Why are there no espresso machine standards?

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
BobS

#1: Post by BobS »

It seems odd to me that there are no specific standards that all the espresso machine manufacturers
could adhere to. And I don't mean those that would cause them to reveal IP, rather those that would
benefit them, their distributors, the independent service organizations, and their customers.

Even more, I find it odd the SCAA goes to lengths to certify machines yet don't pressure for some basic
standards that can be verified.

Standards that would be useful -

Portafilter standard - Goal, allow all portafilters in a class to be used on any machine whose group
head conforms to the standard. Some specifications that apply to all - diameter (58 mm, 53 mm, etc.),
number of tangs, tang depth from the top, tang length, tang width, tang height, tang angle.
Dimensional variations allowed.

E61 group head - Goal, Insure that all o-rings, seals, springs, and pins work across all group heads
conforming to the standard. Note that internals not associated with sealing the group head and spring
travel are unaffected. The leaves IP associated with water dispersion, overall pre-infusion chamber
size, water passages, etc. not visible to those viewing the standard.

While the standards would be drawn up by the Engineer's, the carrot to Marketing and Management is
the ability to state they conform to a standard and the possibility of extra revenue by making replacement
group heads that allow machines in the field to be upgraded by Factory trained Technicians - a possible
revenue stream that's not been tapped.

Regardless, the industry is big enough that it needs to consolidate a few things that are very common
but cause problems throughout the supply chain. And given how large LaCimbali is, I'm surprised they
would continue making so many different 58mm group heads where the portafilters are all slightly different.

Bob

coffeefrog

#2: Post by coffeefrog »

Bob,
I don't see what the vendors get out of "standards compliance" apart from some percentage of them having to change their product's designs to achieve that compliance (which means cost and no obvious benefit to the product line). It looks like a way of causing parts supply-chain pain to achieve the dubious benefit of being "standards compliant", and in any case, who gets to choose who the losers are? Standards development is often vicious politics walking on a knife edge of irrelevance.

Standardisation is a worthwhile issue when some vendor can express a strong value proposition related to interoperability (networking, pipe fittings), or when the manufacturing process is subject to commodification and subcontracting (e.g. the Rossi lever group). In the first case standards development can help when the interoperability is valuable, but given a choice between a machine with a unique value proposition (Kees vdW, the LM GS3) or one with interchangeable parts (CMA made machines), which one is going to be the high margin machine in the market? In the second case, the standardisation should be driven by the subcontracting relationship (CMA again) and artificial standards will in fact only hinder the process by closing off possibilities for commodification and cost reduction.

Selling group upgrades doesn't seem to be genuinely facilitated by your proposed standards. If thats an objective, you would have to standardise the attachment to the boiler too, as well as the overall envelope dimensions so that the group is sure to fit in the available space.

Greg
LMWDP #15

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Psyd

#3: Post by Psyd »

Standards development is often vicious politics walking on a knife edge of irrelevance.
The advantage of a common size and interchangeability is that the vendor of accessories can sell more of the most common sizes, and the advantage to the manufacturer is that he can advertise the commonality as a perk to those that tend to seek out after-market accessories. Rancilio took some advantage of that fact to sell the Silvia early on. There are machines that I will refuse to consider simply because the group would be incompatible with all of my tamps, baskets, and various styles of PF. 58mm is a a bit of a defacto standard, and anything else is sort of an 'other than standard'.
Standards will naturally coalesce around a fiscal advantage. Standards development against the financial interest of those involved takes that knife edge and puts it in someone's sweaty hand in a darkened hallway.
It'll happen. Remember, the home espresso movement is quite young, and is till in it's infancy. Toddling will bring standards, lower prices, and better machines. As good as they are now, the GS3 type technology will eventually be affordable due to economy of scale and competitor snapping at their heels.
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175

coffeefrog

#4: Post by coffeefrog »

Psyd,
I'm not sure whether Rancilio was selling "interchangeable" or whether they were selling "professional" parts, I just don't remember the advertising. What I am sure of is that people like us don't drive the mass market. Most people don't have multiple machines or a noticeable investment in tampers and other stuff. The market for third party coffee machine accessories is very small.

I agree that standardisation is inevitable in some parts of the market, but I think that that will be a result of parts subcontractors getting better at delivering already commoditised components cheaply, not a conscious desire of the vendors to sell standard parts (which was the original point). At the moment for some vendors, groups are a point of competitive advantage, so they are unlikely to be standardised (or bought as third party components) by the those vendors. For vendors for whom the group design is not a competitive issue (and I suspect thats actually a fairly large part of the market) then standardisation is, as you say, financial advantage where a subcontractor can deliver them cheaply. After 60 years of modern coffee machine design, counting from the original lever Gaggia, there is still a lot of experimentation going on that suggests that we are some time from that happening at the top end of the market.

Greg
LMWDP #15

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JimWright

#5: Post by JimWright »

I actually think Mark Prince was talking, in one of the articles on evaluation of espresso (could've been something else though), about the SCAA establishing standards for performance measurement in espresso equipment, as I think he mentioned they had in drip/brew coffeemakers. You can see how this might be of some benefit to consumers, or might not, depending on the standards used, politics, etc.

However, as mentioned above, the use of standardized user-replaceable parts strikes me as not really all that advantageous to the OEM. You can imagine that some parts under the covers might get standardized if third party parts manufacturers could produce and sell quality products cheaper than the machine OEMs could build those things themselves. On the other hand, those same OEMs would probably have mixed feelings at best about the end user using third party parts over which they have no quality control, and worse yet, of which they don't get a piece of the profit, with their products.

