Marco: Uber Boiler - Has anyone worked with one of these?

I was on the new La Marzocco website and saw the Uber brewing station.  Looks really neat.  I haven't heard to much about it.  Can anyone shed some light on this for me?  List price point?

Best,

AP

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Looks neat but I don't think it's ready for prime time.  Very expensive and with some very serious production flaws - meaning problems that will arise when you're in production making drinks for customers.

 

Here's a more detailed write up on the problems I see with the Uber Boiler:

 

http://onocoffee.blogspot.com/2010/06/lost-in-time-marco-uber-boile...

Not quite worked but played with it few times. I think the pricepoint is around 4000€ but I can't find any mention on it.

 

It's a lovely machine. It looks good and keeps the countertop clean. Especially the way they've integrated the scale and the driptray is just beautiful. I still think that using a kettle is the only way to pour water in to filtercones. 

 

Jay: What are the production flaws? I heard that the earlier version was quite emh.. raw but I think most of the flaws with temperature boosting etc. are long gone with the version I saw at london. 

It looks a lot like the Clover.  What ever happened to those, by the way?  Howard just bought them to kill production?  Jay, you've seen both machines IRL and close up, am I way off here?

And wouldn't a Clover be a cheaper/faster/smaller way to provide the same thing as your theoretical matched pair of Ubers?

Yeah, you're way off... no offense.

 

The Uber Boiler in it's most basic explanation is a highly exact water delivery system incorporating a scale for use in manual brewing applications.

 

Like Jay said, it's got some flaws, but it's coming along.  I could just repeat what he's said, but he said it pretty well.  I've worked on them at trade shows and it's pretty easy to make it hit the wall, but not as easy as it used to be.  Hopefully in a couple years we'll be putting them into shops (and hopefully for a few thousand less than what we are seeing them at now).

 

Check out James Hoffman's blog for more info, he's been working with Uber on this project for some time and has done a good deal of writing on it.

 

And yes, the Clover is pretty much gone.  No point in highlighting the subtle nuances in Starbucks coffee, especially not a $8,000+/piece price tag for each Starbucks location in the US.  You can still find them in some stores around the US, but as the industry as a whole moves more and more towards manual brewing I don't think we'll see them surface as a major force again, especially not with all the buzz around the Bunn Trifecta.

 

-bry

Chris said:

It looks a lot like the Clover.  What ever happened to those, by the way?  Howard just bought them to kill production?  Jay, you've seen both machines IRL and close up, am I way off here?

And wouldn't a Clover be a cheaper/faster/smaller way to provide the same thing as your theoretical matched pair of Ubers?



Bryan Wray said:

Yeah, you're way off... no offense

 

 

None taken.
But, this is a way to deliver water a a very specific temperature top a very specific volume (weight) to pour over grounds that you've measured and ground specifically for a single serving of coffee...
wait, isn't that what the Clover did, albeit in a much more controlled, and controllable fashion?
What am I missing?
And I dunno about 'way off' The LCD readouts are almost identical!    ; >
Clover also brews coffee where as uber just makes water. 

Chris said:


Bryan Wray said:

Yeah, you're way off... no offense

 

 

None taken.
But, this is a way to deliver water a a very specific temperature top a very specific volume (weight) to pour over grounds that you've measured and ground specifically for a single serving of coffee...
wait, isn't that what the Clover did, albeit in a much more controlled, and controllable fashion?
What am I missing?
And I dunno about 'way off' The LCD readouts are almost identical!    ; >

Joona-

 

Perhaps I might have chosen not the most concise wording.  When I wrote "production flaws" I did not mean in terms of build quality but rather my concern regarding the Uber Boiler being able to keep up with production rates, i.e. I seriously doubt that the Uber could keep up in a volume shop - not without adding additional units.

 

For the price point (roughly US$5-6K), the Uber is extremely expensive - especially considering that we're simply talking about a hot water boiler.  Certainly, the Uber can deliver a very precise temperature point but is it truly worth the cost?  Especially at the expense of flow and production rate?  I really don't think so.

