Self-serve cafe could be future of coffee

An entrepreneur behind a new type of cafe thinks they may have hit on a formula that can change how coffee shops work:

A self-serve cafe, using single-serve cups, commonly known as K-cups.

“When you’re in a coffee shop, you’re sitting in line for 10 minutes. And most of the time, the coffee’s not even made to my liking,” said Domenic Cardarelli, 25, the cofounder of Caffe del Muro. “Eliminate lines. You’re eliminating the issue of time. … It gives you a fantastic cup of coffee, every time.”

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Cardarelli’s vision isn’t just of convenience for busy commuters. It’s also for a new concept of how the coffee business could work.

“We’re doing something brand new, something no one has ever seen before,” said Cardarelli, of Newtown Square, who opened the cafe last month with co-owner Ray Rodzwic.

“When we saw no one had done it be before, we were kind of like, ‘Wow.'”

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Cardarelli acknowledged it’s a little difficult to get customers to understand the concept of the cafe, which is located next to the underground courtyard at 16th and JFK, across from theAu Bon Pain — but he’s confident it will catch on.

“You pick your flavor, come right up here to the front,” he said, leading a tour through the cafe. “You pay, you get a cup. Then you go right over to our single-serve machines. Push the green button. Easy as that.”

The wall of single-serve coffee pods — which the cafe designed and engineered — goes, left to right, from tea to Cappuccino to hot chocolate to coffee, ranging from light to dark roasts. There are 136 varieties, representing 23 brands, with 3600 coffee pods in the wall. Every cup costs $1.75, except for $3 gourmet blends. Staff also make espressos for customers.

“The name ‘Caffe Del Muro’ literally means coffee from the wall,” Cardarelli said.

Keurig Green Mountain, the company which created nitrogen-sealed single-serve coffee cups and the machines that brew them, hasn’t been doing so great lately. The company still brings in billions, but their stocks have plummeted more than 100 points since 2014. But that doesn’t affect Caffe del Muro, which doesn’t sell Keurig cups and is not affiliated with the company at all.

In fact, since Keurig’s patents on single-service cups lapsed in 2012, the concept has seen more innovation, Cardarelli said.

In Caffe del Muro, you can find cups of coffee ranging from Marley Coffee — the Jamaican blend founded by Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley — to “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro’s brand of single serve cups. They also sell 12-cup trays for people who want to grab a variety of flavors and bring them home or to their office.

“Single-serve coffee solves a lot of problems in the coffee industry,” he said.

Specifically, nitrogen-sealed coffee cups (or pods) give a fresh brewed coffee for every customer. The coffee isn’t exposed to slow oxidation from sitting out in a pot, nor is it left on a burner for hours, both of which can alter the flavor.

The problem with the cups? Waste. Each brewed coffee leaves behind a crushed tinfoil and plastic cup.

But Cardarelli said he and his staff empty the bins, dissect the leftover cups, and bring them to local recycling plants to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill.

“We’re here to turn your general commutter who just goes into Dunkin Donuts and gets a medium cup of coffee into that coffee connosieur,” he said. “There are other alternatives out there. You can get really cool flavors at a price that’s not going break your wallet.”