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Coffee machines

VIEWS: 336 PAGES: 12

									                Sept/Oct 2007

Coffee machines
           Manual and

Coffee - the importance of
the right machine for the job
This issue of In the Cup mirrors to a certain extent the debate which
we will be having at Bev-x as to what is best, traditional or bean-to-                    In this issue...
cup coffee machines.
                                                                                                       Should we take
                                                                                                       an interest in
That slightly narrows the issue, however, inasmuch as there are other
types of coffee, machines and therefore other methods of making
                                                                                                       steam wands?
coffee, as we all know. I am not sure, but I would guess that there are                                with Angus McKenzie,
many more bulk brewers out in the field than ever before with Bravilor,                                Metropolitan
Marco, Bunn and others being as active as ever in the market place.                                               - page 3
Whilst most people would agree that these machines will never
produce the most exciting coffee, there are new coffees available
which will produce a decent cup of coffee for dozens or even                                           Don’t dismiss
hundreds of customers.                                                                                 the pourover!
                                                                                                       with Drewry Pearson,
I would like, however, to give a plug here for the humble filter                                                   - page 4
machine, much maligned and ignored of late. Whilst the general
market trend for these is fairly static - my own company has virtually
the same number of filter machines out on loan as we did five years
ago - filter coffee still accounts for a large, and profitable, part of the
                                                                                                      Clover - the
market. And whilst we are all familiar with the horrors of stewed
coffee standing on dirty machines, a good clean filter machine can                                    filter
produce great coffee if it is brewed and drunk fresh. And there is now                                machine
a much greater choice of really good and interesting filter coffees than                              with Gary McGann,
there ever has been, including fully provenanced single origins and                                   Espresso Warehouse
coffees certified by Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.                                                            -page 5

And so to the great espresso machine debate. Whilst I may have my                                      The importance
own views, for the sake of personal health I am remaining strictly                                     of temperature
neutral! Although I would say that I have had great cups of coffee from                                in espresso
both and awful cups of coffee from both. I think we would all agree                                    with Steve Penk,
                                                                                                       La Spaziale
that they both have their place in the market and service different
                                                                                                                   -page 6
needs. The debate to be held at Bev-x may well pose more questions
than give answers, but it will certainly be interesting, challenging and
lively!                                                                                                What happens
                                                                                                       inside a
Hopefully some of the content of this issue will inspire or inform you                                 super-automatic
on some of the issues, and if you still have time, book in for Bev-x and                               with Agostino Luggeri,
join in the debate.                                                                                    Mulmar
                                                                                                                    -page 8

                                                                                   Most of the pictures in this issue were
                                                                                       provided by the suppliers of the
                                                                                      equipment. The cover picture was
                                                     Executive Director,           taken by Boughton’s Coffee House, as
                                                     Beverage Service                was the picture of Drewry Pearson.
                                                                                     The old picture of the Italian mobile
                                                                                     coffee-van was supplied by Mulmar.

                                In The Cup is published by the Beverage Service Association,
                                        Hartfield Place, 40-44 High Street, Northwood
                                                     Middlesex HA6 1BN
                                             Tel:01923 848392 Fax:01923 848391

                                                    ‘Avoiding meringues’
On both sides of the Atlantic, there are
reports of new interest in the concept of the
automatic steam wand - that is, the wand
which stops steaming the milk at a pre-set
temperature, injects a pre-set amount of
additional air into the milk to assist in
                                                                                                                                        “We certainly
texturing, and in some cases will direct the
                                                                                                                                        hope to make
flow of steam to provide the vortex which is                                                                                                bad foam
considered desirable in milk technique.                                                                                                 redundant...!”
    'Some speciality coffee retailers welcome
                                                                                                                                               And no,
any feature that allows baristas to multi-task
                                                                                                                                              we’re not
and serve customers faster', says one report                                                                                                telling you
from the USA. Also in the States, the vice                                                                                                 who served
president of Cimbali has referred to his                                                                                                     this utter
Turbosteam feature, which allows a pitcher of                                                                                                 disgrace.
milk to be steamed and frothed in about half
the usual time, and says that big-name chains
have been asking for such speed 'so they can
get more customers through the line'. In the
USA again, the managing director of a company
supplying Astoria machines says that he sees a
trend in requests for automatic wands to be
supplied on traditional machines.
   What about the UK?
