The unthinkable happened: the espresso machine has been reinvented

Barcelona – He won’t name names, but designer Andreu Carulla still remembers overhearing the conversation between the top executive of a leading coffee-machine manufacturer and his team at the launch event for Iberital’s Vision. ‘He went up to it and told the designers and the engineers: “See? This is how you design a coffee machine!”’

Several industry professionals agree with that flummoxed Iberital competitor. In fact, Vision has earned the Catalonian company several accolades just a couple of months after its release, from the Green Good Design Award and the A’Design Award to the EID Award. Why? Because it has basically reimagined and diversified the functionalities of the commercial espresso maker, while providing answers to sustainability questions other companies even failed to consider.

See? This is how you design a coffee machine!

Girona-based Carulla is the mind behind the machine’s streamlined design and its elegant blend of functionality and smart technology. With this commission, Iberital threw a loaded gauntlet: Can a machine whose process is basically set in stone be reimagined? The team at Andreu Carulla ACID responded with ways to make extraction a more efficient, intuitive, healthier and sustainable action.

For starters, Vision has neither screens nor buttons, but a simple joystick system that allows for manual control of the brewing process, turning it into a more affective and gestural experience. ‘It’s like interacting with a friend,’ explained Carulla. ‘You don’t do it by pushing buttons, but by patting them on the back. We have consciously reduced the distractions for the barista and created a result that is precise in its outcome.’

The tendency has always been to give consumers an unmodifiable product based on what the manufacturer thought they needed… but we are seeing a new tendency that calls for customization

But even though it appears analogue from the outside, its inside is thoroughly fine-tuned for custom use: baristas can control temperature, pressure and the amount of water used in every delivery and create signature, personalized coffee brew recipes that can be shared via internet connectivity. Why reinvent the wheel? Because, as the design team discovered, companies had ignored the market’s desire for too long. ‘The tendency has always been to give consumers an unmodifiable product based on what the manufacturer thought they needed,’ the Spanish designer stated. ‘We are seeing a new tendency that calls for customization, to make something more personal and more apt for the space it lives in.’

That resulting cup of coffee is even healthier for its consumer: the Vision is the first professional espresso machine to obtain water for infusions directly from the supply network instead of the boiler. That means it avoids the metals and residual salts that come as a consequence of constant boiling and evaporation. In other words: it’s a fresh serve of water in every cup, as this system and the low-lead brass used in the machine’s internal components prevent traces of heavy metals from seeping into the beverages.

Energy efficiency is Iberital’s trademark area of expertise, and this machine is a proud proof of concept for their R&D department: the Vision features a fast heating system that reduces unnecessary losses and manages to cut down energy consumption by 50 percent. Beyond that, its multiboiler system ensures thermal stability, resulting in a more effective coffee erogation. ‘Although our last products were already aimed at increasing energy efficiency, with this new machine we certainly outdid ourselves,’ explained the company’s R&D director, Rafael Muñoz.

Apart from that, the design reduces the amount of plastic and custom moulds needed to manufacture the appliance: industry standard rarely drops below 15 moulds, but the Vision uses only two. And while the average commercial coffee machine is turned on and is never shut down throughout the day, this one employs a stop-start functionality similar to the one used in the auto industry to save fuel while stationed in front of red lights.

And to top it all off, it’s just a beautiful thing to look at. The timeless build was achieved with Marquina and white marble, stainless steel, light wood and glass – materials seldom used in the sector. But then, it also veers towards brutalism. ‘It’s a design language that makes a lot of sense for rationalizing forms when it comes to objects of relative mass, such as coffee machines,’ explained Carulla. ‘It is not frequently seen in this industry, and we used it as a tool to distil every element down to its essence, and bring visual clarity as well as clarity of use.’

Want to see it for yourself and perhaps taste the difference? If you’re in Barcelona, head to the Disseny Hub, where it’s taking part in The Best Design of the Year exhibition, open until October 31. Or keep an eye out for the German Design Award 2019, as the Vision recently earned a nomination in the competition.

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