The espresso machine is often rightly considered the heart of the coffee shop: it drives beverage preparation, workflow, and sales.
However, in recent years, we’ve seen a focus on form as well as function. While technical evolution is an ever-present focus for espresso machine manufacturers, design and style are becoming more and more of a priority.
As espresso machines have become increasingly modern in design, more and more coffee businesses are putting them front and centre to both draw customers in and showcase the latest innovations in technology.
So, how have design and branding evolved in the espresso machine market? And where does customisation fit into it? To learn more, I spoke with two coffee professionals from Dalla Corte. Read on to find out what they told me.
A brief history of espresso machine design
Since the first espresso machine patent was filed in 1884, machines have primarily been focused on functionality over style and visual impact.
Angelo Moriondo’s 19th century prototype featured two large boilers that produced both water and steam, which meant it was a huge, bulky machine. Some 20 years later, Desiderio Pavoni and Luigi Bezzerra introduced the first steam wand, which did help reduce the size of the boilers.
At the turn of the 20th century, however, art deco style machines became more common as the market evolved. This design style was considered to be more luxurious – with slick geometric patterns and a focus on craftsmanship.
A few decades later, in the 1940s, the design was reinvented once more. Italian coffee shop owner Achille Gaggia designed a lever-driven machine with chrome fittings, which heralded a more modern look for the espresso machine. The lever operation meant Gaggia could reduce the boiler size further, and increase the maximum pressure to 10 bars.
Innovation didn’t stop there, however. In the 1960s, Ernesto Valente had designed the Faema E61. This machine included a motorised pump and heat exchanger that helped pave the way for the design of automatic espresso machines. The E61’s smaller size and stainless steel features cemented it as an iconic piece of coffee equipment.
Customisation, visual identity & the customer journey
It’s no secret that the hospitality sector is competitive, and standing out is important. As soon as customers walk through your doors, brands need to show why they’re unique.
In recent years, we’ve seen this reflected in the sheer amount of customisation made available to coffee brands by espresso machine manufacturers.
Davide Valenziano is the Head of Coffee at Dalla Corte. He says that to remain competitive., businesses should focus on customising different aspects of the consumer experience.
“The key element in our work is to offer customers the best cup of espresso,” he says. “As such, Dalla Corte has committed over the years to providing the barista with the best technology possible.
“With Flow Control, we have given baristas the opportunity of customising and recreating recipes. With the Dalla Corte system, baristas can control [and customise] every step of the customer’s coffee journey.”
Customising or personalising the consumer experience makes customers more likely to return to your business. According to research by Hubspot, some 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase products when companies or brands offer personalised experiences.
However, as well as tailoring brewing variables and extraction profiles to offer unique beverages and personalise the customer’s coffee journey, new espresso machines also allow for a different kind of customisation: visual design.
A few years ago, brands’ options were limited. They could choose between a limited range of colours, and that was often it. Today, however, things are changing: manufacturers are offering a range of different ways to customise machines.
Valentina Dalla Corte is the Product Line Manager for Dalla Corte. She explains that design plays an integral role in the consumer experience by adding to the atmosphere of a café.
“Coffee shops are giving more attention to design details to deliver a unique coffee experience to their customers,” she says.
With the espresso machine often being the focus on the bar, considering how the design of the machine contributes to the customer experience is important.
“The coffee machine is becoming an element of shop design itself, so businesses want to customise it according to the style of the shop,” Valentina explains. “They can add special materials or textures, such as wood or leather, or simply add their logo.”
Including custom materials on your espresso machine can help to develop a more cohesive visual identity for your coffee shop. For example, wood accents give your premises a warm and inviting feeling, while metal has a more modern and minimalist look.
Customisation and “luxury” branding
The concept of luxury branding is not new to the coffee sector In the late 1990s, capsule company Nespresso set about transforming its branding from convenient office coffee to a “luxury” consumer experience.
Taking inspiration from the wine industry, former CEO Jean-Paul Gaillard created the Nespresso Club. Consumers automatically joined the club as soon as they purchased capsules, but the feeling of “exclusive membership” elevated the Nespresso brand.
In the years that have followed, coffee brands have started to realise that capitalising on luxury and exclusivity can communicate quality and win mind share with customers.
“With the Icon, Dalla Corte isn’t only offering [high] quality in terms of extraction,” Davide tells me. “We are also committed to giving customers highly personalised experiences by trying to tune in to the needs and preferences of each one.”
In 2020, research from Forbes found that 98% of marketers said adding personalisation or customisation to their branding helped strengthen consumer relations. For cafés, this could mean leveraging a custom-designed luxury espresso machine as the centrepiece of your shop.
“The espresso machine is at the centre of the stage. It’s the touchpoint between the barista and the coffee lover,” Valentina states. “It’s where the customer can make a connection between the brand and the quality of the coffee.
“With the Icon, our customers can choose from three options. There are selections of standard and premium colours.”
Customising your espresso machine to include your brand’s colours, your logo, or even other marketing materials will make it much easier for customers to recognise your brand at a distance. With a high-quality machine, it will also communicate a commitment to quality.
“Coffee shops can change the materials of some elements of the Icon, including the portafilters,” Valentina explains. “After that, the back panel can be installed in wood (dark or light) or in leather. All materials include the possibility to have personalised branding.”
How might visual design develop in the future?
It’s clear that while design hasn’t evolved at the same pace as other elements of the espresso machine, it has still developed. But what will things look like going forward?
“We live in a time where it’s important to not strictly stick to tradition, so we must try to expand our offerings,” Davide explains. “Aesthetics serve to emphasise these technologies. In Italy, we have a saying of ‘bello e buono’, meaning ‘beautiful and good’.”
It’s likely that in the future, custom espresso machine design will become more and more mainstream. Coffee shops will continue to recognise the importance of branding everything in their shop that they possibly can.
For example, including a logo on the back panel (which faces every customer who buys a drink) can increase mind share and awareness.
Furthermore, as well as promoting your business, custom espresso machine design will likely become a more popular technique among coffee shops looking to differentiate themselves in a saturated marketplace. When customers see an espresso machine that was exclusively designed for one brand and manufactured to high standards, they will appreciate the commitment to quality.
“We all want to be one of a kind,” Davide says. “Custom espresso machines help to make the customer experience unique.”
As personalisation and customisation become increasingly important to the customer experience, it’s clear that espresso machine branding and design will be key for coffee shops.
Customising the colour, material, and style of an espresso machine gives you the opportunity to align it with your premises and your brand. As well as giving you more brand authority, it communicates that you’re serious about quality in everything you do.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on super-automatic espresso machines and how they are evolving
Perfect Daily Grind
Please note: Dalla Corte is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.
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