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issue: April 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

European Report
Krups Reinvents the Espresso Maker, BSH Reinvents the Oven


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by Paul Roggema, Europe Correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine

It is no secret that the coffee market is a rollercoaster ride these days.

Partly because of Starbucks, customers are keen on upgrading their drip coffee makers. There are plenty of alternatives: designer coffee maker models, pre-packaged capsules and pad systems and, if you really like coffee, you can buy a Swiss espresso maker from Jura for up to U.S. $1,000.

Still, it is no secret that the sales of fully automatic machines are lower than expected. One problem is that the fully automatic machine is a complicated product: it grinds the beans, a piston presses the powder in a 15-bar pressure chamber and, after brewing, the coffee is removed to the waste compartment. In the long run, lime can build up on the boiler and coffee particles can obstruct the mechanics. A fully automatic machine can require professional overhaul every 2 to 3 years, at a cost of $100 to $200. Some brands experience warranty returns as high as 20 percent.

Groupe SEB knows all about these problems—SEB’s Krups brand is a leader in affordable espresso makers. SEB engineers came up with a radically altered design called Espresseria, said to solve most of the mechanical problems associated with fully automatic coffee machines and designed to never need a service overhaul. Operation is more automated, coffee quality is said to be better and footprint is smaller—a big advantage in small European kitchens.

Several design changes help achieve this. First, a slider on the side of the unit removes residual coffee to the waste compartment (previously, users put their fingers inside the machine). Second, the grinder is redesigned to minimize coffee residuals. Third, maintenance is required by the computer control. Users cannot ignore cleaning and lime removal alerts as they can on most units; the Espresseria will stop operating to prevent expensive damage to the mechanics.

While a problem with the water inlet caused some stir among consumers, Krups says it solved all such problems by mid-February. Sales of the machine, which is designed and produced in France, are well above expectations. However, Groupe SEB is having no problems meeting demand due to its large manufacturing base.

BSH introduced another significantly redesigned appliance last autumn: an oven that opens downwards. The Liftmatic oven is designed to be mounted above the cooking surface, at eye level. It has an electric lift mechanism to lower the bottom panel and allow access to the cooking surface from three sides. There are two lift speeds and the final opening distance can be programmed. The cabinet is stainless steel with a darkened glass front panel. The bottom panel is made of ceramic glass; food can be placed directly on the glass. The oven is sold under Siemens, Bosch, Neff, and Gaggenau brand names.

Uta Rodenhäuser, manager of communications for Bosch Domestic Appliances, said the origin of the Liftmatic goes back to the late 1990s, to the BSH competence center in Traunreut, Germany. Here, during workshops on energy saving, the idea arose to design an oven that holds the heat in the same way a chest freezer holds the cold. Before starting the actual design the company did extensive customer research. Kitchen specialists recognized the special advantages of the new design and potential end users showed a 76-percent willingness to purchase, even without a known price (generally, a level above 50 percent is believed to predict commercial success).

It took 3 years from project start to market introduction, and more than 70 patents were registered. A completely new line for cavity production and assembly was built in the Traunreut cooking appliance factory.

The Bosch model has electronic controls, while the other brands follow the unique brand styles in the design of the knobs. The Siemens model won three prestigious design awards. Sales are strong and well above production capacity, and the premium price means the product should be profitable.

 

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