We've seen some huge new products launched this week in Milan, from well-respected international brands and industry leaders, but one of the buzziest new machines at Host 2013 comes courtesy of a somewhat unexpected source. Sanremo – an Italian company based in Treviso – have very quietly spent the last year working with perennial UK Barista Champion John Gordon, of Square Mile Coffee, to develop an impressive new espresso machine. They're calling it the Sanremo Opera, and the enthusiasm and curiosity around it has grown from a buzzy whisper to a bit of a roar here at Host.
Sanremo has a low profile back in the United States; not so in the UK, where they're now entering their sixth consecutive year serving as official machine sponsors for the United Kingdom Barista Championship. This is where they met John Gordon, who has won the title multiple times in the last five years and is enormously respected in the specialty coffee community. Sanremo Opera was developed in concert by Mr. Gordon and Sanremo engineers, but the machine is very much so identified with him as a single individual, right down to the original CAD drawings done by Mr. Gordon upon which Opera's design is based.
The Opera's shell houses five individual insulated boilers, three for each group head plus a steam boiler and a pre-heater that circulates water over the top of each group. The groups themselves look a bit like a Dr. Who Dalek, if it were crossed with a retro Ferrari interior. Those group heads feature six fully customizable presets, activated via a set of three buttons. Setting adjustability includes the revolution of the gear pump, control over volume, and the option of two different flow rates.
Opera is also fitted with a load cell, built directly into its drip tray, displaying of the weight of the beverage made from one of Opera's groups. Like all the settings, the weight is displayed on an LCD screen built directly into the group head. All the relevant information for the barista is directly in front of him or her, and the machine's ergonomics have been carefully considered as well. You can, for example, engage the steam want using a switch that toggles in 360 degrees, helping to ease the strain of repetitive movement. The lever itself is an up and down movement, which Mr. Gordon and his team felt made for less wrist strain than the side to side movement found commonly on paddle groups.
John Gordon is an accomplished service tech, and he cites his years servicing Synesso machines for Square Mile as an open inspiration for the Sanremo Opera. “Nothing's invincible,” Mr. Gordon told us, “so we need to be able to fix this when stuff goes wrong. I want people not to have to replace things, so that way we can focus on preventative maintenance and the coffee.”
Big shows like Host are all about surprises. Mr. Gordon told us, “The last few months, I've been holding on to a bit of a secret,” and the end result has wound up putting Sanremo in a lot of conversations this weekend in Milan. Similar to many of the launches at Host, the Opera machine we saw was most assuredly a prototype – it's actually the first finished Opera in the world. But production on the machine begins next spring, with public events around the world likely to follow. If 2014 is a major year for Sanremo – and signs point to yes – it will have started here.