    "There is a certain mass market which is
screaming 'make this easier for us!'," reports
Angus McKenzie of Metropolitan. "We now have
two very big customers who are both very
                                                    - the steam wand
agitated by this - both are pub chains, and both
have been told they really must have this
technology… and neither are entirely sure how
                                                    goes automatic
it works!                                           different opinions on that).                          steam, control the temperature, and we also
                                                                                                          believe we can give better portion-control
    "The problem is current marketing is simply        "Some technologies let you put the wand in
                                                                                                          because the users won't waste milk… you can
a case of 'this machine has automatic steam' or     the milk, walk away, and the machine stops at
                                                                                                          measure out exactly how much you need, and
'this one doesn't', and that isn't good enough.     the right temperature. Certainly, cold coffee is a
                                                                                                          steam the exact amount.
There are varying degrees of automation, and        bugbear of our nation, and so is the cappuccino
degrees of success, and the complexity of the       that scalds the inside of your mouth - with a            "But the best advice for the buyer is - don't
technology now varies widely between different      thermostatic wand, you cannot burn the milk,          jump on the first example of the technology you
machines. For customers to make a decision on       and I think that in itself is a quantum leap          see. Test all the drinks you would normally
this, they need to know the why and the how of      forward!"                                             make in your café, on as many machines as
each. It is not simple - the technologies are not                                                         you can, and time your results as well as
                                                      Do automatic wands save time, as the
the same."                                                                                                tasting them. Go with a measured test-tube of
                                                    Americans have suggested?
   What are the variables?                                                                                milk, and try your foam on the stick-to-the-
                                                       "Yes, but not in the steaming. We have             teaspoon test, or the sugar-on-the-foam test,
   "There are two big questions which need to       tested this, and we find that manual steaming is      and decide whether you think any automatic
be asked - does this further de-skilling add any    faster. Where time may be saved is in allowing        wands are better for making coffee or making
value to my operation, and if it does, what is      staff to walk away and do something else with         meringues.
the difference between one technology and the       their hands - sort out the crockery, perhaps.
next?                                               The customer still hears the steam, still feels           "Your main criteria are - is this technology in
                                                    the drink is being made expressly for them, and       accord with what you want to serve, and how
    "We now see machines where staff punch a
                                                    doesn't feel robbed."                                 you want to serve it? Does this technology fit in
button saying 'latte foam' or 'cappuccino foam',
                                                                                                          with how you want to make the drinks you want
and the machines do both for them. There are           Is the automatic steam wand likely to take
other machines which just produce one quality       over?                                                 to serve? And that is far more important than
of very good foam, which may be very                                                                      being told 'this machine has an automatic
                                                       "This technology bridges the gap between           wand'."
acceptable, and there are machines whose
                                                    the traditional machine and the bean-to-cup -
'auto' is simply a plastic sleeve.                                                                           Will the automatic steam wand take over?
                                                    we refer to it as a 'hybrid', and I think suppliers
   "So - are there any criteria by which you can    owe it to the industry to point out that this         The American experience has been that many
define specifically what an auto steam wand         hybrid does exist, at a price point roughly           operators are using machines with an automatic
does? Does it simply heat milk to a certain         between the other two.                                wand at one end and a conventional one at the
temperature, or does it inject steam, and if so,                                                          other.
how? What are the differences between the              "For us, it's an option - you can have it on
                                                    our La San Marco, or have it retro-fitted to             "We don't think that this will make baristas
temperature probes inside, the measures of air
                                                    some machines. We do see advantages, in that          redundant," says Metropolitan. "But we certainly
being injected, and the period of time over
                                                    we believe we can control the direction of the        hope that it will make bad foam redundant!"
which the air is injected (because there are
Most of the best ideas in life are simple. So
it is with the pour and serve coffee brewer.
This is the most commonly-used method of
brewing filtered coffee in the western world.
                                                       In praise of the
Arguably it also brews the best coffee.
   Much of the current technology for brewing
coffee derives from knowledge gained in the
many years developing pour-and-serve
brewers. Commercial wars have raged over the
various technologies used. Coffee quality
derived from brewing with displacement boilers
compared to conventional boilers, circular filter
beds compared to triangular filter beds, the
depth and shapes of filter pans and brew
heads, the wetting pattern and time, pulse-
brewing, by-passes, filter mediums and holding
methods… all can be traced back to the pour-
and-serve machine.
   Not only has much of coffee technology
been developed on pour and serve machines,
so has much of the coffee competence. The
Pan American Brewing Centre, the US Golden
Cup Standard, the Norwegian Coffee Brewing
Centre (now the European Coffee Brewing
Centre) and recently the SCAE Golden Cup
Standard, can all be traced back to the pour-
and-serve machine.
    The varieties of coffee types, strengths,
flavours and origins available for pour-and-
serve coffee are much greater than for any
alternative coffee equipment in the market.
Moreover, with the use of a coffee grinder it is
easy to develop individual and endless filter
coffee recipes, from beans, as opposed to pre-
ground coffees.
