Starbucks had a darn good quarter, with sales increasing 24% and net income per share increasing 33% (via Bloomberg news). They’re expanding their lineup, adding hot breakfast sandwiches and lunch items. So, where is this all going? Straight downhill, that’s where. If they maintained espresso as the core of their business I’d respect that, but I see it going the other way. I stopped by a new Starbucks location in Fremont (California) the other day. It looked like all the others, naturally, but that’s OK as those stores typically have a warm, friendly feel to them. Feeling adventurous, I ordered a double tall latte, a drink I used to enjoy before switching to short cappucinos and espresso machiatos. Glancing behind the counter, though, I was surprised to see just how far Starbucks has embraced technology. Their espresso machine was a fully automated system, just press the button. No grinding, no tamping. In spite of that, the barista still managed to screw something up, with the cashier asking him if he had pressed the button twice as espresso was still coming out (he didn’t know). As much as I love technology, I believe there are some things that are best left to a skilled hand, tamping and drawing a shot of espresso is one of those things (let’s see a machine even attempt latte art!). Seeing this, I’m just less and less interested in Starbucks. Sure, they’re fine for a quick pick me up, but they really are the McDonald’s of the coffee world. The only chain I enjoy is Peet’s, but it’s the independent local coffee shops that I really enjoy.