I don't know if you follow Starbucks news, but as much as I prefer local coffeehouses, I've been intently watching their recent efforts to get back the soul they've commoditised away. Here's their new espresso machine, the Mastrena, which they call a "high-performance Italian sports car," set to roll out this year. It's shorter than the ones now, so baristas can look you in the eye while they press buttons to auto-mechanically spit out your espresso.
Besides the spaceship orb on top, it holds more beans than the old machines (more productivity, less sore arms) and actually does give overworked coffee slaves more control over what comes out, like shot length and adjustable steam wands, both of which used to be fixed (from what I know about their current machines). Hopefully, this means better coffee. They'll be in about 30 percent of US stores by the end of this year, and 75 percent by 2010, but I think with a woodier look to them. [Hossli]