Rancilio knows a thing or two about making coffee machines – it’s been doing so from a factory outside of Milan since 1927. Within that time, the world introduced colour television, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Australia went through 23 Prime Ministers, and consumers discovered their addiction to iPhones. The coffee industry has equally evolved, but what hasn’t, according to Rancilio, is the process of coffee extraction.
“Technology has changed, brewing methods have developed, and new methods of delivering coffee consistency have been achieved, but no-one’s fundamentally changed the way coffee is extracted,” says Paul O’Brien, Rancilio Area Manager – Australasia.
Rancilio, identified for its reliability, has produced hundreds of models over the past 90 years, but only in 2017 did it release its first coffee machine dedicated for the specialty coffee market.
The Rancilio Specialty RS1 is Rancilio’s ode to the specialty market, a machine that’s been produced by baristas, for baristas. The company worked with a dedicated team of industry experts from around the world, including several World Barista Champions and industry experts to understand their needs from a high performance machine in the specialty market.
It’s been a five-year gap between machine releases for Rancilio, but as Paul explains, it’s for a good reason.
“We take pride in what we deliver to the market. Some might say that we’re a bit late to the party with a specialty machine, but it is a new era for us,” Paul says. “We wanted something that would challenge and progress the market, not just follow it. When you’re a company that’s already respected for its performance, reliability, and quality-driven approach, you can be guaranteed that any of our new machines will carry this same integrity.”
The Australian release of the RS1 signifies a new approach to serving the local market, with the brand seeking new partnerships and opportunities to collaborate with partners that share similar values and passion for to progress the industry.
“We are a passionate company and we want to work with people who celebrate our values of performance, passion, and partnership,” Paul says.
Rancilio has embraced its dedication to performance even more so with its commitment to scientific research. In what Paul says is a completely “new world” approach compared to 20 years ago, the company has now employed a full-time research chemist to head up the Rancilio Lab in Milan. Carles Gonzalez, Head of Coffee Competence at Rancilio, is devoted to exploring the possibilities and applications of temperature profiling and its benefit to the market. He will also assess how different coffee cultivars and processing methods perform at different set temperatures on the RS1.
“We are listening to science and using data to enhance our technology more than ever before,” Paul says. “It seems the entire industry is focused on science and innovation. Roasters are becoming more sophisticated and that curiosity extends through to the baristas, and we want to grow alongside them.”
That growth is evident in Rancilio’s RS1, which has been carefully tailored to suit three key demographic groups of the coffee industry: roasters, baristas, and café owners.
The standout of the RS1 is Rancilio’s patent-advanced temperature profiling technology.
“Temperature profiling unlocks limitless flavour potential. From a roaster’s perspective, they can discover so many avenues of flavour by simply adjusting temperature to profile higher or lower, flat or gradient, on the digital touchscreen display above each group head,” Paul says.
In December 2018, Rancilio, with the direction of Dr Monika Fekete of the Australian Coffee Science Lab, performed a series of tests on the RS1 to measure the impact of different brew water temperatures. They tested its correlation to pH, caffeine strength, acidity, total dissolved solids, brew ratios, and sensory aspects such as aroma, crema, and colour.
“If you speak to passionate industry members, they talk about the pursuit of flavour. There’s no right or wrong answer on how to best extract flavour. There’s so much subjectivity in flavour. But what if we had black and white results to say that at a particular temperature you could achieve measurable results, such as more body in the cup, more bitterness, etc?” Paul says. “Of course results will vary depending on particular origins of coffee and varietals, but temperature control is digital. It’s measurable and we are confident we can make it consistent thanks to the RS1’s temperature profiling feature.”
Rancilio says it deliberately doesn’t want to tell people what temperature will be best for their coffee – that’s part of the journey and the user’s engagement with RS1. What it does believe, however, is that the flavours a roaster can achieve from one bag of beans will be limited only by their imagination, and that’s the exciting part.
Paul says asking ‘what temperature is best for my coffee’ is like asking ‘what’s the best type of wine to drink?’ However, it’s Rancilio’s duty to educate others how to operate the RS1 and its temperature profiling feature, and support users as they embark on a flavour journey themselves.
