Came across this recently and felt I had to share as well as ask if anyone has been able to play with one of these yet. Not for sale as of yet but there seem to be quite a few insiders here and I was hoping maybe someone can attest to the quality of product this beautiful machine makes, or had any more information about it.

http://alphadominche.com/

http://vimeo.com/21674489

Enjoy!

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Creating buzz are we now :D

It's the Steampunk brewer that won best new product at SCAA this spring.

As Brady pointed out, they had one of these set up at the SCAA last spring. It got a LOT of attention. In fact I think it's safe to say that it got the most buzz of any product on display. On at least a design level, people really seemed to like it. And based on what I saw, I think customers would find it really fun if you had one of these set up in your café. 
That having been said, I walked away with some strong concerns. First, no one seemed able to say when they would actually be available for purchase. And now nearly six months later there still seems to be no word on even a proposed release date. I wouldn't go so far as to call the Steampunk vaporware, but this complete lack of communication worries me a bit. Second, I talked with the designer, and he refused to say how much it would cost. He told me he had been specifically advised not to give out this info. He did offer that the final price would "probably" be about the same as a similarly configured (4-group) espresso machine. So if that holds up, you'll be looking at $10,000-$15,000 or more for one of these. Which is not nothing.

So at the moment I am torn. I think the machine is very attractive, and I think customers will love the theater of it. But I am disturbed by the lack of information, and it's not clear to me that it will be worth the price. And even setting those issues aside, this unit seems to be going in the opposite direction of most modern cafés, which are reducing the tech and making single serving coffees via pour-over, syphon, etc. If the clover were released today, would it get as much attention as it did? I don't know, but somehow I don't think so.

Of course if the Steampunk makes really great coffee, then that is a legitimate reason to consider it. But even though I tried some coffee from it, I have to withhold judgment on that. They were having real trouble with water pressure in the building, and didn't feel they could really show the unit off to its full potential. So the biggest question of all, "how good is the coffee", remains unanswered. As far as I know, that's where things stand at the moment. Others here may know more.

I have been communicating (if one can call it that) with them some. Maybe things are crazy with them right now but attentive they are not. I will hold off any further judgement for a later date. And after months of asking they did finally say its going to be $15,000, which is few thousand more than my 3 group fb80. Holding out hope though. Maybe its amazing. 

It's certainly a beautiful machine, and it's a difficult piece of machinery to price. I think those who can afford to buy and understand how to use it properly are likely those who would have the least interest as it moves you away from the craft of making coffee and becomes purely the science of making coffee. The cost:value ratio seems high. 

In the end, it has to add value to what you are serving. As we craft all of our coffee by hand on the siphon @ $8-$12 per 8 oz cup, I don't think this would raise the value of our product. It's not just about science and consistency. It's about quality and mastery of craft, and taking the time to prepare that coffee, by hand, for that customer in front of you. When you lose that aspect of craft, the value of the product is diminished. 

There's definitely something to be learned in brewing labs from this kind of equipment. I look forward to see what people learn from this in the next five to ten years.

I think one of the supposed advantages of the Steampunk is consistency and speed, both of which are lacking currently in many pour-over setups. I think its always important not to box in the industry into ONE model. There are many ways to add value to the product, hand crafted drinks are one of many ways to do that. 

I wonder how amazing it would have to be in order to make the purchase of one be a smart business decision? Yes, it has generated buzz in the coffee community, but will that buzz extend out into the broader buying public? How is the coffee it makes?


alissa mendonça said:

I have been communicating (if one can call it that) with them some. Maybe things are crazy with them right now but attentive they are not. I will hold off any further judgement for a later date. And after months of asking they did finally say its going to be $15,000, which is few thousand more than my 3 group fb80. Holding out hope though. Maybe its amazing. 

When the Trifecta came out a couple years ago I remember a similar discussion. At the time they were $3-4,000 and I remarked that a pour over set up was maybe $100. Consistency is an issue but money is more so. I would think that if consistency were that great of a problem we'd be seeing more Trifectas in the field. Everything I've heard is that they do a fine job on the coffee once you get it dialed in but they are hardly a fixture on bars in the Seattle area. Which illustrates Brady's point. Personally I'm not sure anything could be amazing enough at that price, $10-12,000 to be worth buying for an average shop when the alternative is $100.

I don't know, if you can design a machine like that and then you show up to do a temporary setup and you rely on site water pressure/quality...........  For real, who does that?

And what Mike said.  


Michael Arnovitz said:


 They were having real trouble with water pressure in the building, and didn't feel they could really show the unit off to its full potential.

It seems like nearly everyone is on the same page with their concerns about the Steampunk. Here's the thing - you have to have an espresso machine to make espresso. And through time and tradition espresso machines have become the centerpiece of any café. But you don't have to have a Steampunk to make siphon coffee. Now there may be a benefit to owning the unit. I'm certainly open to that possibility. But for $15,000, what is it?

There are a couple of potential answers to that question. It may be that, due to the theatre of the device, you will sell a lot more coffee (and tea) if you use this machine. That matters, to be sure. But you would have to sell quite a bit more to cover this cost. Another possibility is that it makes better siphon coffee than you can make on your own. I, and many others here I suspect, would find such a claim dubious. And then there is the consistency factor that Alissa pointed out. If you have a lot of people who might want siphon coffee, the speed and consistency of this unit might very well make sense for many busy cafés. While I don't recall the Steampunk being particularly fast, it was probably at least twice as fast as a hand-made siphon coffee.

Finally, is there a loss of craft as John suggests? Perhaps. I can certainly see how it might appear that way to customers accustomed to the one-on-one service of a barista. But then again, is there a loss of craft because you use an espresso machine? Not if it's the right type of machine. Which means the Steampunk may well lend itself to the skills of individual baristas, or it may not. That depends on the way in which it is operated. I have to say that I did not get the impression that it was a simple "push a button and wait" situation. So it's not a given that craft is lost simply because this unit is mechanized. As with so many things about this unit, we simply need a lot more information than we have received to date. Hopefully it's forthcoming.

You know, the real value of the Alpha is in the valving and temp controls at the head, along with the software/hardware.  They could easily, at least compared to making a whole machine, create an after market grouphead you could mount on a La Marzocco.  There are still lots of the old Starbucks 4 groups in the wild and with the dual boiler and ability to have separate brewheads La Marzocco would make the ideal platform for such an item.  Instead of having to make an "either/or" choice or justify a "both" decision a person could get the Alpha group and have their Linea modded to run it.  That takes the total cost down from $15,000 to ~$5000 and if Alpha worked out a technology licencing deal with LaMa I'm sure it could be a $1500 option on a new Strada or Linea.

 

You're welcome.

I think if someone constructs their business model around this kind of machine, rather than around an espresso machine, it makes more sense, and if the machine is proven reliable over a ten to fifteen year period, it could be amazing. However, brewing coffee in a machine like this, and delivering it in a paper cup would be heartbreaking. Please, for those early adopters, ceramic only.

It should never be about speed. 

Speaking of craft:

If you could have a "chef" make you twelve perfectly consistent nigiri from a robot sushi maker... and quickly, would you opt for that? Or would you choose to have a sushi master put his soul into every piece he makes, and craft you something that science really doesn't have words for?

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