 

Pundits will argue that the Uber will keep up with production demands if go to multiple units. At nearly six thousand dollars a unit, adding additional units becomes wildly expensive very quickly.  Not to mention the counter space needed to handle additional installations.  Take that into consideration and the Uber looks even less attractive.

 

Temperature boosting is the most significant problem of the Uber.  Yes, it is nice that the unit shuts down to fill the tank and prevent temperature irregularities, however, this is at the expense of production.  In my testing, the refilling of one liter of water and its reheating to the proper temperature in the boiler as well as the font took about four minutes and fifteen seconds - an eternity on a busy brew bar.  Quite simply, this is unacceptable in a production environment.

 

I limited my test to one liter, however, most baristas will probably bleed the five liter Uber boiler further down in order to keep up with the rush.  The farther you draw the boiler, the greater expected recovery time.  And if we're talking four minutes recovery per liter of water, we're also talking a fifteen to twenty minute recovery time.   Again, this is simply unacceptable - especially for a six thousand dollar boiler.

 

Bryan notes that he's worked with it in a production environment and that it's no longer as easy to "hit the wall" with the Uber as it used to be.  The bottom line here is that it Hits The Wall.  If I'm spending upwards of six thousand dollars for a brew boiler, it shouldn't "hit the wall."  Ever.  Cool design is one thing but my customers aren't paying me for a cool looking boiler, they're paying me for an excellent cup of coffee delivered within a reasonable time frame - and the Uber seems guaranteed to extend that time frame and irritating my customer base.

 

And I have a customer base that is willing and used to waiting four minutes for a hand-brewed cup of coffee that costs $4.50 for a 12z cup.

 

Bryan also notes that James Hoffmann has been a supported of the Uber.  Bear in mind that James Hoffmann did not pay for his Uber Boiler, it was given to him by Marco "for testing."  The Uber that Hoffmann used at The Penny University was also free and the rent was free - meaning that Hoffmann and company did not face the same economic operating conditions the rest of us face.

 

On top of all that, during my one-hour visit to The Penny University, the baristas DID NOT use the Uber Boiler in the manner that it was a) intended, or b) lauded by Hoffmann.  All of this talk about the directional font, the precision scale and the incredibly precise water delivery temp were tossed out of the window as the baristas used this six thousand dollar water boiler to fill and refill a Hario Buono Kettle to carry the water and brew coffee.

 

In other words, the coffee shop and baristas of the world's foremost proponent of the Marco Uber Boiler DID NOT use the boiler as touted or intended.  

 

I think that's the most telling example of the Marco Uber Boiler.

 

During the design phase of Spro Hampden (which opened this past March), I designed our brew bar to fit the Marco Uber Boiler as I was very interested in incorporating it into our design and approach to brewing coffee.  Then they finally released the price and I realized that it was just too expensive and went with the Fetco FWB-5 hot water tower.  In June, I finally had the opportunity to really crunch on the Uber Boiler and came up with the results I wrote about in my blog.  At that point, I was more than relieved that we hadn't been duped into using something that would only frustrate everyone involved and put undue financial burden on my company.

 

From what I have been told, there are currently two production (and paid for) Uber Boilers installed in the United States, both in New York City - one at a restaurant in Manhattan and one at a coffee roastery in Brooklyn.  While I haven't heard any direct feeback from the baristas involved in a couple of months, the enthusiasm about the Uber Boiler's usability in coffee production has been less than enthusiastic, and the little word I have heard trickle back to me from New York since has also been less than enthusiastic.

 

For the time being, I would go with the Fetco water tower (not necessarily the most precise water delivery but very efficient) or build my own precise controlled temperature water dispenser.  Actually, one method just popped to mind and maybe we'll start looking into that in 2011.

