Life has no facet more certain than the simple passing of time. The seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and decades roll on inexorably, unabated by the whims and fathoms of man. And yet we mark the days by our achievements—what is history, if not the archiving of time through a human lens?
Five years ago today (less a single sunset) Sprudge Media Network brought the world its first glimpse of the Modbar, the revolutionary undercounter espresso technology built by what was then an unknown little coffee tech start-up out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Principle investors at launch included Marco Beverage Systems of Dublin, Ireland and La Marzocco, the international espresso machine brand headquartered in Florence, Italy and Seattle, Washington.
In the years since our original story ran the relationship between Modbar and La Marzocco has deepened, and that takes us to today, with the launch of the brand new Modbar Espresso AV. Through years of collaborative R&D, and drawing from La Marzocco's previous work crafting the Linea PB and Linea Mini, this new Modbar is coming with some big ideas attached.
“It's a reset of the velocity of making coffee,” says La Marzocco Product Manager Scott Guglielmino. That's a pretty big claim, but he should know; in collaboration with Modbar, Guglielmino has helped head up an international R&D team responsible for dramatically rethinking Modbar's tech, while maintaining its style, identity, and manufacturing base in the American Midwest. “It's the direction I think espresso machines should go,” he adds, “and it's really all I want to do: to make insanely good espresso machines that people can't wait to wake up to and get to work on.”
The new Modbar Espresso AV features La Marzocco boiler design, integrated scales for volumetric precision, PID temperature control, and a host of new little details sure to delight those who work on espresso machines every day, not least of which being temperature stability modeled on the Linea PB, whose overall identity as a “workhorse” in the La Marzocco lineup served as a major inspiration for this new Modbar. Other updates include an easily programmed interface, auto-backflush and rinse, an updated positioning of the machine's power, water, and drain hookups, and a removable group cap that makes for easy tinkering.
“It’s a simplification,” says Guglielmino. “Simplifying the interaction between barista and customer, simplifying the experience of making coffee, and simplifying technical needs, all while making it look beautiful. It really nails, philosophically, what a brilliant simple reliable espresso machine can be.”
And beautiful looking it certainly is. The machine's chrome taps are available with built-in digital display and customizable wooden tap handles. The single group unit features a unique “Add-a-Tap” system that allows you to start with one group, then add another without replacing your original unit—perfect for a small cafe with an eye on growth, or, you know, a stylish wine bar that wouldn't mind the ability to serve a nice espresso or three during happy hour. Below counter, glowing red buttons on the new Modbar AV gleam in a direct visual reference to the Linea PB—a subtle nod, visible only to the operator, a bit of assurance, perhaps, to this new Modbar's pedigree.
But as always with an undercounter machine, the beauty is really in how the machine becomes incorporated into the wider world. The freedom of placement and design possibilities presented by undercounter espresso technology is still just in its nascency. The implied possibility for mise en place in cafe, bar, and restaurant settings still feels brand new, five years in. As more of these style machines are installed around the world, we continue to marvel at where they fit into the schemes and plans of cafe designers and architects.
“This is a ground-up rethink of the Modbar,” says Modbar Marketing Manager Lena Prickett. “Five years after our launch, the industry has never been more focused on customer orientation, reliability, and offering a consistent workflow. That's what these teams have achieved with Modbar AV: it's not Modbar 2.0, it's a brand new machine.”
There are a couple more aspects of this new machine that border on the metaphysical, echoing the magic and wonder evoked by Modbar's mesmeric Instagram campaign around the new release, created by La Marzocco Vice President of Marketing & Consumer Strategy Scott Callendar. One is the new “Drip Prediction” technology, a software that “maps the flow rate of each shot and can accurately predict the future flow rate,” allowing the machine to auto-magically stop your shot to hit a programmed target. Another aspect is the new Modbar AV's approach to temperature stability, modeled on the Linea PB but capable of delivering to a unit separated from taps by a short length of tube.
“We are thrilled at La Marzocco to launch the new Modbar AV, the exciting result of the collaboration and innovation between Modbar and La Marzocco,” says LM General Manager Andrew Daday. “This machine pushes forward the benefits that can be realized with an undercounter espresso solution.”
It's a sentiment echoed by Lena Prickett of Modbar, who in the course of researching this story spoke eloquently and passionately on behalf of the smaller Midwestern brand. “I think it speaks to La Marzocco's longstanding commitment to innovation—you know, Modbar is a small company in NE Indiana that some might have seen as a competitor, but La Marzocco saw it as an opportunity to further the art of espresso design.”
“That's a really cool part of the story,” she continued. “It is extremely meaningful for LM as a larger company, a global company, to be able to support a company like Modbar so that it can stay in Fort Wayne making these beautiful machines, testing each one, assembling each one, and continuing the great tradition of manufacturing in northeast Indiana.”
And now we see what happens next. As with any new espresso machine—but perhaps especially so when it comes to undercounter espresso tech—it's what happens out in the wild with this equipment that truly matters most. The design and conceptual possibilities first presented by Modbar—tiny Modbar, the little coffee start-up that could, pride of Fort Wayne—have been made new again for 2018 in the form of the Modbar Espresso AV, coming soon to a stylish cafe near you.
Jordan Michelman is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Jordan Michelman on Sprudge.
All images courtesy Modbar.
Sprudge Media Network is proudly partnered with Modbar and La Marzocco.