising the heat from 205 degrees to 207 and increasing the brewing time from 45 seconds to 50.

A few tweaks and I have a new beverage. And it’s not just the chocolate flavor; the mouthfeel and acidity are completely different from the first cup. All Latourell did was adjust the brew time and temperature and add 6 grams of beans. Taste-testing it against the earlier brew, I wouldn’t have guessed they were the same bean. I’m starting to become a Clover convert.”

So one Snowflake scenario that emerges is that after some experimentation to find it, you could carry your “formula” for “just the right” coffee around with you and have it brewed up to just right perfection at your local Starbucks.  And it does need to be a Starbucks because CEO Howard Schulz was so impressed with these Clover coffee makers when he first discovered them and tasted the coffee last year, that he bought the whole company!  And it won’t be your local Starbucks for a while as they are only just starting to introduce these pricey machines in a few select stores around the USA.  But you can find  store locator on the Clover page at

You can read more detailed accounts on how these new Clover coffee makers work such as:

And you can watch this video on the Wired magazine site to see how it works.


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