   In addition they are easy to use; almost
everyone in the trade knows how to use them.           When we talk of coffee ‘machines’, most of the spotlight
They are extremely reliable, easy to maintain          goes on espresso equipment. Here, Drewry Pearson of
and to repair. They are inexpensive, maybe             Marco Beverage Systems offers a typically perceptive view
between ten and one hundred times cheaper
than so-called 'fresh brewers', which often pose
                                                       of one of the most basic, and under-appreciated pieces of
as a filter machine, when in fact being the            the caterer’s coffee equipment.
Americano poor relative.
                                                       speciality coffee, have made popular the use of      which are cheap and produce inconsistent and
   Finally, the relative unreliability of many fully   so called 'fresh brew' machines which provide        nasty coffee. The resulting beverage is bound
automatic coffee makers (especially if they are        coffee in one-stop push-button solutions. These      to turn coffee drinkers away from filtered
not correctly maintained and serviced) seems           are seen as an easy alternative to providing a       coffee. Alternative filter methods such as the
to make it a 'no-brainer' that every coffee outlet     good filtered coffee. The development of the         cafetiere do not give the exceptional clarity of
should have a pour-and-serve machine as                bean-to-cup machine 'Americano', the vending         taste and flavour derived from a properly
back-up for that inevitable occasion when the          machine using powdered coffee, and soluble           brewed fresh filtered coffee.
automatic brewer lies down during the busiest          concentrates, all masquerading as filtered
time in the day.                                       coffee, has driven consumers away from the              So the solution to the revival of the filter
                                                       pour-over.                                           coffee drink may lie closer to home than most
    Why, therefore, has the pour-and-serve                                                                  people think - in the development of more
fallen into relative decline?                             The filter coffee industry has also done itself   good-quality well-priced domestic filter brewers.
                                                       no favours by reducing the coffee grammage           Forget the alternative posers such as pod
   Much has been made of the poor coffee-
                                                       and attempting to design machines which will         machines and domestic bean-to-cups and give
holding quality when glass jugs remain heated
                                                       eventually brew coffee out of water alone!           the market a machine that can brew them the
on hot plates and the coffee 'stews'. However,
there are now many alternative and good                    However, more than any of these, it may be       coffee they want to taste - a simple,
methods of holding filtered pour-over coffee,          the decline in the standard of domestically-         inexpensive, good-quality domestic pour-and-
most notably the use of thermos technology,            prepared filtered coffee that has led the decline    serve brewer.
which provides many possible holding options.          in the use of pour-and-serve equipment and              Combine this with coffee based on the Gold
   The answer to the decline clearly lies in part      overall consumption of filter coffee. The            Cup Standard being promoted by the SCAE and
due to the use and convenience of push-button          Western world is flooded with the supply of very     coffee-drinkers will have something worth
technology. This, and the growth in milk-based         poor-quality domestic filter coffee machines,        waking up for every morning.
One of the most dangerous misconceptions in filter coffee is that
everyone knows how to do it. Of course, they don't, which is why
you get so many weird measures being heaped into the cafetiere by
the Saturday staff.
   The big curiosity of this is that many people argue that a filter method
gives the very best true taste of all for speciality coffee. If you put the
two situations together, you get the best and most simplest method being
screwed up and giving the worst result.
    Now, there is a quite remarkable machine proposition on show to
caterers and operators. It is the Clover, launched in America last year as
'the first commercial-grade machine to give baristas consistent,
independent control over the variables of drip coffee, water temperature,
coffee grind, coffee-to-water ratio and brew time'.
     The Clover is essentially a one-cup filter machine, which works at
remarkable speed. The idea is that an operator has a coffee menu of
perhaps half a dozen ace speciality beans (more than that might lead to
freshness problems), and will grind a very small quantity of each on
demand, to make one cup at a time. The Clover can be pre-programmed
to suit those coffees - the operator will have spent some time working out
which grammage, brew time, and temperature gives the very best result
for each. When the customer asks for 'coffee x', the barista punches the
appropriate button, and the machine says 'grind me x grammes of it, and
I'll brew at y degrees'.
   How the machine then gets an optimum extraction in 57 seconds for
what would take a cafetiere four minutes is still a mystery. But several
noted names in the UK trade have said it seems to work, even if they
don't understand it. The maker simply says that he has combined the
best features of the cafetiere and the vacuum brewer.
   It is now available in the UK - the roaster Matthew Algie is the
importer, and the trade can find it in the Espresso Warehouse catalogue.
   The question is - precisely who wants a machine like this?                                                              Main picture : Espresso Warehouse

   "There are two schools of thought," says Espresso Warehouse's Gary
McGann. "some people say 'does it do what it says?' and others say
there has been very little innovation in coffee machines, so hats off to
                                                                                 The one-cup
them. I believe it does answer a lot of questions - and bigger companies
with more resources should have done this some time ago!"
