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Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project by Mark Prince
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andys
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Posted Tue May 20, 2014, 8:09pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

I have great respect for anyone who can come up with a brand new design for a coffee maker (think, for example: Alan Adler). But it is a very big step to go from a working prototype to a complex machine that will give reliable long-term service. The developers say that the hardest part of the job is already complete; unfortunately that claim may come back to haunt them.

Some questions that come up:

Power utilization. The developers apparently state that the machine runs on 1100 watts. This is adequate for espresso, but I don't believe it's adequate for American-style brewed coffee as portrayed in their video. Heating 10 oz of water from room temp to 93C in 47 seconds takes more like 1800 watts. Call it 2000 watts with losses in the power supply circuitry. This is doable on European 230 volt supplies, but marginal in North America with our puny 115 volt system. 1100 watts will make a 5-6 oz cup of coffee (not a 10 oz mug) in the time shown. It would be good to get clarity from the developers on this issue.

Temperature stability. Just because their temperature display reads a rock-steady 93C or 94C does not guarantee an espresso puck is receiving water at that temperature.

The espresso is made with a room temperature portafilter and filter basket. This may work OK, but it's obviously not what we're used to doing and will change the flavor.

The wooden handles look nice but are expensive and won't last as long as ones made from conventional materials.

Does anyone believe the suggested $500 price point will ever stay around? With decent warranty service, too?

As others have stated, the consistent claims of "perfect" coffee and "perfect" everything are obvious exaggerations, unobtainable in the real world.

Nonetheless, if these folks can deliver a UL-approved machine within 6 months of when they say they will, that is a laudable achievement! I'm not an early adopter but I wish them luck.

 
-AndyS
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Balthazar_B
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Posted Fri May 23, 2014, 6:44pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

I'm guessing that the first incarnation of this machine will have some interesting issues.

But I'm hopeful that if these guys' business survives, there will be some good learnings from this that could make the *second* incarnation significantly better in all ways (except perhaps for price).
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MarkPrince
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Posted Fri May 23, 2014, 8:11pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

I was thinking too this could be a good platform for temperature profiling, since the "instantaneous heat" is pushed as it's raison d'etre. Andy's comments just solidify this.

I too am worried about their first production. They promise a lot. I have talked to them privately about avoiding the "perfect" usage, amongst other comments. I get the sense these folks are engineers first and coffee lovers second. Thankfully, they did the thing every single engineer wanting to invent a product should do: hire an industrial designer.

I see so many products developed for coffee and espresso. Some by our own forum readers. Heck, Andy's developed some wicked cool products. You see a lot of home inventors showing their wares on Home Barista, and here. Innovative grinder designs. Interesting new roasters. Interesting coffee brewers.

All most of these products you see here and on HB have one thing in common. They're butt ugly. And usability is a challenge, to say the least. Engineers are absolutely fantastic for figuring out how to do things. But many can't design if their lives counted on it, and usability is always a challenge because they typically think through a product with their engineering brain where everything makes sense.

These guys went that extra step to hire and make use of an industrial designer. That is one of the things I'm most excited about. Because I think the product has a lot of potential, I've been communicating with the company privately, trying to nudge them in regards to "coffee love" and "coffee quality" elements that they're missing. Their grinder choice isn't very good - I'm trying to get them to change that. Their focus on one temperature was flawed - and now they've changed that. Some of their ideas for stretch goals were not very good vis a vis quality coffee in the cup - thankfully, they've skipped some of the less ideal things in their stretch goal announcements today.

Still no temperature profiling, but that'll be interesting to see. One other thing I'll pitch to them is a group flush to get the groupheads up to temperature before brewing.

Mark

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Sun May 25, 2014, 2:30pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

andys Said:

This machine is the perfect platform for temperature profiling of espresso extractions.

Posted May 20, 2014 link

Guess what! They added temperature profiling (as well as flow rate control - how are they going to do that?!!?!) to two stretch goals - the two connected ones - the USB and WiFi stretch goals. I'm pretty excited about this. I mentioned temperature profiling to them a few times privately as well as in their public comments section, really happy to see this included as a possibility.


andys Said:

Does anyone believe the suggested $500 price point will ever stay around? With decent warranty service, too?

