Dark Horse entered the Toronto coffee scene in 2006. Since then, the brand has opened four locations across Toronto, and in summer 2020, they released a new addition: the Dark Horse Coffee Automat. Partnering with RC Coffee, a company “light years ahead of the typical coffee vending machine”, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is Canada’s first robotic café.
Located at 1235 Bay St, across from Bay subway station, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is probably the prettiest vending machine you’ll ever see. Partnering with Toronto design shop Mjölk, the Coffee Automat intertwines high-tech design with sleek wood panelling, and even has a mock café display behind the large glass windows beside it.
(If you’re an interior design lover, the details of the display are beautiful. It's hard to see behind the glass panelling in real life, but Remodelista covered its design here.)
Unlike other coffee shops in the city with limited hours, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is open 24/7. As for what to order, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat has an espresso-based menu similar to that of the physical Dark Horse locations. You can access the menu via the QR code you use to order (more on this below) or on the RC Coffee app, seen here.
Drinks range from $2.45-$4.15. The Coffee Automat serves coffee shop favourites like espresso, lattes, americanos, flat whites, cappuccinos, and cortados. You can also get decaf beverages, and drinks made with regular or oat milk. Additionally, only hot beverages are offered at the “café”.
I ordered a latte and an oat milk flat white on my prior visit to the Coffee Automat. I found the drinks to be well-made, although my latte was a little milky. All in all though, I would order both again.
HOW TO ORDER A DRINK AT THE DARK HORSE COFFEE AUTOMAT:
1. At the Automat, scan the QR code to access the online ordering system OR open the RC Coffee app (which you can download on Android or iOS)
2. Place your order – remember to specify if you want a lid and/or sugar
3. Once ordered, you will receive a QR code (if you don’t have the app, you will receive it by email); scan the code at the kiosk so the machine can start making your order
4. Wait a few minutes and the machine will prompt when the drink is ready
5. Scan your QR code or tap the screen to pick up your drink
Note: The waiting process can be lengthy depending on how many people have placed their order before you. Do not rely on it being speedy just because it’s machine-operated.
Given these unprecedented times, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is COVID-friendly. Besides removing the middleman (the human barista), touchless ordering is offered, there are 6-feet guide stickers for people waiting to place their order, and hand sanitizer is available.
Although the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is comparable to physical cafés (and tastes worlds better than typical vending coffee), obviously, you’d get the best cup of coffee visiting an actual Dark Horse location.
That being said, the Dark Horse Coffee Automat is a cool addition to Toronto’s coffee scene, and one that I’d order from again. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the Yorkville area, and if you’re not: expect more of them to pop up around the city before the end of 2021.