The way music is consumed has changed forever. First came vinyl records, then CDs, and online streaming platforms. These days, emerging artists release extended play records or EPs ahead of their debut album, and if they’re lucky to have a string of hits or best-selling albums, they release a box set, usually in time for Christmas.
Slayer Espresso has surpassed the title of an emerging artist after first bringing its machines to the forefront of the coffee industry in 1997. However, it has announced a three-tiered box set featuring three new different Slayer models to suit every budget and brewing type – the Slayer Steam, Slayer Steam LP, and the first of these to be released, the new Slayer Steam EP. This machine was first unveiled at the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) in April 2018 and has now arrived in Australia through long-standing distributor Coffee Works Express (CWE).
“We’ve been waiting for this machine to make its official touchdown in Australia. It had a little preview at Fine Foods Melbourne – the public’s first glimpse – and we’re excited to officially add it to our product range and see how the Australian market reacts to the machine’s affordable price point and range of features that produces what some customers already say is a great espresso,” CWE’s National Sales Manager Maico LaPenna says. “We’ve sold our first shipment and now pre-selling the second shipment due later this year.”
The entry-level commercial machine is Slayer’s answer to a specialty coffee machine that can handle high-volume turnover and quality output at a reduced price point without compromising on manufacturing and design. With this triple treat, Maico is confident sales will take a positive incline.
“The Australian market is full of choice, but with CWE’s expertise and customer service focus, we’re committed to being the distributor of choice in the Australian market,” Maico says. “I think the EP its a great step forward in terms of machine functionality and workflow. It offers all the functions you need to play at a high level. It’s a unique piece of equipment and a workhorse that can deliver the true flavours of espresso.”
The new Slayer EP was designed based on the needs of the Australian and UK markets. Jason Prefontaine, Founder and CEO of Slayer Espresso, says it was important for Slayer to produce a machine to rival the top-end specialty coffee market.
“Just as we reimagined how boutique espresso could be extracted on Slayer Espresso, we believed we could reimagine the machine for high volume workflow while making the machine easy to approach and train on,” he says.
“Up to today, the starting point for our machines has been for the ultra coffee purist. Although these are our roots, it did leave room for us to specifically design a machine for multiple outlet locations and satisfy their unique needs and requirements.”
Unlike the classic paddle system featured in the current Slayer Steam X model to activate volumetrics, what Maico describes as “a programmed electronic dosing of espresso output”, the Steam EP features nine-bar pump extraction with push-button volumetric activation. This is activated with two push buttons that presents four programmable settings per group.
Users can customise different volumetric selections, for example a double ristretto and double espresso, or a group head flush and manual extraction. It also includes the option to activate a pre-wetting function. With this setting, much like pre-infusion, users can pre-wet the coffee, like blooming, prior to extraction from zero to four seconds, and determine how long to delay before the extraction starts. This customisable feature allows the barista to control what specific characteristics of the coffee to extract.
“The idea of the simple yet effective push-button volumetrics is to arm the barista with only the essential tools it needs, which can then be customised to suit each individual,” Maico says.
The Slayer EP’s intuitive user interface is what Jason considers to be the most exciting feature of the Steam EP, because “programming should be easy to navigate” and “fun to use”, he says. The central Barista Dashboard gives users the control to manage shot counters, and password-protected menus to give baristas appropriate levels of control.
The Slayer EP features proportional integral derivative-controlled independent brew tanks holding 1.7 litres for consistent and reliable performance, suitable for high-volume service. The advantage, Maico says, is the ability to control the coffee brewing temperature, and if required, one or more groups at different temperature for a second coffee type, such as a single origin.
The machine is powerful enough to cater for the high volume of milk orders Australians love. A dedicated steam boiler holding 7.4 litres of water for the two-group model and 12 litres of water for the three-group model can be set up to 1.5 bars of pressure.
The steam lever has 180-degree rotation and steam tip hole sizes of one to 1.5 millimetres, which features electronic solenoid steam valves. These valves, complemented with the EP’s steam lever operation, delivers instantaneous steam shut-off.
For energy-conscience operators, the Slayer EP energy savings function can be programmed for each day of the week to accommodate different hours of operation and avoid running the machine on high energy and high temperature 24/7. With power save mode activated, the steam boiler drops to 0.3 bars and the coffee boilers’ brew temperature drops to 37.7°C. Cafés that operate from 6am to 4pm, for instance, can program the start time and have the machine powered down until half an hour prior to opening.
The new EP is designed and hand-built in Seattle, United States, using 80 per cent American sourced materials, but was largely developed thanks to Jason’s trip Down Under.
“Honestly, this machine was conceived in my mind while I was spending time in Australia. It was specifically designed to meet the demands of high volume workflow. We have taken note, implementing all the desires of the Australian coffee market. We really do listen,” he says.
Some of those demands included simplicity in the user interface, multiple programmable shot volumes via push button, simple pre-wetting with nine-bar extractions, and the ability for the technicians and managers to monitor service intervals, which are featured in the new EP model.
Inspired by Jason’s signature design flair, the Slayer Steam EP features powder coated matte black wings and anodised aluminum body panels. Its wing channels are purposefully designed to keep power and water services hidden, such as power leads, water supply, and drainage hoses, as not to obstruct from the machine’s design.
“Most machines in this category are extremely simple in their form and function…meaning there is little form or function – square boxes with the only option being ‘semi or volumetric’. We believed we could shatter the norm in this field and once again raise the bar. We believe we’ve succeeded with the Slayer Steam EP,” Jason says.
Maico has watched the evolution of espresso machines having working in the coffee industry for more than 20 years, and eight of those at CWE. For him, what’s most impressive about the new Slayer EP is how uncomplicated the machine is to use.
“This is the type of machine you’d expect to see in prominent espresso bars, specialty roasters, and even mainstream operators, right across the market,” he says. “You need some barista nous on how to extract like on any espresso machine, but it’s certainly easy to navigate considering the output is of such high quality.”
CWE has been the Australian distributor of Slayer for the past eight years. As such, Maico says Slayer’s loyalty to the Australian market is thanks to its commitment to understanding the needs of Aussie coffee drinkers.
Jason describes 2018 as a “positive, challenging, and evolution year” for Slayer. As a recognised global brand, he says Slayer was forced to review almost every aspect of the company, which has exposed areas of growth and development.
“High quality production is now a myopic focal point. Supply chain growth has really influenced our production and manufacturing,” he says. “This year we’ve redesigned several aspects of [our] machines to eliminate risky components, even severing ties with vendors who have excessive technical issues. A revamp of our production processes removed inconsistencies and problems within the manufacturing process.”
Jason says significant progress has been made to ensure superior quality in what Slayer continues to build, and it’s working to increase production capabilities to meet the demands of the market – in Australia and beyond.
“Our mission in 2019 will be to consistently deliver nothing less than our best, on time, every time,” he says.
The Slayer EP will be on display at the CWE stand at the 2019 Melbourne International Coffee Expo from 7 to 9 February.