Sanremo Opera dreams big

The world’s leading baristas and technicians have joined forces to create a machine that has raised the bar for the future of espresso machines.
Sanremo Opera

When the curtain was raised on the new Sanremo Opera machine at the Host Milan expo in October 2013, the audience was treated to a history-making performance.

“An opera represents lots of instruments put together to make a wonderful sound. And just like the great opera singers of Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo, we put together the best in the business, of baristas and engineers. Together their voices make an unbelievable sound too,” says Carlo de Sordi, Sales and Marketing Sanremo Italy.

The Opera machine is what Technical Manager of Sanremo Australia Ben Stephens calls “the dream machine”. “Eighteen months ago [Sanremo] contacted the head baristas of the world and invited them to come to Italy to see what they wanted in their ‘ideal’ coffee machine. We sat down with a blank canvas and Sanremo said: ‘Design your dream machine’,” he says. “The idea was to produce a machine with the best industry professionals from around the world, and to produce the best coffee machine in the market for those professionals.”

Together a team of 11 baristas and engineers worked together to create that team. The ‘dream team’ included Australia’s Sasa Sestic and Ben Stephens, United Kingdom’s Barista Champion John Gordon, the UK’s David Wilson, Thailand’s Torpong Tantraporn and Turkey’s Serif Basaran. They worked in association with Danilo Llopis, Sanremo’s Research Manager and Head Engineer.

For Australia’s Sasa, the first components that came to mind in his dream machine was to include scales on a machine to calculate brew ratios, lever activation and restrictors.

“All coffee machines around the world control coffee extraction using volumetric measurement, but the Opera is different. It controls coffee extraction with brew ratio, and that’s what will guarantee consistency,” says Sasa. “Surprisingly, all the baristas involved were unanimous about the need for brew ratio. In the Australian market baristas are calculating brew ratios in their mobile phones so we thought it would be amazing to make a coffee machine that has those scales on the machine to calculate brew ratio.”

The Opera machine contains five insulated boilers with one dedicated to each group head, using 316L stainless steel to ensure no corrosion, and heat retention. Users have the option of selecting two different water flow rates when extracting shots by activating the lever. This is ideal for users who have two to three different blends, which they can then personalise with different brew ratios using the right parameters and restrictors to suit the coffee.

Sasa says a lower flow rate is normally very good for espresso extractions. This is because the contact time with the coffee and water is slow. However, the risk is under extraction, which can create a bitter taste. A higher water flow rate through the group head can result in over extraction.

“To eliminate the inconsistencies that can occur with extractions, thanks to the brew ratio system and scales, baristas will never have an under or over extracted coffee using the Opera machine,” says Ben. “Because of the flow regulation and the way the system works with the gear pump, the Opera brings the best out of any coffee regardless of how you produce it.”

Instead of operating on a set nine-bar pressure system, the Opera machine features a voltage regulation gear pump to slow down the rotation. This regulates the actual passage of water through the pump according to the flow of espresso or extraction.
Sasa points out that rent and other operating costs make it hard for some café owners to offer alternate brew methods, such as filter coffee. But with the Opera, users can have it all.

“For baristas wanting to produce an aeropress and pour over, this machine can reproduce it. We trialled the Opera against an aeropress and we believe it tastes better on the Opera because it regulates the flow of water through the gear pumps according to espresso extraction,” he says.

And it all takes place at the touch of a button. The programming is set up electronically. There is no need for calculations or manual set-up; only a tablet device with Bluetooth is required. Once the data is activated and the baristas use the right parameters, the machine does the rest.

To read the article in full, see the February 2014 issue of BeanScene. Click here to subscribe

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