Recently some commentators have lumped Slayer into a category with La Marzocco and Synesso. I don’t really mind this, because the comparison reflects the fact that Slayer defines a new category of equipment: ultra-traditionals. These other machines play in the premium range, but Slayer is perhaps the first purpose-built machine for the Third Wave. It is by design the ultimate traditional barista machine.
That being said, Slayer is not a participant in the battle for technology that seems to be raging between LM and Synesso. The reason for this is simple. Both of these more established companies have been chasing one thing–a “pressure profiling” feature for their products. But, this pursuit is not really about coffee or baristas or the art. It is about technology.
In certain circles there was intense speculation about who would deliver the “true” version or the best version of what essentially amounts to the exact same technology.
As it turns out, Synesso beat LM to the punch with the Hydra, a multi-pumped monster machine, that literally invites the mythic response of cutting off all its many heads. The Hyda has a lot of water lines and a lot of water pumps. And for each pump their is a corresponding motor. This machine is COMPLEXITY incarnate.
LM, though second in this race, responded at SCAA with it’s own version of the Hydra, to be released at some future date. Again, lots of water lines, motors and pumps. Plus it has a whole whack of electronics and computerization that give it a degree of automatic convenience. For example. it will replicate a pressure profile over and over and over again, so you can dial in the pressure deltas you want and your dumb old barista doesn’t have to think too much; they can just make those lattes the same every time, without worrying about a thing. See a problem with this?
Well, here is where Slayer departs from the script. Slayer is first of all a NOTORIOUSLY, HORRIBLY, BEAUTIFULLY manual machine and all that that represents. We don’t particularly like automation. We like human beings. And we respect their judgement when it comes to preparing coffee. We also think a machine should be fun to use so we spent a lot of attention on Slayer’s control points. We even included a way to see your shots developing without stooping beneath the group. Essentially, we like drinking, watching, savoring and sharing coffee. We love preparing coffee.
A machine is great in our books if it enables all this, but otherwise it’s a nuisance. We like mechanical things too, especially in the sense that they can be simplified and minimized. So Slayer is minimalist or perhaps essentialist. It has only ONE pump. It uses PID to control water temp because what human wants to pulse their own elements? It gives you control over pressure in an entirely new and intuitive way. You can intercede in your shot at any point by changing pressure.
Slayer’s pressure geometries are easy to configure manually using a blind insert with a hole in it, and the gauge on the machine (which, by the way, was sourced because it really does show pressure with a high degree of accuracy). Slayer has no computer interface for laptops or flash drives. It’s a machine to prepare artisanal coffee BY HAND. You set those pressure deltas quickly and easily, and you use the machine by watching your shots. Simple and elegant.
Technically Slayer is 100% different from La Marzocco and Synesso, while these other machines are virtually identical–philosophically, technologically.
So why is Slayer so off message from these other products? It’s because we had a design brief that stated what we wanted our machine to do based on what we tasted, personally, in the cup. We wanted to get the full sensory experience that direct-sourced and hand-roasted SO coffees and blends made from Microlots have to offer. That’s it. Our joy is in the coffee, not the machine. Though we delight in Slayer, our delight is more akin to that of the old timey carpenter who delights in his 50 year old plane. Not because it’s techy, but because it is so brilliantly useful.
The moral of this screed is this. Slayer is not comparable to other machines. LM and Synesso just aren’t doing what Slayer is doing. Slayer is first and foremost about the coffee and the person preparing the coffee. While others may be warring with each other over gadgetry, Slayer is simply not about this sort of thing. When the others look up once more from their campaign of pumps, computer interfaces, and widgets, they will discover that the Third Wave still wants the same thing, a better way to make coffee with the people they’ve expertly trained and taught. And Slayer will be right there.
Eric Perkunder in Seattle