The steam machine

In the Australian coffee market, milk-based beverages account for 85 to 90 per cent of daily coffee orders.

Granted, the country is fortunate to have access to an abundance of quality milk producers, but, when it comes to milk’s impact on espresso machine steaming technology, Slayer says it’s often one of the last considerations.

“Innovation in espresso machine technology usually focuses on the brew group. The focus in flavour tuning and control are weighted in espresso mechanics for the most part. No one to our knowledge has put development to this thought until now,” says Slayer Marketing Manager Sarah Dooley. “We asked ourselves: ‘What are the limitations of current steaming systems? Can we make them better?’”

The response was a resounding “yes”.

“Only in recent years has the conversations about dairy really begun to take centre stage alongside coffee. The conversations are louder than ever before, proving there is not only room for advancement, but there is a need [for a new standard in milk texturing],” Sarah says.

Slayer began working towards solutions in steam in 2005 when it developed the Slayer Espresso, but full time devotion to the Slayer Steam began two years ago.

Slayer’s research and development team partnered with professional baristas and ambassadors to design the ergonomics of the new espresso machine.

With such vital input, Slayer’s team, including Jason Prefontaine, Lead Mechanic Devin Walker, and Industrial Designer Chris Flechtner, set to work in designing and manufacturing a modern espresso machine complexly focused on milk.

“We weren’t aware of a particular problem in machine milk texturing until we got started. Our theory was that a drier vapour would simply be better because the milk would be less diluted. When we actually built the system, however, we saw a huge difference that was about much more than just dilution,” Sarah says.

As such, the Slayer team developed the new Vaporizer system. As in any other machine, steam is produced in a boiler that is heated to approximately 120ºC. From there, it travels through the Vaporizer, which is essentially a compact super-heater. The Vaporizer boosts the steam temperature by an additional 37ºC (or more) before sending it out the wand.

When the vapour cools, steam condenses into liquid water and dilutes the milk in the pitcher. This occurs in most systems, but the Slayer Steam reduces dilution by starting with a hotter, drier steam. This alone improves the taste of milk. Additionally, Sarah says heating at higher temperatures promotes a complex flavour experience that is sweet, and has creamy texture.

“Variable temperature opened the floodgates to flavours and textures we did not know were missing,” Sarah says.

At the point of barista interaction, steam is throttled with Accu-Flow technology, which plays a huge part in the ability to tune the flow rate of steam and achieve the perfect texture without wasting unnecessary amounts of milk. Sarah says the throttled flow improves control when preparing small volumes of milk for drinks like macchiatos, whereas 100 per cent flow may be the best setting for lattes. These settings also allow fine-tuning dairy substitutes.

“Tasting non-dairy alternative options side-by-side, we consistently observe that alternative milks steamed on traditional systems taste underdeveloped and unnatural, a little like the box that surrounds a strong perfume. This has a lot to do with ingredients, stabilisers, and processing of these products,” Sarah says. “Probably the most surprising is that they developed flavours at higher temperatures that actually behaved more like milk.”

There are lots of options for configuring steam in this new machine, but there are also a lot of safeguards in place to promote consistency. There are four programmable steam flow presets. These features, coupled with customised volumetrics for espresso extraction, are programmed in a new digital barista dashboard. Once settings for flow and temperature have been configured, users can trust the machine to keep these locked in, drink after drink.

As well as a machine that considers workflow, ergonomics, and steadfast performance, Slayer says its new machine is ideal for cafés looking to “stand out” with a “killer piece of art” on their countertops.

“We want your eyes to travel, to bend, to absorb and to be mesmerised time and time again,” Sarah says. “There’s nothing wrong with flirting in design.”

As for the machine’s functionality, Sarah insists it was never an afterthought.

“We needed steam to be extremely capable of performing consistently in high volume. Price point was also a consideration from the start. Our hope was to make Slayer more approachable and competitive in the espresso machine marketplace,” she says.

The Slayer Steam is now available to the Australian market. For more information visit Australian distributor Coffee Works Express at www.cwe.com.au.

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