Starbucks slurps up Clover brewing system

PORTLAND — Starbucks unveiled the high-priced and high-taste Clover brewing systems at several Seattle stores Tuesday and says more will follow, as part of a recent deal that set the coffee community abuzz.

The Clover is a complex brewing system that was once the domain of independent coffee makers and hard-core coffee fans. But Starbucks Corp. announced in April that it was acquiring Clover, made by The Coffee Equipment Co., in a deal with undisclosed terms.

The deal frustrated some independent coffee store owners because Starbucks said it would no longer sell the device to others, thereby cornering the market on one of the ultimate brewing systems for aficionados.

The Clover, which used to sell for about $11,000, makes one cup at a time and aims to coax out each of the hundreds of flavors known to reside in the average coffee bean. In addition to brewing a complex flavor, the by-the-cup versatility means a wider array of beans can be used — creating a top-shelf coffee menu of sorts.

Starbucks says the system is "one of the most significant innovations in coffee brewing since the introduction of the espresso machine" and says its introduction of the system with some small-batch beans is a "key initiative in transforming the company."

It is one of several moves Starbucks has made recently to pump up its slumping business.

The company tested the product in a handful of stores this spring and summer and unveiled the system at 10 Seattle sites Tuesday. The company says it will add it to sites in Boston and San Francisco in coming months. Starbucks will sell hot and iced versions of the coffee for $2 to $4. Stores will only brew Clover drinks from a menu of small-batch beans.

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