A prototype of a new kind of water boiler for hot beverages has been seen at an Irish trade exhibition.
The ‘UberBoiler' is the result of a partnership between Marco Beverages of Dublin and the 2007 world barista champion, James Hoffmann. Although the machine is still in the planning stage, it is almost certain that it will next be seen at Caffe Culture, the beverage trade's exhibition in May.
The concept is of a water heater and tap, with particularly precise temperature control. It was inspired partly by the Clover machine, which was invented in America to produce precision filter coffee brewing in single-cup quantities. That machine was notable for allowing the selection of an exact temperature, according to what the barista judged would hit the ‘sweet spot' of any given coffee.
However, the machine was extremely expensive, and then the manufacturing company was bought by Starbucks for its own purposes.
"I felt that I really wanted to be able to serve great brewed coffee, but with control," James Hoffmann has said. "What is common to all brewing methods is the effect of water temperature and the desire to have consistent control over it.
"In my head I had a basic idea for a water font with a built-in temperature display and mixer between boiling water and cold. I took this to the guys at Marco, where Paul Stack pioneered the project and produced, on paper, a machine to give a required temperature of water at an incredible level of stability.
"As various methods of making coffee make a comeback in a variety of amazing coffee houses across the globe, I think the demand for a machine like this will surprise a lot of people. It will also be of great interest to the speciality tea sector."
The boiler is ‘turning product design norms on its head', says Marco's operations director Paul Stack.
"I had met James at a coffee lecture, and afterwards he was venting his spleen on the inability to get the control he desired on a hot water delivery system. Could I help?
"We thrashed it out and I agreed to design a product. Last year we put a more concrete specification together…. and off she flew!
"I chose to show the UberBoiler at Ireland's CATEX exhibition in February, to show the market Marco's drive towards innovation and brewing excellence. I am now about to launch a blog about it, inviting enthusiasts and experts in the speciality tea, coffee and barista community to give me their thoughts, needs and desires for a machine like this."
Marco has been invited to present the machine at the Speciality Coffee Association's big show in Atlanta in April, and feedback from the American trade will probably form the basis of a presentation to the British beverage trade at Caffe Culture in May.
A product launch is anticipated at some time after that.
By Ian Boughton