   A transatlantic café said that its speciality coffee sales had risen 'quite
drastically' since it began offering customers samples made using the
                                                                                 filter machine
                                                                                 the brew chamber drops down into the machine. The coffee is always
Clover. Is it likely that this would happen in the UK?
                                                                                 exposed, in that the top of the brew chamber is open, and the barista
    "This is a French press on speed. For a long time, people lost sight of      needs to stir during the infusion… the makers claim this is the barista
what a cafetiere could do for making one great cup. There are problems           'interacting', or at least looking like he's doing something to earn his
with cafetieres, and the trade has gone from a big love affair with them,        money. It is also argued that you need a special silicone whisk to stir,
to none at all.                                                                  and there are big arguments over this, but we've decided not to get into
    "In the UK, the filter market is not what it used to be. But there are an
increasing number of people who are cutting down on their dairy intake,             "When the time is up, the brew chamber rises, the coffee pours out of
and this is an opportunity to promote to them good coffee at a good              the front, and the 'cake' of grounds comes up to the top, where you use
price. If you want to sell coffee at a pound a cup, you'd be an idiot to         something like a windscreen wiper to move them into the waste holder.
use this - but in the US, where a regular coffee was $2.50, I bought a           Then you rinse and start again."
single-estate brewed in the Clover at six dollars a cup, over twice the
                                                                                    At the moment, the Clover costs several thousand pounds, and the
regular price.
                                                                                 maker himself only sold six in his first year… then a hundred the next
   "This is the big point of difference. This is the opportunity to promote      year. It will start slowly in the UK, says Gary McGann, but in time, with
one cup of special coffee, ground and brewed right in front of the               developments in the machine, and probably improvements in the price as
customer, and it certainly does help the sale of your add-on 250gm               the technology becomes mainstream, the automated speciality filter
packs."                                                                          machine could well become as expected an item behind the counter as
                                                                                 the espresso machine.
   Isn't all this a pain for 'just a cup of filter'?
                                                                                     Am American roaster-retailer has already been quoted as saying: "We
   "Yes, there is a lot of labour," acknowledges McGann. "You need an
                                                                                 don't want to sound too grandiose about this, but once you've crossed
additional grinder, and weighing scales. But this means that you are
                                                                                 over into accepting only flawlessly-brewed cups of coffee, a new
preparing the whole thing in front of the customer, and talking to him
                                                                                 business horizon appears. The ability to brew a lightning-fast, perfect cup
about it as you do, so you are doing a selling job all the time.
                                                                                 of any of the beans in your line-up, on demand, could quickly move on to
   "You grind the coffee, pop it in the brew chamber, press a button and         a connoisseur trade.”
There are several myths in the making of
espresso. One is that all espresso machines
are essentially the same, and another is that
all espresso beans are very much the same.
                                                    Avoid the myths
   But the myth which annoys several machine-
makers the most is the one that says that the
'sweet spot' temperature for a perfect espresso
coffee is 94c.
                                                    of espresso
   This, says Steve Penk of La Spaziale, is a
dangerous fallacy.
    "Every blend of coffee has its own unique
sweet spot, the temperature point at which it
gives up as many of its positive flavours as
possible, without releasing the negative
flavours. Coffee is full of hundreds of different
flavours, and some of them are sour, some
astringent, others are bitter, or even burnt
tasting. These are the flavours we do not want
to release, and a difference of only one degree
can drastically alter the flavour of your
    "The temperature point at which the water
hits the coffee is the optimum thing - nothing
else matters so much. This means that the
ethos of the machine-maker has to be to make
a machine which will get the best out of any
    What does this mean for the café owner or                                            The La Spaziale S5 with the unusual
caterer? It means, says La Spaziale, that there                                                     lever-style steam control
is one staggering truth which many caterers
have simply never taught their serving staff - it
                                                        There are a great many complexities involved in the
is that the taste of a good coffee does not            world of espresso coffee making - but don’t be put off
necessarily come from buying a big-name                 by them. The secret is to choose a machine which
brand or choosing a bean grown in a certain                  suits the kind of business you’re running
part of the world.
