The Nexus One espresso machine from Aremde removes the wall of steel that traditionally separates the barista from the customer, revealing the secrets of coffee making.
Australian manufacturer Aremde has created an open theatre experience in which the barista can perform for the customer, and nothing separates the coffee maker from the coffee buyer.
Netherlands-based designer Rempt Van der Donk says Nexus One’s see-through structure opens up the craft of coffee making, which is beneficial to both sides of the bar.
“The barista can show off their skills while creating a memorable experience for the customer,” Rempt tells BeanScene.
An architect by trade, Rempt had no experience in product design prior to working on the Nexus One. He says the project first came his way while working on a building in Saudi Arabia.
“I was building a new headquarters for Raqtan, one of the largest food services equipment companies in the country,” Rempt says. “The owner of the company, Muthanna Raqtan, recognised a problem with traditional espresso machines. They were either between you and the customer, or had you standing with your back to them. He asked me, ‘can you design a solution?’ I knew nothing about coffee machines but took the challenge.”
Rempt says in his design process, inspiration can strike at any moment. In the case of the Nexus One, it was while driving.
“I looked through the window of my car and thought, ‘this is what I want to create’. I stopped the car and sketched the initial design on my steering wheel, showing the flow between the barista and the customer. That drawing became the Nexus One,” he says. “I showed the design to Muthanna, who thought it was a great idea. Then, because the machine had to be realised, we had to find someone to build it.”
A contact in Italy recommended Muthanna and Rempt get in touch with Queensland-based engineer Geoff Michelmore. The three men first discussed the idea over Skype.
“We said to Geoff, ‘You don’t know us, but we have something to show you. It’s drastic and could change your life’. Geoff said if he liked it, he’d do it. If not, he won’t. But he loved it and joined the team.”
Along with Muthanna, Rempt, and brand expert Walter Amerika, Geoff became a Co-founder of Aremde. He tells BeanScene he was attracted to the machine’s potential to involve the customer in the coffee-making process.
“The customer can watch every aspect of coffee making,” Geoff says. “At cafés using the Nexus One, we see that patrons who have ordered coffee are not usually on their phones as usual while they wait. They’re actually engaged with what the barista is doing.”
He says making the design possible was the easy part, moving the boilers, heaters, and internal components under the counter. The challenge, however, was making it practical.
“Aremde is a design company, so it leads from that perspective. But the machine still needs to be functional. It could not be difficult to make coffee with,” he says. “This took a lot of time to get right, from the spacing of group heads to the alignment of the steam wand.”
Geoff says the placement of the steam wand, within the window, provides the barista with complete control of how they froth milk.
“You can hold the jug and steam the milk traditionally, or if you need to multitask, you can rest it on the platform inside the coffee machine,” he says.
Geoff says this level of consideration extended to the touch and feel of the Nexus One’s buttons, running along the top of the frame, above the corresponding groups. A short touch will purge the group head while a longer push will run the extraction until pushed again, freeing the barista’s hands.
“We even installed sliding cup tables, which means the barista can use different size cups without worrying about breaking the crema,” he says.
“Using the machine is super easy, but it’s still a high-end coffee machine, with a very precise temperature, pressure, and volumetrics.”
To achieve a consistent weight-based extraction, Aremde collaborated with Acaia to develop a set of internal scales for the Nexus One.
A multi-boiler system and proportional-integral-derivative controlled heating ensures its group head temperature is consistent to 0.2 degrees. Meanwhile, a steam-thermo cycle rotates steam through the boiler and valves to maintain temperature in the steam wand.
The extraction process begins with a soft pre-infusion, which Geoff says provides a consistent pour.
“We have a restrictor built into the flow meter, which reduces the initial flow of water to the group head. This allows a small amount of water to infuse the grinds before the restrictor opens for full extraction,” he says. “This pre-infusion means the coffee extraction is not done in a volatile way, so we get a soft and consistent flow of coffee pouring out of the machine.”
With Geoff developing and building the machines in Brisbane, the Aremde team agreed it would be best to base its headquarters in Australia. When the Nexus One launched in September 2018, the first café to install and test the capabilities of the machine was Queensland’s Extraction Artisan Coffee. It has since been introduced across Australia as well as Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
“The Nexus One has seen a strong early response because design is so important to cafés, especially in Australia,” Geoff says. “You want every aspect to be unique, comfortable, and engaging for the customer. A crucial part of that is getting the right machine.”
Aremde offers the Nexus One in every colour of the rainbow, allowing cafés to customise their equipment. Geoff says the espresso machine’s components are painted before final assembly, much like a car.
“Our chassis is made from stainless steel, so the painting and finish is very important. To ensure the quality, we use a paint company that specialises in high-end vehicles, like Porsches, custom Harley Davidsons, and hot rods,” he says. “We wanted to do this at the factory so the machine’s not disassembled in a workshop halfway across the world as the Nexus One gains popularity overseas.”
The popularity jumped in June, when the Nexus One was displayed at the Specialty Coffee Association’s World of Coffee expo in Germany. There in Berlin, it received the Best New Product award in the Commercial Coffee or Tea Preparation and Serving Equipment category.
“We were extremely energised by the award. We felt we had a great product and to win on the world stage was a great moment for the machine,” Geoff says. “World of Coffee is the pinnacle of coffee. If they see Nexus One as an innovation in the industry, it’s a confirmation of our philosophy: less machine, more experience.”
Aremde also unveiled its second product, the Modus One, at World of Coffee. The under-the-counter cup warmer uses the heat from the Nexus One’s hydraulics system to maintain the cups’ temperatures. Geoff says this creates even more space on the bar and improves efficiency.
“You don’t need to stack your cups on top of the machine or bar. Instead they’re kept under the counter in standard, easily rotatable dishwasher racks,” Geoff says.
Aremde’s accolades continued in July, with the Nexus One winning two Good Design Awards in the Engineering Design and Product Design categories. The jury recognised the design and how it’s engineered as “a bold design move in what is otherwise a conservative market with little disruption to date”.
Rempt calls it a welcome surprise to be recognised outside of his primary field of architecture.
“I never expected I’d be designing a coffee machine, let alone an award-winning one. It gives me a boost as a designer, as well as to our company,” Rempt says. “Aremde sees a need in the market for a big change in how coffee shops are designed. We will continue to provide new products and services that will improve cafés and the way you set them up.”
This article appears in the August edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.
For more information, visit www.aremde.com.au