BrewBike launches two ‘pay as you pour’ cold brew dispensers on North Campus


Courtesy of Brewbike

A “BrewBot” in Tech Express. The 24-hour, “pay as you pour” cold brew dispensers allow students on North Campus to access BrewBike cold brew any time of the day.

Amy Li, Reporter

BrewBike has launched two 24-hour, automated “pay as you pour” cold brew dispensers in Mudd Science and Engineering Library and Tech Express to cater toward students’ caffeine needs any time of the day.

The “BrewBots” use a design that adds up the price of the coffee as you pour. The machine pre-authorizes the card for a $5 dollar transaction and refunds the difference after the transaction is completed. BrewBots currently charges 30 cents per ounce of coffee — with a 12 ounce cup filled to the brim costing $3.60.

The BrewBot is the brain child of Lucas Philips (SESP ’19), CGO and co-founder of BrewBike. He said he had the idea when he was a freshman, but it took the company four years to have enough capital to develop the idea and an additional year to test out different prototypes before BrewBot was finally launched.

Philips said BrewBike had a kegerator in The Garage that dispensed free cold brew before they realized that visitors were willing to pay for the coffee, and the real value of having the kegorator in The Garage was the convenience it provided.

“So that’s when we thought well, there’s not probably enough demand in here for us to hire a barista or open a coffee shop,” Philips said, “but if there was a way for us to monetize the kegorator — if there’s a way for us to make it like a vending machine for cold brew — then we could provide people with really good coffee really conveniently.”

BrewBike worked with two alumni of the master’s program at the Segal Design Institute to finalize BrewBot, Philips said. The machine leverages BrewBike’s payment processing software and uses an Android phone with a credit card scanner on top of the kegerator. The phone then connects via Bluetooth to a buoy inside the kegerator.

A box measures the amount of liquid dispensed while the phone simultaneously processes the payment with Wi Fi or cellular data.

“It’s that simple,” Philips said.

Aside from mobile bikes, BrewBike has permanent locations in Cafe Bergson in Main Library and Fran’s Cafe in Willard Residential College, but since renovations forced the Annenberg Hall cafe to close, BrewBike’s Northwestern campus CEO Liam Haller said the company has been looking for opportunities to serve quality cold brew on North Campus.

“We thought (BrewBot) was the best way to bring coffee to places that are traditionally under-serviced,” the Weinberg senior said. “It was also a great way to be able to expand out and get BrewBike’s name out there when space is so limited.”

Haller and Philips said BrewBike has been working closely with Compass, which has been supportive of the company’s expansion to Tech Express despite its potential to hurt Compass’s coffee sales at the same location.

The BrewBots are still in a “Proof of Concepts” stage to gauge how many people interact with it, its popularity, and its success from an operations perspective. The company has no immediate plans to introduce more BrewBots on campus, but “would love to expand more if it goes well,” Haller said.

The bigger-picture plan for BrewBike is to “get on as many campuses as possible and employ as many students as possible,” David Silverman, BrewBike’s brand manager, said.

The Communication senior said BrewBike has seen continuous, year-on-year growth in every key performance indicator — the company has been generating more revenue, paying higher wages to students and employing more students than ever before.

BrewBike has been giving more students “opportunities to test their business skills, build them, all the while making some money at school,” Silverman said. The company now has operations on four college campuses — UT Austin, Texas State, University of Miami, and Northwestern.

“Our students on every campus are really learning a ton about how to operate a business, just like our founding team did at Northwestern,” Philips said. “I’m just so excited to bring that to more campuses.”

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