Posted May 20, 2014 link

I think it's a stretch, but doable; if they are a direct to vendor business model (ie, manufacturing + distribution) and they can build this thing at $200-$250, there's enough meat on the bone for them and vendors. If a distributor jumps in there, expect the price to go up another 20-40% (which is why middlemen are not good for commerce; they add little value to the consumer).

The machine seems quite simple when you think about it - an electromagnetic coil, some tubes, some water sealing, a pump, a pcb, some body work, a bit of wood, that's it. It seems a lot less complicated than your typical dual boiler, PID machine, that's for sure. It will probably be simpler than a Silvia inside as well. My guess is the parts breakdown will be 1/2 of what's in a Silvia. What do you think Andy?

Also, they're aware of this thread and have told me they want to address all the points Andy brought up.

Mark

 
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MarkPrince
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Posted Mon May 26, 2014, 9:13pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

For Andy and everyone - the engineers at La Fenice contacted me regarding this thread. Language is a barrier, and they are trying their best to a) understand what is said here, and b) respond. Here's their response, a lot addresses Andy's comments. These are their words, I've not edited them:

Their chief engineer says:

"The heat system is more complicated than what Andy said. It doesn't deal with a pot of water on a flame or a traditional boiler. In this case it deals with a water flow, which starts from  A temperature to  B temperature with a specific speed in a pipe with its own specific hot temperature.

The watt that Andy mentioned are used to bring water from room temp. to 93°C. But telling the truth  the watts comes from the pipe temp (T pipe). This deals with the exchange of heat between the pipe and water and they aren't directly linked to the electric power.

The really most important thing is bring  the pipe from room temp. to the temp. that you need to have water at 93° C

If we Bring 1100 W to the pipe we obtain the T pipe in a very short time because steel has heat characteristic very different from water. Moreover, once reached the work temp. it’ll need a little power to maintain it because the pipe is isolated. "

Further, they answered these questions:

About UL certification, we are building the machine according to the UL guide and we already did some test in laboratory for example about  the field emissions of the pcb . Obviously I can't exclude some delay about that but we're proceeding strictly following UL guidelines.

About wood, we love it, and we are working with a partner with more than 30 year experience. Our wood will be processes to extend its life time. Parts in wood are not directly in contact with water and believe me, keep in your hand a portafilter made in wood is a better experience  then keep in hand a portafilter made in traditional materials. For a nice product, materials are one of the most important things.

About the retail price: for sure it'll grow up, every day we improved our prototype increasing its production costs. La Fenice is not so difficult to be repaired, it's designed to be easy assembled and each part can be substituted without any particular problem. Obviously our company is a start up but we already received a lot of request from distributors, that’s why we're confident to build a good assistance service.


Andy's original comments below.

andys Said:

Some questions that come up:

Power utilization. The developers apparently state that the machine runs on 1100 watts. This is adequate for espresso, but I don't believe it's adequate for American-style brewed coffee as portrayed in their video. Heating 10 oz of water from room temp to 93C in 47 seconds takes more like 1800 watts. Call it 2000 watts with losses in the power supply circuitry. This is doable on European 230 volt supplies, but marginal in North America with our puny 115 volt system. 1100 watts will make a 5-6 oz cup of coffee (not a 10 oz mug) in the time shown. It would be good to get clarity from the developers on this issue.

Temperature stability. Just because their temperature display reads a rock-steady 93C or 94C does not guarantee an espresso puck is receiving water at that temperature.

The espresso is made with a room temperature portafilter and filter basket. This may work OK, but it's obviously not what we're used to doing and will change the flavor.

The wooden handles look nice but are expensive and won't last as long as ones made from conventional materials.

Does anyone believe the suggested $500 price point will ever stay around? With decent warranty service, too?

As others have stated, the consistent claims of "perfect" coffee and "perfect" everything are obvious exaggerations, unobtainable in the real world.