                                                        "This means that if perhaps you draw hot          person who buys the espresso machine has to
   No, responsibility for the taste in the          water from your boiler for tea, the machine will      take responsibility for understanding a little
customer's cup comes from the espresso              refill with cold water, thus causing a variation in   about how it works, to make sure it is the
machine, and the skill of the person working it.    the temperature of boiler water and in turn, a        correct one for his café. The machine built for
And the truth, says La Spaziale challengingly, is   variation in the brew water.                          200 espressos an hour is not the same as the
dramatic.                                                                                                 one which may be ideal for twenty in an
                                                        "This gives a problem of consistency, and is
    "Only consistency of temperature is going to    the reason why one espresso can be good and
give the assurance of serving consistently good     the next poor. If you do not make an espresso             La Spaziale, of course, has its own sales
drinks, which is what grows the caterer's           for ten minutes, your next drink will be made         argument, which centres around the use of
business. But we have a situation where coffee      with water which has been sitting in that copper      steam to heat its brewing chambers more
roasters are selling to operators whose             pipe and has probably been heated to the              precisely - but the wider implication is that
machines are producing the right temperature        temperature of the boiler. If you then make           caterers and their serving staff understand what
perhaps one time in four!"                          three more espressos in a row, you are using          an espresso machine is, what it does and how
                                                    water which has passed straight through the           it does it, and how much of the operation of the
   This, says La Spaziale, shows the                system, and is probably at a lower temperature        machine to deliver a good drink is actually their
importance of choosing an espresso machine          than the water which made the first one.              responsibility.
which is exactly right for the kind of business
                                                        "Another problem you may face is the                 Temperature is one of the considerations -
you need to run.
                                                    occasional slow-bar situation, where the              there are others. This is not, says La Spaziale,
    "One of the biggest mistaken beliefs in         machine is stood idle for long periods of time.       a daunting technical responsibility.
espresso is that you take the water from the        Here many machines tend to overheat and the
boiler to make the coffee - you don't. You are      brew head fills with steam - steam being well            "I really don't believe that anyone goes to
taking cold water which comes from the main         over 100 degrees, will overheat your coffee,          work thinking: 'I'm going to make lousy coffee
and goes through a coiled copper pipe which         bringing out a lot of bad flavours in your            today'. The point of what we are doing is to
sits in the boiler, in a bath of hot water.         coffee."                                              explain to them a vast number of little things
                                                                                                          which will excite people when they get it right.
   "Most machines on the market use this bath          The basic machine lesson from all this, says
of water in their boiler as a source of heat,       La Spaziale, is that serving staff have to               "Don't be afraid of trying to understand
jacketing the pipe carrying the brew water and      understand the responsibility they carry for the      these things - they make a difference to the
heating it on its way to the coffee.                quality of the drink they serve, and that the         success of your business, so embrace them!”
"The main topic of interest in the espresso
industry for the last three years has been
'sweet spots'," confirms David Cooper of
Dalla Corte UK. "And yes, this all sounds
tecchie and geeky, but it really is not at all!
     "The 'group head' is where the espresso
coffee is submerged in very hot water. Then
pressure builds up in the group head because
of the tightly compacted coffee which will not,
initially, allow water to pass through. When the
coffee finally submits to the pressure, an
'extraction' is formed into the cup."
   So far, says Cooper, it sounds simple
    "We all know only too well how the differing
quality of flavours can often be disappointing.
But when you happen to hit upon the 'espresso
sweet spot', which is a rare and perfect
extraction temperature, resulting in a
wonderfully balanced drink, then the experience        The Dalla Corte, with hand-held temperature control
                                                       to within one-tenth of a degree
is unforgettable."
    Achieving that 'sweet spot' is not just a
lucky fluke, or a matter of buying a good coffee
blend. It is the result of showing the staff how
what they do with the machine will produce a
                                                       Sticking to
good or a bad drink. This, says David Cooper,
fits in with the basic essentials of good
                                                       your sweet spot
    "We are all aware that the common reasons             "It is no coincidence that you will often        keep serving at that temperature all day long.
for poor tasting coffee are -                          receive your best espressos in the first few
                                                                                                               It also automatically compensates for
                                                       hours of switching the machine on, because the
     * a poor quality blend. Even today many                                                               variations elsewhere in the espresso-
                                                       group head temperature is moderate and it
espressos are created by roasters who have                                                                 preparation process. If the barista has
                                                       enables the coffee to extract without being
little idea of how the blend will taste in the final                                                       programmed in the data that a certain coffee
                                                       'over cooked'.
cup, because they don't taste it.                                                                          gives the best flavour at, say, 22 seconds at
                                                          "After that, machine group heads vary in         92.1c, then the machine will automatically
   * dirty equipment. Coffee is oily, and old oils     temperature throughout the typical working day      measure shot times, and if they vary from the
and grounds have an effect on fresh coffee.            by many degrees - people will challenge me on       pre-set optimum, will automatically adjust the
Would you ask your chef to work with dirty             that, but I have myself found a twelve-degree       grinder. This brings in some interesting
pots?                                                  variation in temperature during the course of       possibilities. If the staff change shifts, and the
   * poor quality grinder burrs. They should be        the day.                                            next barista does not tamp the coffee as tightly
changed after every 50,000 shots but people                                                                as the one before, then the machine will notice
                                                           "One single degree centigrade is all it takes
rarely do.                                                                                                 the resulting difference in extraction time. It will
                                                       to destroy a perfectly good coffee and anyone
                                                                                                           take the average of the next five shots, then tell
   * incorrect coffee dose and maybe poor              can detect the difference in taste. I have done
                                                                                                           the grinder to compensate.