Even a modified PID heater controlled lowly 5gal 120v Bunn Tower does a good job maintaining dispensed water temp within 1F of target in moderate environment. (Haven't got our 220v 5gal Bunn tower PID'd yet at our busiest location but will soon.) Obviously it doesn't dispense exact amounts of water, but that's what the skill of the barista is for. Hit it too hard and you know if boiler water temp has dropped, if same skilled barista looks at the PID display staring them in the eye. Do we really need or want a $6k super-automatic water boiler for manual pour-over anymore than we need or want super-automatic espresso machines? Sure technically the Uber Boiler is way cool in what it can do (or almost do in busy production as reported). Techically cool too in their own way are quality regularly maintained super-automatic espresso machines which have been proven to be able to pull very good to even exceptional straight shots of espresso, more consistently than a mediocre barista. Effectively using tools is what can make a barista great, not just pushing a button that does it for you for magically dispensed hot water or espresso.

 

I don't know, even if our company had an extra $6k laying around highly doubt it'd be thrown at one Uber Boiler. We have three retail locations, make that $18,000 needed laying around. Spend the money on more intense ongoing barista training on how to properly use a PID'd lowly water tower for various coffees and various manual brewing methods, be able to pay dedicated motivated baristas more, way too many exceptional lots of greens out there I'd much rather spend money on.

Jay Caragay said:

For the time being, I would go with the Fetco water tower (not necessarily the most precise water delivery but very efficient) or build my own precise controlled temperature water dispenser.  Actually, one method just popped to mind and maybe we'll start looking into that in 2011.

It certainly looked that way, but Starbucks has recently started rolling Clovers out into their highest profile locations, where they will use them to brew single origins and other limited availability coffees. The first in L.A. I think is the L.A. Live shop.

Bryan Wray said:

 

And yes, the Clover is pretty much gone.  No point in highlighting the subtle nuances in Starbucks coffee, especially not a $8,000+/piece price tag for each Starbucks location in the US.  You can still find them in some stores around the US, but as the industry as a whole moves more and more towards manual brewing I don't think we'll see them surface as a major force again, especially not with all the buzz around the Bunn Trifecta.

 

 

(was editing additional and ran out time, didn't save0

In the long run from a purely botton line stand point replacing skilled people with machines saves money. Works very well for many industries including our own. Just look at the big coffee chains. But for me coffee isn't just about making money. It's about sharing the passion for great coffees. I've been passionate about coffee as culinary since I started drinking coffee at age 30 after tasting fresh roasted, fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee for the first time. I never drank coffee swill and never will. What machine can poetically describe the nuances of a coffee to a customer? What machine can intuitively create a custom beverage for a customer based on a few seconds conversation? Sure you could have videos on demand to describe your coffees. Trained monkey press A for Haile, B for Jimma, C for Esmeralda etc... Could even have a machine where the customer punches in their desired beverage with custom modifications and machine automatically makes it for them. That is NOT what we are about.

Mike McGinness said:

Even a modified PID heater controlled lowly 5gal 120v Bunn Tower does a good job maintaining dispensed water temp within 1F of target in moderate environment. (Haven't got our 220v 5gal Bunn tower PID'd yet at our busiest location but will soon.) Obviously it doesn't dispense exact amounts of water, but that's what the skill of the barista is for. Hit it too hard and you know if boiler water temp has dropped, if same skilled barista looks at the PID display staring them in the eye. Do we really need or want a $6k super-automatic water boiler for manual pour-over anymore than we need or want super-automatic espresso machines? Sure technically the Uber Boiler is way cool in what it can do (or almost do in busy production as reported). Techically cool too in their own way are quality regularly maintained super-automatic espresso machines which have been proven to be able to pull very good to even exceptional straight shots of espresso, more consistently than a mediocre barista. Effectively using tools is what can make a barista great, not just pushing a button that does it for you for magically dispensed hot water or espresso.

