Australian coffee has a global reputation for its innovations in quality, and with the Nexus One espresso machine, Aremde is bringing that same regard to its manufacturing.
Australia’s roasters and baristas may be at the top of their fields, but most of the country’s espresso machines are still designed, produced, and imported from overseas. One of the few manufacturers to buck the trend and plant its flag firmly in Australia is Aremde, with each of its Nexus One espresso machines built in Queensland and its company headquarters in Brisbane.
Co-founder and Technical Director Geoff Michelmore tells BeanScene that being Australian is core to Aremde’s identity.
“All of the development and manufacturing has been done in Australia, and we’ve really pushed over the years to stay as Australian as possible. It’s very hard, but it’s what we’re very proud of,” Geoff says.
While Australian made, it took an international collaboration to bring the Nexus One to life. Starting in the Middle East several years ago, Muthanna Raqtan, Aremde Co-founder and CEO of food-service equipment business Raqtan, grew bothered with how an espresso machine puts a wall between the barista and the customer.
“The coffee business in general is becoming more of an interactive customer experience than a passive service process. It troubled us that espresso machines were essentially boxes that hid the magic of making coffee,” Muthanna says. “We imagined a theatre where baristas could show their magic to an audience.”
While Netherlands-based architect and designer Rempt Van der Donk was in the region working on a new headquarters for Raqtan, Muthanna approached him with the task of making this dream a reality.
They became aware of the under-the-counter coffee machines that had sprung up in the market but felt this went too far in the opposite direction. “It opens up the bar, but it downgrades the espresso machine to something that looks more like a faucet more than something that produces great coffee,” Muthanna says. “We wanted something more, that we felt had the air, integrity, and outline of a classic espresso machine, but at the same time showed you everything.”
Rempt found the breakthrough solution while driving into work one day. He was looking out the window when he realised that – a window – was what he had to create. He sketched the initial concept on his steering wheel, presented it to Muthanna, and the two went about finding the engineer to bring it to life.
“A friend in Italy told me of a guy he knows in Brisbane. I reached out to Geoff, and after a phone call he flew out to visit us. That was when the product became very Australian,” Muthanna says. “Geoff laid his eyes on it and said ‘this is what I want to do’. He stopped what he was doing, established Aremde in Brisbane, and we became partners in the company that he created.”
While Geoff himself was based in Australia, there were many reasons to manufacture the machine elsewhere. But with such a positive reputation overseas, not only for its coffee, Muthanna thought the investment would pay off.
“We felt Australia was the right place: the new world versus the old and traditional. It was not a logical decision, because it is so expensive to do anything in Australia, but it had the spirit,” he says.
“A lot of people visited, studied, or worked in Australia. For many of them, it is a romantic and beautiful place. I’m a distributor of Aremde as well as a partner, and when we say ‘Australia’ to our customers, especially if they lived there, they understand the rich coffee culture and would like to replicate it.”
Under the leadership of Geoff, Aremde was able to bring the concept into fruition and finetune it so the machine worked well for the baristas that used it. “We want you to be able to set your variables before making coffee and not have to worry about it again afterwards,” he says.
After a prototype was built, Aremde invited several baristas to come in and offer feedback to make sure the machine performed to the level of those using it. This process led to many small improvements, including more visible group heads, larger and more receptive buttons, more flexible steam wands, barista lights in the work area, and a cooler surface area on the machine.
“Australians in coffee are very technical. They understand not just how to make coffee, but everything about it,” Geoff says. “They know the right questions to ask and we put a lot of time into making sure the machine performs to meet their expectations.”
In November 2018, the Nexus One was officially launched at the renowned Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, and from there, started it exciting journey around the world.
Thanks in part to its ‘Australian made’ aspect, the Nexus One has caught on well overseas, with significant demand in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The espresso machine has also turned heads at several trade shows in, including the 2019 Melbourne International Coffee Expo and World of Coffee in Germany, winning a Best New Product Award at the latter. Aremde also picked up two prestigious Australia’s Good Design Awards in 2019 for design and engineering.
“We felt validated by the traditional market, because those judges had to go against their instinct when they chose Aremde, because we fly in the face of so many set rules in the coffee culture,” Muthanna says. “The experts recognised that this is how an espresso machine should look.”
Another important recognition of the Nexus One was its distributor in China, JasBlu, securing the bid for it to be the official machine of the Chinese Barista Championships for the 2020/2021 season. Muthanna says this shows how strongly JasBlu and the Chinese Barista Championships feel the Nexus One could impact the local market.
“In a competition, what do you want to see? You want to see the theatre of making coffee. The judges and spectators want to see the barista making coffee, but they struggle to because the machine is designed against it,” he says.
“The traditional market is so focused on technology that, in a way, it’s at the expense of design. You end up with a machine that works well only for the barista. We think the machine can work fantastically for the barista and the customer ordering the coffee.”
Geoff says cafés that installed the Nexus One have told Aremde it changed how they interact with customers.
“People are coming back because they enjoy seeing the coffee being poured and the process of making it. They feel like they’re part of it,” Geoff says. “The machine is for sites that are going to push the boundaries of the café, restaurant, or hotel, and it’s really going to improve the overall design. People gravitate towards the coffee and they want to see the machine in all its glory. It’s like a piece of art inside the café.”
Aremde introduced its second product, the Modus One, not long after the Nexus. The under-counter system stores takeaway and dine-in cups, which are warmed with repurposed and consistent heat from the boiler. Muthanna says this is just one more way Aremde invites customers into the world or coffee making.
“There is so much mess on top of the bar and we need to make it clean. A theatre does not have so many walls between the performer and the audience,” he says. “All of our products are around removing the clutter. You will ‘see’ less with more from Aremde.”
Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and Australia once again opens its borders, Muthanna hopes cafés will be able to greet travellers with an Australian-quality coffee produced with an Australian-made machine.
“Australia is a place people visit from around the world, and we’d like people to go back with the experience of a great coffee from a great machine that they saw all around Australia,” Muthanna says.
“There are certain images that get engraved in your mind when you visit a place, and we want the Nexus One to be an innovation icon of Australia.”
For more information, visit www.aremde.com.au
This article appears in the October 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.