About – a new type of espresso machine!

I’m a Marine Engineer working in engine rooms on ships in the North Sea. Engine rooms run on strong coffee, and during my weeks of leave at home I’ve been developing a brand new type of espresso machine.

My first setup was a cheapo Gran Gaggia with an Ascaso coffee grinder. I live on a canal boat, so the size of the machine and its power requirement was a big factor in my choice. I got frustrated with the inconsistant results I was getting – sometimes the coffee would be fantastic, then the next shot tasted like an ash-tray.

Trying to figure out where I was going wrong, I did a bit of research on-line, and read about how important temperature is, and how variable it can be with cheap machines. I also wanted a machine that could steam milk and make espresso at the same time, yet wasn’t too bulky. A boat is a very small space, so anything bigger than the Gran Gaggia was out, as was anything that used a great deal of power.

I settled on the smallest heat-exchanger type machine I could find. It was at about the right price, and had some decent reviews. However, it still took up a lot of counter-space and importantly took a long long time to reach a stable temperature. This heat-up time is important on a boat. In a house, on mains electricity, people just have the machine on a timer, or leave it on all the time. This would flatten my batteries in no time flat! I need a machine I can turn on, make a coffee, then switch off again.

Whilst I was learning how to be a marine engineer, I spent a lot of time learning about steam thermodynamics and steam systems. I saw how espresso machines all have a steam boiler, yet don’t really make the best use of it. The machine I am developing uses the steam in an entirely new way. The design lends itself to splitting the group-head and steam-wand from the boiler and pump, which can be located away, and connected by hoses. That means I can have a machine that doesn’t take up any more counter space than the Gran Gaggia, heats up quickly with fantastic temerature stability, and can steam and brew a the same time.

I’ve made a working model, which looks like a dogs dinner but prooves that the idea works and can be built. It also makes fantastic coffee! I’ll be blogging about building a better looking, and smaller machine over the next few months.