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The State of Slayer, Part 2: Rooted in Coffee

Biography of Jason Prefontaine, espresso machine inventor

This is part 2 in our blog series, The State of Slayer. Learn about the origins of our company and the impetus for our radical products in Part 1: Provoking Innovation.

When someone says, “Slayer”, what comes to mind? There’s the notion of a product, surely: a shiny espresso machine, tricked out and trimmed with rich wood. You see it on Instagram everyday. You would recognize its shape anywhere.

Or perhaps it’s a place: the cafe where you first met us, the event where we made you coffee. If you’ve ever visited our studio, you might picture Georgetown, the rustic Seattle neighborhood that’s been our homebase for 6 years.

Now, while the product is huge – we wouldn’t be here without it – and the places in which you’ve encountered it have undeniable influences on your opinion of us, we’re taking this a different direction. Whatever your mental image, whatever your experience with Slayer so far, let us introduce you to the core of our culture: our people.

Everything started with Jason Prefontaine.

Coffee cupping at origin

His story is ingrained in ours, though it may be unknown to many who are outside a very particular (and perhaps unexpected) locale: Southern Alberta, in the city of Calgary.

The Prefontaines have been in the coffee industry for 2 generations. Even as children, Jason and his brothers, Chris and Russ, helped with their father’s business and honed skills in equipment repair and customer service. In 1991, still in their early 20s, they founded Espuccino Imports and began distributing Italian espresso machines throughout Alberta. Their father’s roastery became their own in 1997, when they bought the company for themselves and later rebranded as Fratello – “brother”, in Italian. With entrepreneurial vigor, they began bottling syrups and other beverage ingredients under the name Valleta in 2003.

Today, Fratello is among the foremost coffee roasters in the region, but that status was hard-won. Ten years after taking the reins at Fratello, in 2007, Jason pursued a new standard for quality and consistency, starting at origin. Fratello strengthened ties with its growing partners and began to bring in some of the best green coffee that Calgary had ever seen.

It wasn’t long before their passion outgrew the resources available to them. To Jason, this became painfully obvious with espresso machines: again and again, he would encounter incredible coffees on the cupping table that simply didn’t translate to great espresso. Frustrated, yet determined, he sought a solution.

He started Slayer as an answer to the question, “How can I make my coffee better?”

Jason on Slayer Espresso machine

As you can see, our very roots are in coffee. Our product was designed from and for the passion of specialty coffee professionals – roasters, in particular – so everything we do is traceable to the cup. Developing our technology was not fundamentally an engineering problem, but a coffee problem. In every innovation and revision we asked, “Does it make coffee better?” If it did, it’s there.

This priority translates to a manually operated espresso machine that offers ultimate control of extraction with a method that we call flavor profiling. It’s technology that matters, preserving coffee’s inherent sweetness and maximizing the viscosity of espresso. Slayer is for those who, like Jason, will go to any length to get the best out of coffee.

The ever-changing nature of our industry – diverse taste preferences, varying crop yields – demands a high degree of flexibility. Within this state of volatility, our continued developments always begin by asking that same, crucial question: “How can we make coffee better?” And Jason has no shortage of ideas.