Spent my day with John and the Franke Evolution ASP. Of course most of my peer group are ultimately skeptical of this type of automated equipment. On top of that, most know the story of La Marzocco USA and Franke in Seattle. It seems like everyone has their own version of that story. No matter what happened, it helped shape the industry as we know it.
In the past I've had limited exposure to this kind of espresso machine. I worked at Visions in Seattle and they were always working on these things. It's a kind of Rube Goldberg device on the inside.
|Tightly assembled and complex|
In the lower right you can see the main inlet manifold. All this is cold. You can also see the same Pro-Con pump we use on any other commercially viable espresso machine on the left.
|Valves from left to right control; hot water tap cold mix, auto milk dispenser (not installed) and auto boiler fill.|
Everything hot is centralized on another manifold. There are multiple steam valves, depending on much steam you want. The stainless boiler is small, but has a relatively large heating element. From the install, the initial heat up was around 4.5 minutes. These machines are also available as dual boiler. There is easy access to the fill probe here too.
Behind the tubes you can see the Ditting grinder.
|Tubes from top to bottom; steam, steam, more steam and the hot water including the mix (up from the bottom)|
The brewing chamber is vertical, not true on all super automatic espresso machines. That big obvious orange O-ring seals up the brew and the tube above it leads the coffee to the dispensing port. The finished coffee travels 8-10 inches in rubber tube. That tube also holds left over coffee. After 5 idle minutes the system automatically flushes the brew chamber and delivery tube.
|Birds eye view on the brewing chamber|
Because of the length of the delivery tube, shot timing isn't what you're used to. You can hear the brew valve open so we timed from there.
Here's a video of espresso brewing action. Yeah, yeah, I'll hold the phone sideways next time.Franke Evolution espresso from pouredover on Vimeo.
I was very interested in the milk steaming functions. The steam wand is a giant double walled stainless and teflon thing, it's about triple the normal diameter. It has a temp probe sticking straight out the bottom of the tip. The holes in the tip are huge. The holes in the tip turn out not to matter during autosteam because air is induced upstream, via another valve, and a Venturi effect. So, during autosteam, the holes on the tip are covered by liquid all the time.
We turned all the autosteam functions off so I could try to steam old-fashion style. My hypothesis was that I'd prefer the steam turned all the way up. After several test runs, I was right. I made the cappuccino in the first photo with this technique. I then expanded my hypothesis and added that I thought maximum steam would be best in all conditions.
|Programming with the technicians card|
Right away I noted that the air valve was open until a much higher temp than I would teach a Barista. Turning it down below 38C (100F) yielded really great results. I ended up turning it down to 24C. One downside is that if the starting milk (or pitcher) change temp, it will impact the foam quality.
Maximum steam volume provided better milk in all my tests.
For me, the lesson is almost the same as always: people make coffee, machines do not. After John and I set it up and dialed in, the drinks we're great. The key to great coffees will always be great people.
A big thanks to John.