 

I don't know, even if our company had an extra $6k laying around highly doubt it'd be thrown at one Uber Boiler. We have three retail locations, make that $18,000 needed laying around. Spend the money on more intense ongoing barista training on how to properly use a PID'd lowly water tower for various coffees and various manual brewing methods, be able to pay dedicated motivated baristas more, way too many exceptional lots of greens out there I'd much rather spend money on.

Jay Caragay said:

For the time being, I would go with the Fetco water tower (not necessarily the most precise water delivery but very efficient) or build my own precise controlled temperature water dispenser.  Actually, one method just popped to mind and maybe we'll start looking into that in 2011.

Oh, and don't get me wrong, I'm a techno-geek as much or more than the next guy. Love cool coffee gadgets! Have a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology and in past life spent years as a Computer Field Service Engineer working on 5, 6 and even 7 digit back house computer systems.

 

But I'd rather go to and BE a coffeehouse run by the Flintstones than the Jetsons:)

Mike McGinness said:

(was editing additional and ran out time, didn't save0

In the long run from a purely botton line stand point replacing skilled people with machines saves money. Works very well for many industries including our own. Just look at the big coffee chains. But for me coffee isn't just about making money. It's about sharing the passion for great coffees. I've been passionate about coffee as culinary since I started drinking coffee at age 30 after tasting fresh roasted, fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee for the first time. I never drank coffee swill and never will. What machine can poetically describe the nuances of a coffee to a customer? What machine can intuitively create a custom beverage for a customer based on a few seconds conversation? Sure you could have videos on demand to describe your coffees. Trained monkey press A for Haile, B for Jimma, C for Esmeralda etc... Could even have a machine where the customer punches in their desired beverage with custom modifications and machine automatically makes it for them. That is NOT what we are about.

Mike McGinness said:

Even a modified PID heater controlled lowly 5gal 120v Bunn Tower does a good job maintaining dispensed water temp within 1F of target in moderate environment. (Haven't got our 220v 5gal Bunn tower PID'd yet at our busiest location but will soon.) Obviously it doesn't dispense exact amounts of water, but that's what the skill of the barista is for. Hit it too hard and you know if boiler water temp has dropped, if same skilled barista looks at the PID display staring them in the eye. Do we really need or want a $6k super-automatic water boiler for manual pour-over anymore than we need or want super-automatic espresso machines? Sure technically the Uber Boiler is way cool in what it can do (or almost do in busy production as reported). Techically cool too in their own way are quality regularly maintained super-automatic espresso machines which have been proven to be able to pull very good to even exceptional straight shots of espresso, more consistently than a mediocre barista. Effectively using tools is what can make a barista great, not just pushing a button that does it for you for magically dispensed hot water or espresso.

 

I don't know, even if our company had an extra $6k laying around highly doubt it'd be thrown at one Uber Boiler. We have three retail locations, make that $18,000 needed laying around. Spend the money on more intense ongoing barista training on how to properly use a PID'd lowly water tower for various coffees and various manual brewing methods, be able to pay dedicated motivated baristas more, way too many exceptional lots of greens out there I'd much rather spend money on.

Jay Caragay said:

For the time being, I would go with the Fetco water tower (not necessarily the most precise water delivery but very efficient) or build my own precise controlled temperature water dispenser.  Actually, one method just popped to mind and maybe we'll start looking into that in 2011.

Jay: Stiff little me missed the link to your blog on your first reply, but shouts for having the patience to write such a detailed and clear reply anyway :) 

 

The long downtime indeed is a shortcoming. I think that the groundworks for über were laid before this current filter-boom and therefore the pourwise the über is clearly more suitable for full immersion brewing methods. 

 

All in all I think überboiler is a beautiful piece of machinery and good an sich allthough it might lack in usability. 

 

As for me: I could definately see myself having an über at home and I certainly wouldn't mind having one at work but it indeed is quite a niche product. Currently the water comes from fetco tower and I can't complain. 

 

Has some of you Yanks seen the Luminaire LB-1 hot water brewer? It seem's like it's a little bit more geared towards filter methods. 

 

 

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