A surgeon is known for their steady hands, attention to detail, and extreme precision. In the operating room that is East Coast Espresso in Brunswick, Victoria, Technical Director Jordan Elkurdi shares similar traits. His utensils are evenly aligned, his materials are cut to perfection, and he works methodically to build his newest creation, Mercury Nero Steam Hub.
The dedicated manual milk-texturing machine has been Jordan’s core focus for the past two years. Besides operating East Coast Espresso, a coffee machine and grinder service company with his brother-in-law Sam Sadik in Victoria, Jordan’s mind constantly ticks over with new ideas and ways to bring them to life.
Mercury Nero Steam Hub is one such idea. Jordan conceptualised the idea in his head, hand-sketched the machine in multiple variations, used 3D modelling, and created the build over and over again. It took 50 different design attempts and 20 prototypes before Jordan and Sam selected “the one”. But they say bringing their own machine to life is a meticulous and methodical process where no corners are dared cut.
“There’s a thousand decisions to make when you’re developing your own product. Everything from what computer system we want to use, the type of screws to order and the correct steam tip to install. Every detail matters,” Jordan says. “The toughest part was how to keep production costs low and the quality high.”
The solution was lots of hard work, 2am finishes, and a recommended retail price of $3900 thanks to Sam and Jordan’s technical and design background. Jordan says a milk texturing machine of this calibre can sit anywhere from $6500 upwards, but using the right products and services, and assembling the machine in Australia, helped keep costs down.
“The result is what you get when you put two Australian design engineers on a project they love,” Jordan says. “We love to solve problems. If we made just another product on the market, another steam unit, then it wouldn’t be worth our time. It has to benefit the end user, it has to be approachable, and it has to blow people’s minds.”
Every inch of the machine has been carefully considered. The electrical box has been relocated seven times to find the spot least affected by heat. Extra insulation and a vent has been strategically installed to avoid heat built-up in specific areas, side-panel screws have been placed to avoid scratching in servicing, the boiler has been shaped into a square to maximise internal space, and the boiler and taps have been placed close together to reduce the length of piping and volume of condensation.
“We had to be meticulous in our design,” Jordan says. “We wanted to minimise the water and energy required to boil water. Most machines run on 20 amps or more, but this machine functions on just under 15 amps.”
Jordan says the power-to-weight ratio of water to elements is the most important parameter but never considered by others.
The complete stainless steel construction, minus its rubber feet, means quality materials are used for longevity and strength. It heats in just 12 minutes and produces a continuous flow of steam.
Better yet, there’s no need to update a power source or drill extra holes into the bench top, a common issue when installing a new machine. Just sit the machine above the bench, plug it into an exisiting water line, and steam.
“It was never about simply adding more power to create endless steam. It was about reducing unnecessary energy and still creating a powerful unit,” Jordan says.
Mercury Nero Steam Hub uses dual elements to produce 1.2 to 1.5 bars of pressure, and an 11.5-litre water tank that produces 8.5 litres of steam with just 3000 watts.
“This machine is made for the Australian audience in mind. Cafés are pumping out high volumes of lattes and flat whites, and that’s where Mercury Nero Steam Hub comes in – it’s a dedicated device to handle high work loads for cafés doing anything over 40 kilograms a week,” Sam says. “It’s all about refining processes so that cafés can do their work faster and more efficiently.”
As such, Mercury Nero Steam Hub features two steam taps side by side to maximise user output. Servicing the machine is no different to an espresso machine, requiring a preventative maintenance service once a year.
After a successful trial run at Tico’s in Brooklyn, Victoria, Mercury Nero Steam Hub is now ready for market distribution. With an approximately eight-week production turnaround, Jordan and Sam can’t wait to see more customers enjoying their Australian designed and assembled product.
“The Australian landscape is changing. We know that automation is a well-documented topic of late but we’re excited to see how our machine can benefit the industry. It’s designed to simply aid the barista, optimise the speed of their processes, and do it consistently without taking away the barista’s texturing skill,” Jordan says.
Jordan is a mechanical engineer by trade who has worked in robotics, mechanical design, and automation. Sam worked as an engineer in the aircraft industry until both found a niche to excel their technical skills in the coffee industry. Jordan and Sam say their engineering and electrical histories gives them “the edge” they need to be competitive in the Australian market.
“Australia would be better off if more people supported Australian design and manufacturing. I was gravely disappointed when Australian businesses rejected our quote for parts because we were asking for small volumes when prototyping. It forced us to look overseas but we really do want to bring back work into Australia,” Jordan says. “I know we can’t compete with overseas’ low production fees and wages, but it doesn’t stop us designing, creating, and assembling here in Australia. Australia has one of the best engineering design abilities in the world – we just don’t brag enough about it.”
What East Coast Espresso does, however, is focus on customer service, a free element of Australia’s hospitality industry that Sam says more businesses need to uphold.
“We pride ourselves in developing long-term relationships. You can have good technology but if you don’t have good customer service, they won’t come back. Business is based on trust,” Sam says. “We understand we’re dealing with some of Australia’s hardest working individuals – the café market. They’re up early, busy all day, and home late. Even then, they still have to deal with taxes, invoices, and staffing etc. We understand the constraints of small businesses because we used to be one, and now we have the perfect device to help them too.
For more information, visit www.eastcoastespresso.com.au/mercurynerosteamhub