You may have noticed from our deluge of coverage that there were a few coffee things going on in Milan this past weekend. Sprudge.com's fearless leaders Jordan Michelman and Zachary Carlsen were at the HOST exhibition all week taking part in the WBC All-Stars event and bringing you a slew of new–product first–looks. Meanwhile I was across town with our partners at La Marzocco, emceeing and covering their Out Of The Box event.
Out Of The Box is as much a family reunion for La Marzocco as it is a trade event, with distributors, technicians and fans from all over the world descending on Milan for the festivities. Though as far as family reunions go, this one had some pretty sweet new projects to check out, including the Caffè Firenze extraction technology (article coming soon) and the Mazzer Kold grinder. The public portion of the event got started on Thursday night with unveiling of a fully-restored custom Alfa-Romeo van that the company once used as a sort of travelling showroom.
One of the big theme's of the events programming was how La Marzocco's design focus is being carried on into the next generation as the company continues to expand. Honorary President of La Marzocco Piero Bambi introduced this theme in a talk with Luca Trazzi, a well-known Italian industrial designer who has worked extensively with Illy on their FrancisFrancis! line of home espresso machines, and is now working with La Marzocco in an ongoing sort of design and mentorship capacity.
Mr. Trazzi gave a presentation outlining his design perspective and how that meshes with the long history of La Marzocco design. He presented a number of projects he worked on with the team at La Marzocco that showcased his interest in the iconic details of LM's machinery.
One of the projects he presented was this re-interpretation of the original Linea, updated with easily-readable shot timers, heavy-duty steam-wand grips, and attractive portafilter-handle steam-levers.
While Mr. Trazzi's Linea interpretation was just a concept, his design for the machine you see above, the Stradina, is very likely headed to market soon. The Stradina is developed specifically for the Italian market, encasing a classic Linea AV technological base with an all-chrome exterior. The machine takes many design cues from Mr. Bambi's work on the Strada, including the rounded back profile and temperature and pressure gauges, but its design is focused around a prominent group-head console, giving the machine a more imposing front appearance appropriate to the Italian preference for machines mounted on the back-bar.
There was certainly a lot of chrome on display over the weekend, including this new alternative body-style for the Linea PB, which takes the extended silhouettes of the FB70 and FB80 alternate Linea and Gb5 body styles in a more angular, industrial direction.
Mr. Trazzi is not the only designer La Marzocco has been working with–Paul Schilperoord, a Dutch designer and author who gave a presentation on lever espresso machines and the “Curva” concept machine he developed. The Curva was an exercise in inspiration, not necessarily design for an actual product, but Mr. Schilperoord's outsider perspective as someone with no previous experience in coffee led him to some interesting innovations that I dearly hope to see on production machines. Chief among these was his idea of putting all the electrical and plumbing hookups into the feet of the machine, so that they could be completely hidden from view in installation, giving a much cleaner counter profile.
The talks at Out of The Box weren't just machine focused. Maurizio Ridolfo and Rafaelle Sangiovanni led a great discussion on the appeal that specialty coffee and brands like La Marzocco's have for people outside the industry. Both gentleman had worked extensively in various sorts of media production, and it was a pleasure to hear them talk about the universality of coffee's stories and cultural appeal.
Jeffrey Young of Allegra Strategies gave a presentation on European coffee trends that was particularly informative and encouraging. Allegra also put on an auction of pieces from their Coffee Art Project, raising over €5,000 for Project Waterfall‘s work providing clean drinking water globally.
Dr. Tim Schilling of World Coffee Research also gave a presentation, talking about the crucial work that organization is doing to combat coffee leaf rust. Look for a lot more on that topic as Sprudge heads to Let's Talk Coffee / Let's Talk Roya in a week, a series of events hosted by Sustainable Harvest, whose president, David Griswold, gave a well-received keynote at Out Of The Box.
Out Of The Box wasn't just about information sharing. No family reunion would be complete without a barbecue. Or a bunch of guys in Lucha Libre masks called i Monaci del Surf (the Surf Monks) doing beach-tinged covers of all sorts of pop hits.
At the end of the day, what makes Out Of The Box special is the way that it brings together a multitude of passionate people from all over the world. It was a weekend full of great parties, interesting information, and a contagious energy. I left Milan feeling very excited by the explosive growth of the quality-focused sector of the coffee industry. Based on their heavy investment in bringing their design and innovation into their next phase as a company, La Marzocco clearly hopes to be at the forefront of that growth.