Coffee Machine Technologies describes the progression of its distribution models, how the brand has unified competitors, and how those relationships have shaped the brand’s evolution.
Walk past the shop front window of Coffee Machine Technologies (CMT) in Carlton, Melbourne, and most pedestrians can’t help but pause and admire the display of historic coffee machines that resembles a miniature museum. Among them, the Elektra Belle Epoque stands out with its copper and brass-plated exterior, adorned with an elegant eagle-topped dome.
“The Belle Epoque is appreciated as a really beautiful antique machine,” says CMT Founder John Colangeli.
“Every aspect, from the tooling to the dome and other components, is meticulously handcrafted. The machine is assembled in the Elektra headquarters in Treviso, Italy using timber moulds to hold the panels together, allowing for hand polishing.”
Over the past year, CMT has successfully sold seven Belle Epoque machines, all for the discerning at-home market.
“Since COVID-19 people are spending more time at home, and customers want their own machines. People love the Italian craftsmanship and want a statement piece like this machine in their house,” John says.
The Belle Epoque boasts a large 12.5-litre boiler, three professional group heads, and five programmable volumetric soft-touch controls, enabling baristas of any skill level to create quality coffee.
“Each commercial Elektra coffee machine is built with high-quality, reliable parts. With powerful boilers that generate consistent steam and professional group heads ensuring temperature stability, you can always trust your commercial Elektra coffee machine to deliver the finest coffee,” says John.
The modern version of the Belle Epoque has been further enhanced with proportional integral derivative temperature controls, as well as an updated programmable night mode for reduced energy consumption.
“This already beautiful machine also comes with timber hot water and steam taps, as well as lovely timber portafilters,” John says.
Building an Italian empire
Elektra is just one of the many brands CMT distributes to the Australian coffee market. Becoming an Australian brand ambassador was never part of the original plan for this Melbourne-based business.
CMT began as a service provider in 2004 and gradually established itself as one of the most renowned independent service establishments in Australia. It supplied and serviced various coffee roasters, chain stores, independent cafés, and corporate organisations throughout the country.
“It wasn’t until 2008 that we started selling equipment from other importers in Australia. Then, in 2009, our partnership with La Marzocco proved to be a tremendous success, and that’s when things really took off for us,” recalls John.
He was intent on forging stronger supplier relationships. In 2011, CMT engaged Milan-based Brugnetti as one of its first Italian manufacturers.
“We met the Brugnetti team at Host Milano in 2010 and engaged them as one of CMT’s first Italian suppliers. Thirteen years later, we’re still their exclusive Australian distributor,” John says.
CMT continued to expand its partnerships, joining forces with Astoria in 2012. One of the earliest espresso machines they introduced to the Australian market was the Astoria Calypso.
“For years, we imported and sold the Calypso to big customers. To this day, we have sold quite a significant amount of them here in Australia,” says John.
In 2013, collaboration with Orchestrale paved the way for a range of domestic espresso machines, and the Etnica TT model in the commercial range.
“They are an exceptional brand, and their products continue to be in high demand,” says John.
In 2014, CMT established its first partnership with a grinder manufacturer, Fiorenzato.
“When we met the owner of Fiorenzato, we recognised the quality of their grinders but also suggested areas for improvement. They valued our feedback and made substantial enhancements, from electrical functions to design. We saw massive developments and now, nine years later, Fiorenzato has now become a global leader in grinding equipment,” says John.
“To this day, they send us their products for assessment before market release because they value our feedback and honesty.”
In return, CMT’s National Sales Manager, Carmelo Corallo, acknowledges the trust Fiorenzato places in their team.
“We were the first company to introduce a three-year commercial warranty and the revolutionary red speed blades to the market,” says Carmelo.
These blades are a combination of high-grade hardened metals, intended for high-volume accounts and offer extended grinding life.
“When we decided to include grinders in our product collection, we were determined to offer the best blades as a standard feature,” says John.
To achieve this, Fiorenzato introduced John to Italian blade manufacturer, Keber who entrusted CMT as its Australian distributor that same year.
“We were the first distributor they reached out to, to supply their equipment. They were impressed with our expertise and competence,” John says.
As CMT solidified its reputation as a technical expert, a specialist equipment distributor, and even a manufacturer of its own products, it added Elektra espresso machines to its expanding list of suppliers in 2015.
“I met the Fregnan family at Host Milano in 2015, and after speaking with Federico Fregnan, the company founder, we became the exclusive distributor of Elektra machines in Australia,” John says.
“We’ve seen Elektra evolve a great deal over the years. I fell in love with the machine design, and the simplicity yet well- engineered nature of their products.”
John says Elektra has a long history of innovation. He says the company was among the first to produce espresso machines with an automatic hydraulic unit in 1950, a seal-free water level regulator in the following decade, and a fully automatic machine in 1984.
“The professionalism and passion for high-quality equipment oozes out of [the company]. You can tell after every interaction with them that they love what they do,” he says.
In 2019, CMT expanded its domestic machine range, initiating a partnership with La Pavoni espresso machines.
Remaining faithful to its Italian heritage, CMT continues to seek out European brands to supply the market through
its showroom in the Italian quarter of Melbourne on Lygon Street.
“Our showroom has a retail focus, featuring an array of commercial and domestic machines tailored to the domestic market. Following the pandemic, people have grown accustomed to making coffee at home,” says John.
The latest addition to CMT’s collection is a partnership with BFC since 2022, a machine manufacturer based in Treviso, targeting the domestic market.
“As we inaugurated our new showroom, we sought to expand our offerings. We were fortunate enough to establish a partnership with another esteemed Italian manufacturer,” says John.
“Today, we import the largest range of Italian coffee machines in Australia.”
Although CMT’s coffee equipment partners are direct competitors, John and his team have fostered unity among these companies, building friendships along the way.
“Through genuine conversations at exhibitions, both overseas and in Australia, we have cultivated relationships among our suppliers that otherwise may never have formed. By sharing a common interest and passion for specialty coffee, we have managed to unite competitors, which is really rewarding for us,” says John.
In return, CMT’s international suppliers allow the brand to offer a diverse range of equipment to the Australian market.
“Previously, some suppliers criticised us, labelling us a ‘supermarket’ for offering multiple brands. However, I always countered with the question, ‘Do you buy everything from a single branded store or a supermarket which offers a wider variety?'” asks Carmelo.
“That’s why we offer a range of all kinds of machines for different types of people to buy. There’s no one perfect machine. There are a lot of perfect machines for the right people.”
Carmelo says the biggest strength of Elektra and the other companies is their openness to talk to CMT and listen to feedback.
“The Australian market is a great testing ground for them,” says Carmelo.
“New technology always comes at a big cost to a company because there’s an implementation period. It usually takes at least three years or so for a brand to start to penetrate the market. Within those three years, if you receive a lot of negative feedback or product failure that could cost the company its reputation and revenue”.
John takes pride in the reputation CMT has earned as a trusted sounding board for international brands that value their opinion.
“We’re very selective of who we work with. We are constantly evaluating companies to find reputable brands, and products for the Australian market,” he says.
“We don’t promise [our suppliers] the world. We promise them good customer service and the ability to do their brand justice.”
For more information, visit www.coffeemachinetechnologies.com.au
This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.