Slayer’s X versus “the NSF Leg”
Feb 02, 2009
X versus the NSF leg– Cleanliness need not be sacrificed for Beauty and Functionality
Slayer’s vertical-plane X form factor provides loads of extra space low down where conditions are cooler and drier, and ideal for electronics and sensitive components. This means Slayer does not need additional height to gain this precious real estate, allowing a lower, sleeker profile and the logical layout of components. With lower height comes other benefits. The barista can make eye contact with the customer while working behind the low-slung machine.
NSF legs not doing it for you?
Using an X also spared us from having to turn to one of the least attractive components in the industry, common to virtually every machine out there–the NSF leg. In the United States and Canada, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) requires that machines weighing over seventy-five pounds allow four inches of vertical clearance to enable cleaning underneath. NSF recognizes that anything over seventy-five pounds is unlikely to be tipped on edge for any reason, so the odds of regular cleaning of the counter below are slim. All this is important because NSF maintains and adjudicates the standards that many local health departments have adopted.
An American Standard meets European Design
However, NSF’s powers apply to North America, and not beyond. European machines that arrive on these shores are designed to sit flat on the counter, usually on small rubber pads. To meet the NSF standard, these products must be modified. To this end, European manufacturers discovered long ago that the so-called “NSF leg” is a ready-made, low-cost solution.
If you are reading this blog, you probably already recognize that virtually every espresso machine manufacturer uses the same NSF leg. If you have not been paying attention, even a cursory survey of cafes will reveal the ubiquitous application of the NSF leg. You will see it mounted to espresso machines of all sizes, shapes, colors, and brands. You will see it attached to other equipment as well, sometimes in a six inch variant for equipment like commercial refrigerators that sit directly on the floor. Perhaps, after a while the look of some of these machines will remind you of the gentle, but ungainly, hippos in Disney’s Fantasia, waltzing to Dance of the Hours, which I have linked here for your review.
This may seem like a small thing– a four inch leg, I mean. However, beyond aesthetics and the rest, there is another problem. A machine that is designed to sit on a counter one way, is quite a different machine when propped up an additional four inches. Imagine this. You go to Europe and find a machine you like. Sits well, nice height, should work. You bring it home, prop it on its NSF legs and suddenly you feel like you have an upright piano on your counter. Even at Starbucks, the NSF leg is one reason the barista is generally hidden from view—no, those drinks don’t make themselves (at least not yet).
Anyway, cafe designers and espresso machine developers, working to achieve a particular aesthetic, are acutely aware of what a big difference four inches of extra height can mean.
One final note, the NSF leg has become more than just commonplace. It is has become a virtual design default, like a hidden tax on beauty and functionality, that we pay almost unknowingly. Even manufacturers that are American or quasi American turn to the NSF leg to meet the cleaning requirement. New machines are designed and NSF legs are added as an after thought. Some machines are now even designed around it, in the sense that certain components or features can not be accessed unless these little legs are propping things up.
Slayer will change that–the NSF leg is not in our bill of materials.