Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S product, but we saw there was more space in the market that created a perfect opportunity to bring together the best of Modbar and La Marzocco to open up the product range even further," Scott says. La Marzocco and Modbar are both commit- ted to developing products with strong philos- ophies behind them. For the new machine, Scott and Aric Forbing, cofounder of Modbar, developed a clear goal: "We wanted to create a machine that made the most consistent espres- so and took away the barrier between barista and customer, providing more of a chance for connection between the two parties," Scott says. "Our idea was that if we made coffee brilliantly simple, we could tell the story of the coffee better." With their mission in place—and approval granted from the companies' management teams—the international collaboration began. For Modbar, working with La Marzocco was an exciting opportunity to partner with a veteran of the craft. "La Marzocco is a huge inspi- ration in the espresso business," says Lena Prickett, Modbar's marketing manager. "We knew their 90-plus years of expertise would mean we would have access to resources, ideas, and processes that we couldn't have done on our own." The two companies assembled a team to work on the new machine. A mechanical engineer, a software engineer, a certifi cation engineer, and a lab technician made up the La Marzocco Italy factory contin- gent, and seven software engineers came on board from the La Mar- zocco U.S.A. operation. On the Modbar side in Fort Wayne, another mechanical engineer and a lab technician joined the crew. One of the chief challenges the team had to navigate was separating the espresso tap from the machine module—a staple of Modbar's under-the-count- er machines, but a new experience for La Marzocco's software team. The trips back and forth between Scarperia, Italy; Seattle; and Fort Wayne, Ind., became frequent: The team members spent more than 200 days on the road in 2017. One of the fi rst tasks was developing a proof of concept for the ma- chine, which is essentially a demo to prove the idea is feasible. Most of the proof-of-concept work took place in Fort Wayne, Scott says, largely because of the machine tools available there. "Fort Wayne has an innovative spirit, and the tools there allowed us to be creative and nimble," he says. "We had a lot of late nights there, fueled by beer and wine, working until 1 or 2 in the morning building things." Once the team fi nished the proof of concept, they brought it to Italy to industrialize it, adding the valves, electronic system, and other components to bring the machine to life. Next up was making the metal castings, or the molds that would envelop the machine, which took place in Fort Wayne and was led by Aric from Modbar, who has a background in metal-casting work. Through a connection of Aric's, the team used the aluminum foundry shop that did the fi rst aluminum casting for the Dodge Viper. With the castings in hand, the team returned to Italy to put the machine into production. Scott is excited to mention what ended up being one of the most fun parts of the process: The team built a robot to polish the casting before it was chromed. (Chroming is the process of electroplating a thin layer of chromium onto a metal object.) "We wanted the polishing to be perfect on the casting before it was chromed," says Scott. "No person could make it perfectly and do the surface fi nish we wanted, so we built a robot to polish the casting for us." Production was the longest stage in the process, lasting several months, but at the end of it, the Modbar Espresso AV was complete. The fi nished product is a complex yet elegant machine that tucks under the counter of a café. The Espresso AV supports two taps from its single module, allowing café owners to expand their machine as their business grows. The machine also comes with an adaptable drip tray, multi-position programmable lever, and Linea PB volumetrics and optional scales. For Modbar, collaborating on the machine was a memorable expe- rience that strengthened the two companies' relationship. "Building a brand-new product together was a natural evolution of our relation- ship," says Lena. "Not to mention everyone in the company is a joy to work with and at the top of their fi eld—we feel very lucky to be partnered." Scott echoes those sentiments, saying that the international trips and late nights shared between the two companies led to some extraordinary friendships. "It's been really cool to have these teams coming together to be one team," he says. "Aric and I are great friends now thanks to building this machine together—he's one of the groomsmen in my wedding!" Most importantly, both companies agree that the Modbar Espresso AV is a machine built through an exceptional collaboration, main- taining the strengths and character of its contributing companies. "We were able to marry the companies in this great way," Scott says. "Neither one of us could have produced this machine on our own." —Chris Ryan With Modbar headquarters in Fort Wayne, Ind., and La Marzocco's U.S.A. offi ces in Sea le—not to mention La Marzocco's factory in Italy—the team that was assembled to conceive of, create, and produce the Modbar AV logged a lot of airplane miles throughout the process in 2017. 24 barista magazine

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