Once users find the ‘sweet spot’ that best suits a particular coffee, they can lock that temperature in. Or, they can program each group head individually to extract at different temperatures to best suit different blends or single origins on the menu.
“Stability is a massive consideration of the RS1. Roasters work so hard to perfect a roast and baristas put so much care into each cup, so we want to guarantee that when they find the best temperature for their coffee, they can categorically produce a stable shot of coffee, day after day after day,” Paul says.
What gives the RS1 this level of stability is Rancilio’s cutting edge brewing technology, thanks to patented software and group head design. Rancilio uses a mixer system fed by a heat exchanger to fill each individual group head boiler. Mechanically, it is quite a straight forward system, however the magic lies in the algorithm Rancilio has developed in its software to ensure maximum accuracy in its temperature profiling.
Stability and reliability is achieved thanks to the use of a mixture of materials, each optimised for the role in each component. This includes stainless steel construction for the RS1 group heads and copper for the steam boiler. Copper will expand and contract with heat, while stainlesssteel provides thermal stability. To this day, after 90 years, each of Rancilio’s copper boilers are still hand rolled and tested at Rancilio’s Milan factory in Parabiago.
Just as Rancilio’s engineers uphold artisan traditions, baristas also have the ability to control each coffee thanks to Rancilio’s thorough consideration of their every movement.
Take the touchscreen display, for instance. Rather than have the barista push the purge button, lock the portafilter into the group head, and take their hand off to activate the extraction button, Rancilio has considered each button placement. Three wide buttons are easily accessed with a tiny stretch of the thumb: the left button for a single shot, middle to purge, and right for a double shot. When it’s a button that’s activated 800 times a day, Paul says baristas will rejoice with no need to move their hand from the group handle to run the machine.
“It’s nice to have temperature profiling but accessibility is also what’s unique about the RS1. Think about how much we use our smartphones. We’re connected with our fingers. It’s intuitive. So why would we want to do anything less to activate an extraction?” Paul says. “At the touch of a finger you can immediately change the temperature and activate the shot.”
The design criteria of the RS1 was to make the barista’s workflow as fluid as possible. Such considerations include a lower profile machine to improve customer connectivity, a higher drip tray to accommodate space for scales beneath the machine, and even two USB ports to connect and charge an iPhone and scales. Group handles are also balanced and feature a flat base for baristas to tamp by leaning against a bench ledge naturally.
“It’s all about the one percenters,” Paul says. “When baristas are pulling 800 coffee shots a day, every little detail counts.”
The steam taps at each end of the machine are also placed to easily activate one of two pressure settings. For example, one setting actives steam pressure at 100 per cent for standard milk pitchers, the other at 40 per cent, best suited to small, 200-millilitre milk jugs. This is ideal for cafés making soy or other plant-based milk orders. Baristas can easily go back to the touchscreen to activate a different steam setting at any point to suit the order.
Cleaning is also reimagined. How many baristas can relate to being asked by a customer for a coffee, only to lose their business by saying, ‘sorry we’ve started cleaning the machine’? With the RS1, that sentence is a thing of the past. Users can activate the machine to clean each group altogether or allocate individual groups for cleaning and leave one group open in case of last-minute orders.
“All these things may seem trivial but they’re the things that will make a barista’s life easier,” Paul says.
Finally for the café owner, it’s Rancilio’s 90-plus years of expertise that is important to consider when making that all-important decision of which machine manufacturer to support.
“The killer punch for the RS1 is the value it can deliver, which is much more than the purchase price. For the café owner, they need to consider life costs of the machine, which can be five years or more. With Rancilio’s reputation for quality and reliability, think about the savings from reduced downtime when so many machines require maximum upkeep,” Paul says.
“Rancilio has earned the right to gain customers’ confidence and we feel we have a right to play in this field. Specialty is one piece of the market, but we have a machine at the absolute cutting edge. We are an innovative company and we need to put up our hand and claim a change. We have something different here, and we encourage others to challenge us so we can continue to progress this industry.
“We’re excited the RS1 is here, and we’re ready to play in this space.”
For more information, visit www.ranciliospecialty.com