There are three areas where I think simplicity is absolutely key when looking for a manual lever-press espresso maker.
These are (in order):
If you’ve ever tried to master something new, you know how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t come naturally, the learning curve is too steep, or the instructions you need to follow are too complicated.
The same applies when starting your manual espresso journey.
If there are too many steps or parts you’re more than likely going to give up before you see the results you hoped for - so choose wisely.
Did you know that people make visual product assessments in less than 1 second!
That means, we can set ourselves up for failure before we’ve even begun making coffee by believing the product will be too complicated to use and you need to be an expert to get results. This first impression lasts!
So, in order to make sure you succeed right from the start, let’s discuss why simplicity in each area is so important (from a coffee-loving, product designer’s perspective!)
Aesthetics, in relation to coffee machines, is a word used to talk about the physical features of the machine and how they impact the user.
Often when we talk about aesthetics we limit them to the visual aspects of the coffee maker, but in reality it goes beyond that. It also refers to the tactile experience of using the machine.
So why do we believe aesthetics are so important for manual lever machines?
Well, aesthetics provide the visual and tactile cues that communicate how to use the coffee machine to make great espresso and I think it’s important that these details help make learning the process as quickly, easy and enjoyable as possible.
At Newton Espresso, for example, we designed the BRUA with an angle to the top edge of the cylinder on purpose. This small detail subtly tells the user this is where you pour the water - like pouring into a funnel. But it also provides a functional benefit. The angle allows you to completely fill the brew chamber (even over-fill it) without risking spilling water out onto the bench - great!
Another example is the wooden handle we decided to use.
The wooden element not only hints at the fact this is a hand-made component on a hand assembled product, but it's also a warmer, more tactile material that elicits a touch response from the user. Even without any instruction, you know this is a handle to be operated.
The same technique has been used with the texture on the basket holder. A knurled texture is synonymous with grip and twisting, so even without being told, you can understand that this is probably where the coffee basket lives and where the coffee goes - and you’d be right!
Lastly, we believe that a simple aesthetic gives space for these important details to communicate most clearly with the user. This in turn makes for a refined, unobtrusive and polite product, like a well tailored suit.
As we just mentioned, aesthetics informs how we think the coffee maker is used, but just as important is how simple the workflow from start to finish of making an espresso actually is. To put it another way, 8 simple steps to make espresso is much easier than 12 steps!
Here is the general process for manual lever-press espresso:
- Preheat the espresso maker
- Grind the beans
- Prepare the coffee puck in the portafilter/coffee basket
- Attach the portafilter/coffee basket
- Fill the brew chamber with hot water
- Pull down the lever
- Discard the used grounds
Some of these steps can’t be improved on through the design of the manual coffee machine - grinding the beans for example. But several steps can be improved.
Let's look at preheating. Not only is the design for preheating the BRUA safer than other manual espresso makers, but it’s also faster which is important for enjoying the process.
And what about filling the brew chamber. Is it easier to fill the chamber and then try to place it (or the piston) into place before pulling down the lever? We think the less disassembly/reassembly required the safer and the better. That’s why, to fill the brew chamber of the BRUA, simply pour the hot water on top of the piston, as the lever is lifted, the water enters the brew chamber - genius!
Having a simple and well designed workflow will make your manual coffee journey so much more enjoyable. Make sure you choose a manual machine that provides just the right amount of manual process, without the process feeling clumsy or dangerous, that way you will continue to use your coffee maker and enjoy developing your espresso making skills.
I’m sure we can all agree that we all want a well constructed manual coffee machine. This is a no-brainer right?
Mainly because no one would feel comfortable putting any amount of pressure on a flimsy handle or unstable base. This goes without saying.
But why should construction be simple? Let me explain with a story.
Not so long ago I had to replace the door lock in my German designed car. To be clear, I loved this car. It was comfortable, well engineered and had VERY complicated and secure door locks. The reality is that it was OVER engineered.
When I purchased the car, a friend of mine (who happens to be an automotive locksmith) told me to expect to replace every door lock within a few years… I wish I listened.
Within 5 years, not only did I replace every door lock, but I also replaced the ignition...
My point is this: the more complicated the design, the more chances that things can break.
The locks in my car were very, very cleverly designed with lots of moving parts, plastic bits and electric components. And when the parts operated properly, the locks worked perfectly! But as soon as one tiny part failed, the whole lock failed… and they failed quickly.
The same goes for anything mechanical, including manual espresso makers.
So if you're like us, you’ll hate wasting money on junk. This means you like to buy quality products so they last a long time without needing repair.
Our advice: look for a manual coffee maker that has fewer parts and is made from quality materials. The BRUA is not the only option that meets these criteria. But if after-sales support and direct access to the designers and makers are important to you, maybe it’s a good option!