tamping technique.                                     this test many times on the most experienced
                                                       and the totally inexperienced coffee drinkers,          The over-riding argument, for the caterer
    "Now let's just assume that we have staff          and their amazement is equal. Group head            and the barista, is to select their machine with
who understand and perform all of the above in         temperature is vital to a good cup of coffee."      an understanding of what makes good coffee,
the correct manner. We should get a great cup                                                              and an appreciation of how much the barista's
of coffee?                                                David Cooper does of course have his own
                                                                                                           skill contributes to this.
                                                       product argument in support of his Dalla Corte
   "This is where, if you don't understand the         brand - his argument is that when the barista          It is not simply a brand argument, say the
importance of your machine's performance,              has judged exactly the right temperature to get     experts of espresso. It is a question of knowing
then your barista's efforts will be largely in vain.   the best out of any particular coffee, then the     the principles that go to make good espresso,
This is because natural sweetness and delicate         Dalla Corte will allow him to programme in that     and then selecting the machine which allows
qualities are destroyed by too much heat.              temperature, to one-tenth of a degree, and          your staff to best apply those principles

                                              For information on the full breadth of City and Guilds activities,
                                            and how the work of the organisation can benefit you, your staff and
                                                                   your business, visit:
One of the great observations about fully-
automatic machines was recently made by a
well-known London roaster, who acidly
commented that skill levels are now falling
so fast that cafes now need a machine with
                                                         In praise of
just one extremely large button sited in the
centre of the casing - so that the average
Saturday staffer could simply head-butt it to
produce a coffee.
  What is there to know about fully-automatic
machines - and how do they do it?
    We asked two suppliers who are probably not
taking part in the Bev-X debate on the subject -
Agostino Luggeri of Mulmar imports not only La
Marzocco espresso machines, but is also a fan
of the Acorto fully-automatics. We also asked
Ian Balmforth of Bolling coffee, the Yorkshire
roaster who supplies Black and White machines.
    "In the same fashion that a great watercolour
doesn't paint itself, making a great coffee
beverage takes a mixture of experience,
science, and art," replied Agostino Luggeri. "It is
a tall order to learn coffee artistry, and just like a
novice watercolour artist, there are few first-time
masterpieces. Even after the trade is learned,
both the watercolour master and the coffee artist
have occasional bad days that impact upon the
quality of their artistry.
   "So - enter the super-automatic commercial
espresso machine!"
   Should caterers consider using a one-step
super automatic machine?
                                                                                                                                               An Acorto
   "The answer is yes," says Agostino Luggeri.
"We have chosen, in our business, to feature the
                                                                                                                                            from Mulmar
Acorto brand of machines manufactured by
Concordia Coffee Systems, the originator of the
super automatic process that combines the
making of espresso and preparing the milk in             Considering an automatic solution? Two suppliers
one step, at the touch of a button.                      consider the benefits of automation - but also highlight
   "Special barista training is eliminated and the       some of the things that you really must think about.
machine never shows up late for work. When
super-automatic machines are used in the 'front          continued changes to the grinder settings. With      trouble in the long run.
of house', many options become available - if            numbers of different staff, this may mean that
                                                                                                                  "In super-automatic machines, coffee
you are serving a breakfast buffet, your                 there is no standard beverage profile and the
                                                                                                              extraction is done in the 'brew group'. Brew
customers can choose and make their own                  regular customer experiences varying beverage
                                                                                                              groups have a brewing chamber where the
beverages, at the touch of a button. It helps            quality.
                                                                                                              grinders deposit the ground beans; the beans
reduce queuing, which is particularly important              "The commercial-grade super-automatic            are then automatically tamped and water is
in small spaces. It removes the need for a               machines have eliminated these issues. The           infused into the beans. Once the tamped coffee
second employee - one barista to make                    better machines use more expensive top-of-the-       is infused with water, the brew group presses or
beverages, and one to serve pastries and take            line grinders with oversized motors that prevent     extracts the espresso from the beans and puts
the money."                                              the grinder blades from 'slowing down' in the        the espresso into the customers' cup. The brew
   The arguments are all very well - but what do         grinding process. Since they are bolted to the       group then disposes of the used coffee or 'puck'.
super-automatics actually do? And how do they            frame of the machine, there is little chance for
                                                                                                                  "The brew group pressure, timing, water
do it?                                                   vibration or grinder movement that would impact
                                                                                                              quantity etc., are fully adjustable so that
                                                         on the quality of the grind.
