According to its maker, the WMF Espresso is not just ‘another coffee machine’. It’s a hybrid creation that will provide chain buyers with the mechanism to serve barista-standard coffee without the need for trained baristas. FEJ finds out how that’s possible.
WMF’s UK managing director, Marcus Gansloser, is a certified barista, so when he says that the company’s hotly-anticipated Espresso machine is not designed to make this highly skilled and increasingly appreciated profession redundant you have to believe him.
Baristas may be justified in feeling slightly unnerved by the level of sophistication contained in WMF’s newest machine, but Gansloser insists it will actually allow them to do their job even better rather than leave them surplus to requirements. The real selling point for WMF, though, is that it will enable operators that don’t employ, or have any intention of employing, baristas to serve a high quality range of coffees.
“This is a totally new range of hybrid machine that blends together aspects of traditional machines and fully automatic machines,” he says. “We have identified that there is a growing demand for a machine that offers a degree of theatre for customers but in which the main steps of coffee production are still controlled.”
WMF’s mission is simple: to reproduce the theatre of a coffee prepared from a traditional machine, handmade by a trained barista, with all of the efficiency, consistency and pace of an automatic bean to cup machine, giving operators an alternative choice and the best of both. “If you are a fully trained barista — perfect,” says Gansloser.
“Our intention is not to blow away the traditional machines; this is a new solution for customers that want to use the traditional machines but are aware of the challenges of achieving a reliable and consistently high level of quality. It will be great for customers that want the benefits of a traditional machine but who don’t have a trained barista or are likely to see their staff change. It is a new era — and new area — of coffee production.”
Gansloser says one user group where he could foresee a use for the new machines is hotels because it would enable them to serve quality coffee from reception without needing a barista 24 hours a day. McDonald’s in Germany, meanwhile, has been trialling the machine in the run-up to its launch. “It’s a solution that could be for chains and for independents,” notes Gansloser.
With a list price of around £9,000 the WMF Espresso isn’t going to be to everyone’s liking, but at the same time it is not the highest-priced item in its portfolio. The Uxbridge-based company is confident that customers will be prepared to pay a premium for a machine that solves the age-old dilemma of ‘traditional versus automatic’.
Gansloser reveals that WMF’s engineers have spent the best part of three years creating an appliance capable of combining the best features of both systems in a hybrid format. Quite simply it has been the biggest product development exercise in its history.
“WMF has extensive proficiency in coffee machines as we launched the very first fully automatic Espresso machine,” says Gansloser. “Since then technology has progressed immensely but our core values remain; that of building quality solutions to enhance our customers’ businesses.”
He adds: The WMF Espresso combines all of the emotion and individuality of a traditional machine with the functionality and productivity of an automatic bean to cup machine so the operator can now rest assured his or her coffee will be of a consistently high standard, enabling them to enhance sales while also concentrating on other aspects of their business, no matter who makes the coffee.”
We have identified that there is a growing demand for a machine that offers a degree of theatre for customers but in which the main steps of coffee production are still controlled”
The WMF Espresso benefits from enhanced software and a colour touchscreen display. Other features include separate brew units for different types of coffee; three beverage buttons for each brew unit that can deliver up to 12 modifiable, coffee recipes and the ability to turn off the internal grinder when wanting to use grinds from an external source, such as decaffeinated.
Additionally, it incorporates a ‘barista button’ for manual adjustment of coffee grounds by plus or minus 15%, and a basic steam wand with variable steam power on one side and an automatic steam wand that can prepare three types of milk foam on the other.
It also boasts a steam jet for heating two cups at a time, removable air-cooled bean hoppers and easy manual adjustment of grinder settings with automatic adjustment recommendations, based on brewing time. Crucially it can deliver up to 300 espressos or 240 cappuccinos per hour.
It is also easy to maintain, says Gansloser. “The machine only has to be cleaned once in a 24-hour period using tablets and an automated programme which takes approximately 10 to 12 minutes to run. It is very straightforward to use and the guide is on screen to take you through that process.”
The WMF Espresso might represent an unconventional approach to coffee machine design, but the ‘best of both’ philosophy offers operators the appetising prospect of being able to serve handmade coffee, automatically.
FEJ had a chance to touch and play with the WMF Espresso at the machine’s UK press launch. Here are five things we like about the kit:
1) Recipe variety
Up to 12 coffee recipes and three types of milk foams can be selected, while a software-assisted grinding adjustment adds precision to proceedings.
2) Handmade automatically
The unit features a manual and automatic steamer, as well as an integrated grinding function which is also usable with external grinders.
3) Air and steam
Steam jet technology pre-heats two cups at a time, while the bean hoppers are air-cooled to keep the contents fresh.
4) Optimised workflow
The machine boasts automatic portafilter recognition for single and double cups, as well as two brewing groups.
5) Easy to clean
The simple, self-explanatory touchscreen control makes cleaning easy and fast, ensuring post-service maintenance doesn’t have to be a chore.