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another_jim
Team HB

#6: Post by another_jim »

Almost every country's coffee organization has standards for espresso which specifies the brew times, volumes, pressures, and temperatures, and some of the taste characteristics in the cup.

There are two Italian organizations that have put some teeth into this:
INEI and Illy's ESE Pods.

Machines certified for ESE pods have to perform at the right pressure and temperature. For instance, the Silvia got an OPV to regulate pressure to 11 Bar since it has become ESE certified. F!F! had to fix their shot temperatures to get the cert. In other words, low end home machines certified for ESE pods can probably make a decent shot when set up for ground coffee.

The INEI "Espresso Italiano" certification is far more ambitious. It certifies blends, machines, grinders, cafe owners, and baristas. Equipment compliance has been high, with market leaders Cimbali, CMA, and Nuova Simonelli, along with most grinder manufacturers, having signed on. Coffee compliance, on the other hand has been very low, Trucillo and Jolly are the only well known blends that have gotten the cert; Illy, Lavazza and Segafredo have not joined in. There's quite a few bars in Italy that have it, but the list seems heaviest in tourist areas.

I'm actually impressed how far the INEI has come in the last five years. They seem to have profited from the current trend in favor of certifying regional and traditional method based foods. It may be worth supporting their standard. Not everyone has access to the internet chat on what's hot and what's not, and that chatter can be very one sided. For a cafe owner, the opportunity of getting training and equipment that is fairly well guaranteed to produce a good result, and having that result certified for all customers to see, may be a very desirable thing and worth the expense.
Jim Schulman

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Marshall

#7: Post by Marshall »

BobS wrote:Regardless, the industry is big enough that it needs to consolidate a few things that are very common but cause problems throughout the supply chain. And given how large LaCimbali is, I'm surprised they
would continue making so many different 58mm group heads where the portafilters are all slightly different.
Is this a real problem or a theoretical problem? Are people having difficulty finding parts?
Marshall
Los Angeles

zin1953

#8: Post by zin1953 »

Bob, what you are proposing will NEVER happen! And as for the "why" of it never happening, it's simple!
BobS wrote:Portafilter standard - Goal, allow all portafilters in a class to be used on any machine whose group head conforms to the standard. Some specifications that apply to all - diameter (58 mm, 53 mm, etc.), number of tangs, tang depth from the top, tang length, tang width, tang height, tang angle.
Dimensional variations allowed.
And could you explain to me exactly why Company X would like to buy an extra portafilter from Company Y or Company Z, rather than being tied using their own proprietary model?

(And so on and so on . . . . )

What you're suggesting, it seems to me, is no different than suggesting that all automobiles have the same standards, that -- for example, they all use the same size of tire. No more guessing about what size tire you need for that Mini Cooper, that Lexus, or that Porsche -- they all take 215/55VR17. You could still buy Michelin, Goodyear, Dunlop, Pirelli, etc., but since every car has standards, they only accept the same size wheel and thus, tire.

Sorry. I just can't see it happening.

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.

BobS (original poster)

#9: Post by BobS (original poster) »

zin1953 wrote:And could you explain to me exactly why Company X would like to buy an extra portafilter from Company Y or Company Z, rather than being tied using their own proprietary model?
Jason
Simple actually - Company X and Company Y both buy from Company Z. They do so because they
outsource common parts to Company Z because Z has lower costs than either X or Y. If X and Y
were really smart they could save more money buy using the same portafilter and simply have
Company Z install different handles. Company Z now only has to set up the CNC machine once
to produce twice the number of portafilters.

zin1953 wrote:What you're suggesting, it seems to me, is no different than suggesting that all automobiles have the same standards, that -- for example, they all use the same size of tire. No more guessing about what size tire you need for that Mini Cooper, that Lexus, or that Porsche -- they all take 215/55VR17. You could still buy Michelin, Goodyear, Dunlop, Pirelli, etc., but since every car has standards, they only accept the same size wheel and thus, tire.
Jason
There are standards for each size of tire. If you purchase a 14", 15", 16", etc. tire from any tire
manufacturer, you can be assured that it will fit the rim on your car. The same cannot be said
of a 58mm portafilter.

The same with an e61 repair kit - it may fit a Wega/Faema, but not a Quickmill or Isomac. Yet there
is no fundamental difference in any of the e61 group heads other than who built them.

It's also an issue because the Company that made the machine has to take the cost of the non-common
portafilter and pass it along with markup to me, the end customer. Of course that markup is 5 x cost.
Because there is no standard on a common part, everybody from source to customer has to bear
increased costs - and not just once, but for the life of the machine, including rebuilds.

Bob
Marshall wrote:Is this a real problem or a theoretical problem? Are people having difficulty finding parts?
Is the problem real? Well, for me it is and it's not about finding parts, it's about not being able to use
parts with different machines - I've a nice portafilter pressure gauge but I can't use it on the LaPavoni
and Caramali here at work because it's a e61/LaMarzocco portafilter. Yet all three have use 58mm
portafilters.

Bob

zin1953

#10: Post by zin1953 »

Bob,

1) I'm not trying to argue with you, but it's not about rebadging, it's about manufacturing -- and if every espresso manufacturer has a proprietary design (which, admittedly, not every company has, but nonetheless -- ), you are forced to stick with them . . . or with an after-market manufacturer that designs parts just for them.

2) Yes, tire sizes are standardized, and a better example may have been wine-bottles-and-how-they-fit-in-wine-racks had I really bothered to think it through, but the fact remains that automobiles use "umpteen" different sizes of tires (no standard "one size fits all"), and my first thought was Henry Ford's "You can have any color you want, as long as it's black."

Cheers,
Jason
A morning without coffee is sleep. -- Anon.