   "The keys to making outstanding coffee                                                                     espresso can be made to a standard taste profile
beverages are grind, pressure and extraction                "Because of their overall quality and             and maintain it. The Concordia machines
timing, and the proper milk steaming and                 robustness, they can be adjusted to                  actually monitor activity in the brew group and
preparation for each types of espresso-based             accommodate finer changes in grinding. Once          will self-adjust if a previous beverage does not
beverage," says Luggeri.                                 the beverage profile is set, the grinder maintains   meet the specified profile.
                                                         these settings. So, when shopping for an
   "In most coffee shops the grinding process is                                                                 "Again, commercial grade machines use very
                                                         automatic machine, make sure you buy one with
done using a tabletop grinder. Each barista                                                                   substantial brew groups with metal construction,
                                                         a substantial grinder - it will save time and
determines the 'appropriate' grind, and makes                                                                 and the best machines have oversized steam
tanks or separate tanks for the brew group. In                                                               in the brewing chamber to retain the heat.
commercial applications, it is wise to avoid brew
groups constructed of plastic or other materials,         “Bean-to-cup coffee                                   "If all the bean-to-cup brewing parameters
                                                                                                             are correct then the coffee will be close to the
and machines with very small steam tanks."               quality may not be as                               taste of the same coffee from a traditional
                                                                                                             machine. As a generalisation, there will be less
   Milk work in automatic machines is tricky.
                                                         good as a traditional                               body from a bean to cup coffee, and so careful
    "The best machines have an integrated milk
cooler," says Agostino Luggeri. "The operator
                                                                system -                                     roasting is therefore vital. To compensate for
                                                                                                             less body, the coffee must be slow-roasted and
puts milk in the cooler and the machine                     but it's close!”                                 using fuller-bodied coffees - and often, these
maintains freshness by managing milk                                                                         can be more expensive."
temperature. That's the last time the operator
touches the milk. When the operator presses           super-automatic machines will deliver the                 The milk method is something to be
the button to make a latte or cappuccino, the         highest yield at the minimum expense, over             investigated, says Ian Balmforth.
super-automatic machine begins the brewing            time."
                                                                                                                "Many bean-to-cup machines use powdered
process and at the same time, the machine                Is the coffee as good as from a traditional         milk. These are not worthy of a quality conscious
draws milk from the cooler and superheats the         espresso machine? Roaster Ian Balmforth                catering market - fresh milk is the only option.
milk to a preset temperature based on the type        prepares beans for both traditional use and for        Other machines usually have one of two
of beverage chosen.                                   bean-to-cup use, and takes a keen interest in          systems for automatically foaming milk. There
    "Commercial grade machines also froth milk        what automatic machines need. He warns that            are systems that use steam, and systems that
to the proper consistency for various types of        there are many specifications which the operator       whip already-hot milk. Both systems are a
beverages. The heated milk is immediately             has to get right before he will achieve a              compromise and each has disadvantages.
dispensed into the customers' cup, and the            consistently good result.
                                                                                                                "Systems that use steam must have an
coffee is added without having to move the cup.           "Brewing chambers are generally smaller in         annual pressure vessel inspection - this is a
The best machines have a separate steam tank          diameter than traditional machines but                 legal requirement and can be a significant cost.
for steaming the milk. Again, you should avoid        compensate by having a greater depth of coffee.        The taste of steamed milk is good but delivery
machines with smaller tanks."                         This means that to get a similar taste we must         can be slow and inconsistent. Hot milk systems
                                                      use slightly more coffee per espresso shot. And        are very consistent and have a very fast
    The Concordia machines have recently
                                                      in order for bean-to-cup systems to work               delivery, but the downside is that if the milk is
begun to include a flavour element to the
                                                      properly, the grind size tends to be slightly          not used within 4 hours it can taste cooked.”
automatic process. This is largely for the
American market, where 70 per cent of espresso        coarser than used for traditional systems. This is
                                                                                                                Is an automatic a good option for the
beverages have an added flavouring, and so            an area that good suppliers really must spend a
Concordia invented what is thought to be the          lot of time getting right - just as with traditional
                                                      systems there is a 'sweet spot' for each coffee.          "Bean-to-cup machines are bought to supply
first ever fully integrated flavour infusion system
                                                      Using a coarser coffee means that we must              high volumes, and the higher end bean-to-cup
- a portion of the chosen flavoured sauce or
                                                      compensate using pre-infusion, different               systems are very useful for serving high
syrup is automatically steamed into the
                                                      tamping pressures and other brewing changes.           volumes of good quality.
