Australian-designed The Brew Bar sparks international attention

Former Espresso Mechanic’s Geoff Michelmore and Airport Retail Enterprises’ (ARE) Brett Mckimmin have joined forces to launch The Brew Bar.

Five years ago Geoff had an idea – one of his better ones, he says.

“I wanted to create an under-the-bench coffee machine and transform the way people experience coffee drinking,” Geoff says.

“I had an understanding of what the market needed. I imagined an espresso bar with people pulling up a stool at a counter bar, seeing only the heads of the coffee machine sitting on top and I wanted it to be a talking point for customers. It thought I could design and create the perfect brew bar machine, so that’s what I set out to do.”

Over the next few years Geoff tinkered away in his workshop after work and on the weekends, building a prototype machine with his children building Lego next to him.

“Life and full time work got in the way a little. It’s hard to dedicate time to building a machine each day, but slowly and surely it came together. I’ve always built things, especially cars, so I knew how to approach this product. If I didn’t have a part I needed I built it or found someone who could,” he says. “I knew that if I could create something different, then I was probably heading in the right direction, but it was challenging.”

In the meantime, Brett had been thinking of the same concept – but with a beer tap in mind.

“I was walking around a trade show admiring how all the beer taps were being positioned above the bar in the customer’s line of sight. I had spent years bending over pulling beers under a counter that the customer couldn’t see,” Brett says. “This was the light bulb moment when I thought that we should do the same with a coffee machine.”

Great minds think alike. The pair decided to combine their dreams and have worked together on making this vision a reality ever since.

“The thought was to put all the working parts under the bench and only expose what was required,” Brett says.

As such, they designed The Brew Bar with functions the barista and a high volume café would require. Coffee heads are mounted on top of the bench and all controls are built into an underneath cupboard.

It features foot pedal-operated steam arms at each end, a drip tray with an oversize drain, jug rinser built into the drip tray, and hot water arms fixed into the counter top upon request. The Brew Bar is available in either wood, stainless steel or stone materials.

Each group head can be programmed with desired water brewing volume, and can be calibrated to 0.1-degree brewing temperature.

The machine uses T3 technology, just like Italy’s Nuova Simonelli’s Aurelia and Black Eagle machines.

“This means that the machine is easy to service and parts are readily available,” Geoff says. “This machine is built on technology already proven around the world.”

The first Brew Bar prototype machine was commissioned in September 2014 at Velocity Espresso Bar at Gold Coast Airport, which Brett manages as ARE National Coffee Operations Manager.

“The Brew Bar is the most efficient espresso machine on the market. Being also able to monitor the sales on the prototype I know that this machine is at least 25 per cent more efficient,” Brett says. “The Brew Bar is the reason our staff can deal with the high volume of coffee they go through each day, which can be anywhere from 130 hot coffee beverages an hour or 80 coffees individually if you’re one of our superstar baristas. Barista output has increased by at least 20 per cent.”

Seven Brew Bar units have now been installed around the country, and demand is increasing fast.

“We’ve had amazing interest from the Australian market and we’ve had interest from the international market too,” Geoff says. We have completed our international certification which will take us to the next level, and interest has exploded from China, Taiwan, Dubai and the United Kingdom.”

Other brands of under-the-counter machines are popping up on the market,  but Geoff says competition cements that there is genuine demand for under-counter machinery.

“Our Brew Bar is a high-end machine with modern finishes, power and high-class ergonomics. The fact that others have thought of the same thing means this movement is real,” he says. “Trends can be fast or form a benchmark that lasts, and hopefully ours will be the one that lasts.”

The machine retails between $30,000 to $35,000.

“We know the machine isn’t cheap, but it’s not a box on a bench,” Geoff says. “It’s an under-counter design that can fit in any café, bar or restaurant.”

Geoff and Brett are also busy working on The Brew Bar’s other projects, including the Steam Bar and D-bar domestic machine which are under development.

But, for the moment, Geoff and Brett have their hands full with the new business, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve gone from running a national business to working for myself and starting from the ground up, but I had to give it a go, and I’m really happy,” Geoff says.

“It’s been a whirlwind couple of months and the support we’ve been shown has been amazing. We’re excited to be taking the machine to Dublin to the World of Coffee where we’ll be on the Pullman booth. Actually, The Brew Bar is on a flight to Dublin this very minute. The wheels are in motion.”

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Image credit: ARE and Velocity Espresso Bar.

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