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Slayer Booth and Slayer One Group - SCAA 2014 Show Report
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 7, 2014
Article rating: 9.0
feedback: (13) comments | read | write

Another popular booth at the SCAA 2014 this year was the Slayer Espresso Machine company's small booth.

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The Slayer is an upstart, next generation espresso machine for cafes and coffee businesses that has been turning heads for a few years now with it's radical design and pressure profiling brewing method. The company is run by Jason Prefontaine (who also has ties to Calgary, Alberta's Fratello Coffee Roasters), and the machines are built in a small boutique factory in Seattle, WA. Because of their handmade, artisan nature, every Slayer can be completely customized in look and outer materials.

What makes a Slayer a Slayer? The body style, X legs and other features make it aesthetically what it is, but the way the machine works is really what makes a Slayer a Slayer. These were the first machines to really feature pressure profiling and pressure levels as a brewing tool for making espresso. They do it by way of a very special valve that restricts or allows increased flow. They also do it by way of a new (to espresso) water pressure technology - something called a gear pump. Gear pumps are smaller and more efficient than rotary vane pumps (and their motors), and gear pumps allow for advanced, software programmable pressure control and changes.

Of course, the machines have many other technological advances too, including preheat systems, ultra temperature stability, advanced control systems and a lot more.

Slayer has been making 2 and 3 group machines for a while now, but this year, they officially unveiled their new 1 group design (it was displayed late last year too, but in an earlier prototype format; machines at the SCAA 2014 show were the final prototypes).

Besides the 1 group Slayer, at the SCAA show the company had on display a beautiful custom 3 group machine they built for Ninety Plus, a coffee importer and broker. That 3 group featured leather side panels with polished aluminum trim, a powder coat white backing, and beautiful wood accents. The machine is absolutely stunning. I particularly like that Slayer doesn't feel the need to slap major "Slayer" branding all over their machines - the design is unique and singular enough, those in the know, know the machine.

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The Slayer Ninety Plus 3 group espresso machine in action - even messy, it looks awesome.
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Superb detailing on the Ninety Plus 3 group Slayer espresso machine
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The white back of the Ninety Plus 3 group Slayer espresso machine
Editorially, I feel I have to say that t I hope Ninety Plus changes this one logo of theirs (on the back of the machine); the company has several new logos, all a variant on a "plus" symbol, but the one seen in pictures here is just too reminiscent of the symbols found on the sides of WWII German planes and tanks; this branding might not sit well with some.

The Slayer One Group

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Slayers down the line
At any given time, four baristas were pulling shots and demo'ing the Slayers to interested parties.

As nice as that machine was (logo aside, see picture above), everyone seemed interested in the two smaller Slayers in the booth - two 1 group Slayers. They have been a long time coming, and Mr. Prefontaine was particularly proud to be able to show off two very late prototypes at the SCAA show.

Doing a commercial 1 group machine to today's ultra modern and demanding culinary espresso machine's standards isn't easy. Just ask La Marzocco, Dalla Corte, Synesso... and now Slayer.  Because of the machine's size (it's also more squat, or shorter, from counter up, than the 2 and 3 group Slayers), the Slayer design team had to figure out ways to organize various components better, including the boilers, the brain boxes, how the boilers are filled and emptied, and a lot more. The internal structure is also different from multi group Slayers - the new single group features huge billets of aluminum to contribute to structure and rigidity inside.

The real excitement for how the machine differs from older Slayers is the control panel and touch controls for the barista. In a way it works like a traditional smartphone interface, with swipe gestures and soft controls that appear and disappear, but the readout is a more traditional pixel LCD display. On this new one group, there's a lot of functionality for the barista to access, as well as a lot of real time feedback.

If you are not aware, the Slayer's actuator arm (that lever on the grouphead) is multiposition, so moving it only half way activates the machine's pre-brewing, low pressure mode. Moving the actuator arm to the complete left then activates the full pressure the machine is programmed and set up for. On this new 1 group Slayer, the display panel has a live count for the prebrewing mode (actuator arm moved halfway), and then jumps over to show shot brewing time at full pressure.

In addition, the panel can be programmed to have a set pre-brew time then full brew mode: once you do this, moving the brewing actuator lever all the way to the left will do the preprogrammed pre-brew first, then full pump pressure. You would then move the actuator arm back to the right to end the shot (or finish off the shot at lower water pressure).

This control panel offers a lot of programmability. Mr. Prefontaine walked me through the process of setting up a schedule for different days of the week, when the machine is on and off. Except it's not really off - it goes into a "warm sleep" mode during the times your business is closed (or you're asleep, if you have one of these in your home) which means the machine doesn't completely cool down, but cools down enough to a) keep all vacuum breakers primed and the metal inside hot, but b) use a lot less energy. For those out there who have full blown commercial machines, you know the creaks and groans these 24/7 machines go through when you turn them off for a day (or overnight) then power them back up - this is an elegant solution, and not only will it lead to major power cost savings, but could potentially extend the life and reduce the service the machine will have.

So what happens if you do program the machine to go into "warm sleep" mode overnight, but you show up with your buddies at 1am in your shop, and they want some espresso? As Mr. Prefontaine explained, "If the machine is in the sleep mode and you move the actuator to wake it up, it will stay awake for an hour and will go back to sleep if its still within that programmed time. This would allow you to wake up the machine and hop in the shower and the machine will heat up and be ready when you are."

These machines at the show were in fact the last prototypes of the one group Slayer. Within a few days of the show, Mr. Prefontaine posted to his Instagram a photo of the first production unit being built. The machines list for $8,500 USD, base price, and of course, various options and customizations add to the cost. Exciting future days for Slayer and especially for espresso obsessed consumers that want one of the best machines in the world sitting on their home kitchen counter.

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At the Slayer espresso booth, the 1 groups were seriously popular.
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Jason Prefontaine demonstrates the 1 group's new soft touch controls
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The insanely customizable and programmable soft touch control panel on the Slayer 1 group
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Chris Elliot, of Slayer, working to maintain this high-use machine at the show
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One of the Slayer's great features - the "shot mirror" in action
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The compact, form saving, powerful 1 group Slayer Espresso machine

Bonus: Slayer does a lot of custom builds, of course. Here's one of them from one year ago.

Article rating: 9.0
Author: Mark Prince
Posted: May 7, 2014
feedback: (13) comments | read | write
Reports From the Road Column Archives  
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One of the more popular pieces of content on the CoffeeGeek website are the reports from major trade shows. We cover shows like no other media source does - giving first hand intimate and frank reports that give you the real scoop on what's going on, from a consumer and a coffee lover's true perspective.

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