                                                          "Many brewing chambers are plastic, which             "However, the operator cannot simply
   And so, says Agostino Luggeri, with a full
                                                      give poor heat retention. As soon as the brewing       assume the machines will do that for ever - they
vending system that accepts debit/credit cards,
                                                      components cool, the espresso extraction is            must clean their equipment according to
notes and coins, and with an automated
                                                      compromised. Just as with traditional machines,        manufacturer's instructions.
cleaning process that takes about ten minutes a
                                                      all components in contact with the coffee must
day with no need to dis-assemble the machine,                                                                   "If they do, then coffee quality may not be as
                                                      have as much heat retention as possible, so
automatic machines save a lot of effort.                                                                     good as using a traditional system - but it's
                                                      should be of brass or stainless steel. Good
   "It all comes down to return on investment -       machines will also have small heating elements         close!"

Espresso on the move
   Why are more people looking to the cart? It's quite true - there really is a greater
appearance of mobile espresso carts and vehicles to be seen at all kinds of open-air sites and
events, and it follows that there is an increasing number of trade suppliers offering the
    Fracino, Britain's only designer and maker of espresso machines, has now adapted several
of its machines into mobile or dual-fuel options to cater for the increasing trend towards
espresso on the move.
   What is the ideal fuel? The choice is generally electric or LPG; some operators say that
electricity is more efficient, but that a petrol-powered generator is not ideal when working with
   "The main reason for having an LPG (liquid petroleum gas) machine is for outside caterers
who want to serve good coffee but don't have the electrical power supply to run one," says
Fracino. "The machine has a gas-fired burner under the boiler, which when lit, heats the
boiler by direct flame. The burner is controlled by a valve which works like a pressure switch -
when the boiler reaches working pressure, the flame dies low, and when the pressure reduces
the flame burns high again, therefore maintaining boiler pressure.
   "We have built our burner into a burner box because we have the most powerful LPG-
powered espresso machine in the world, which enables the machine to operate as a normal
high-powered electric machine in a bar or coffee shop producing copious amounts of steam for
milk. What lets most European LPG machines down is that the burners are less than half the
power, and are open - they tend to melt everything inside.
                                                                                                         An unusual challenge for the modern mobile
   "Our machine has passed all safety standards tested by Advantica who test for British Gas.                 coffee trade - at the top is the shell of a
The running costs are minimal and a bottle of gas will generally last 2 days making 1000                 Smart car, showing just how little room there
                                                                                                           is for espresso equipment. The following
coffees per day."                                                                                           picture is the solution devised by Fracino
                                                                                                                                  and Cheshire Coffee.
   Possibly the smallest mobile carts currently in service are those built inside Smart cars -
several have been made by Carl Studley of Cheshire Coffee.                                                   Below is the Fracino Cherub, one of the
                                                                                                                       small machines now equipped
   "I have built about 20 mobile carts in all, going up to the size of a Suzuki Carry, but down to                                    for mobile use
the Smart car for a mix of practicality and cute looks. The challenge to kit out a Smart car was
how one could fit all the necessary equipment into the car given its limited space - it was this
challenge that made the task and the solution all the more satisfying. I found the Fracino
machine which is at least seven inches narrower than the normal espresso machines.
   All cart operators agree that there are tricks to working in such a small space. One says
that for best profitability, the key is to do what you do best, concentrate on building up a
reputation for great coffee only, and leave the burgers and ice-creams to other traders - if you
pick the right site, you don't need them.
   "A mentor wrote that when looking for his first restaurant site, he sat outside likely sites for
several days and counted the mouths that went by" remarks Carl at Cheshire Coffee. "You'll
notice he didn't say 'the people'! That writer was Sir Charles Forte.
   "One of our customers had her first Smart car delivered and chose her sites. She did so
well at local shows, in one case £2,000 in three days, that she has ordered her second, and
says it will not be her last."

                                The first recorded coffee cart dates from March 24, 1863 - it supported the Union troops in
                                the American civil war, and was a modified artillery gun carriage, holding three 14-gallon
                                boilers instead of a cannon. It could brew ten gallons in 20 minutes on a march, and 90
                                                                   gallons an hour when parked. (Believe it or not, in the
                                                                  same war, some rifles were built with coffee-grinders built
                                                                 into the shoulder-rests!)

                                                                          Motorised coffee vehicles are not new, either - we’re
                                                                           grateful to La Marzocco for this super picture of one in
                                                                           service in Italy, in what we expect must have been around
                                                                          the 1950s-60s. The van appears to have two espresso
                                                                          machines side by side at the serving hatch, with the grinder
                                                                            sited between them.

                                       for the
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       This issue is brought to you by the
     Beverage Service Association with the
       help of these Patrons, all of whom
     believe that the trade deserves support
         in the best possible training for
                  front-line staff.
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