Nonetheless, if these folks can deliver a UL-approved machine within 6 months of when they say they will, that is a laudable achievement! I'm not an early adopter but I wish them luck.

Posted May 20, 2014 link


 
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DanoM
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Posted Mon May 26, 2014, 11:13pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

Great info there.  Thanks for relaying that back and forth, as it is a very interesting looking project.

Can't wait to see how it fares in testing and reviews.
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andys
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andys
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Posted Wed May 28, 2014, 8:20pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

MarkPrince Said:

Guess what! They added temperature profiling (as well as flow rate control - how are they going to do that?!!?!) to two stretch goals - the two connected ones - the USB and WiFi stretch goals.

Posted May 25, 2014 link

It's getting more and more interesting.

MarkPrince Said:

The machine seems quite simple when you think about it - an electromagnetic coil, some tubes, some water sealing, a pump, a pcb, some body work, a bit of wood, that's it. It seems a lot less complicated than your typical dual boiler, PID machine, that's for sure. It will probably be simpler than a Silvia inside as well. My guess is the parts breakdown will be 1/2 of what's in a Silvia. What do you think Andy?

Posted May 25, 2014 link

I have little experience in the economics of espresso machines. But since this one will probably have a limited market compared to a Silvia, and this means very little economy of scale. An espresso-only machine (no steaming) certainly simplifies things, but the custom electronics take money to develop and money to manufacture.

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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andys
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andys
Joined: 10 May 2003
Posts: 857
Location: NY
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Speedster, Londinium 1
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Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: various
Roaster: PIDed Popper
Posted Wed May 28, 2014, 8:47pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

MarkPrince Said:

"The heat system is more complicated than what Andy said. It doesn't deal with a pot of water on a flame or a traditional boiler. In this case it deals with a water flow, which starts from  A temperature to  B temperature with a specific speed in a pipe with its own specific hot temperature.

The watt that Andy mentioned are used to bring water from room temp. to 93°C. But telling the truth  the watts comes from the pipe temp (T pipe). This deals with the exchange of heat between the pipe and water and they aren't directly linked to the electric power.

The really most important thing is bring  the pipe from room temp. to the temp. that you need to have water at 93° C

If we Bring 1100 W to the pipe we obtain the T pipe in a very short time because steel has heat characteristic very different from water. Moreover, once reached the work temp. it’ll need a little power to maintain it because the pipe is isolated. "

Posted May 26, 2014 link

As Mark said, there are issues with Italian/English translation which may make it more difficult to understand each other. I think what he's saying is that the heating pipe stores some energy, and this stored energy supplements the  real time energy available from the electrical mains. But even with a little storage, it seems to me that 1100 watts is not a lot of power to heat water for brewing big cups of American-style coffee in under a minute. Theory aside, hopefully we will soon see exactly what the machine can do.

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed May 28, 2014, 8:54pm
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

andys Said:

I have little experience in the economics of espresso machines. But since this one will probably have a limited market compared to a Silvia, and this means very little economy of scale. An espresso-only machine (no steaming) certainly simplifies things, but the custom electronics take money to develop and money to manufacture.

Posted May 28, 2014 link

Don't forget how Silvia started life:

100 machines built as "one offs" for gifts for top seller Rancilio commercial dealers. 2nd run was just a few hundred, and it retailed, in 1998, for $375 or less. IIRC, ex factory price was $180 at the time.

Mark

 
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andys
Senior Member
andys
Joined: 10 May 2003
Posts: 857
Location: NY
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Speedster, Londinium 1
Grinder: EK-43,Robur, HG One, M3
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: various
Roaster: PIDed Popper
Posted Thu May 29, 2014, 4:03am
Subject: Re: Induction Heating in Coffee - the La Fenice Kickstarter Project
 

I think your comparison to the Silvia actually serves to emphasize the difficulties in making La Fenice a viable product:
  1. I doubt the inventors have the finances to give the first 100 units away for free
  2. They don't have Rancilio's name recognition
  3. They don't have Rancilio's extensive dealer network ("middlemen") to help launch the product (I was encouraged to buy my Silvia because it was backed by Whole Latte Love).

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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