The team at VA have always been game-changers in the field of coffee innovations. Since 1905, the world’s technological developments have been fused with the latest design trends, to form coffee machines that have received global renown for over a century. For us coffee swots, the nerdy side of our love of speciality coffee has been delighted to watch the newest pieces of transformational technology that Victoria Arduino’s team release each year.
2019 was a big year for the Italian coffee giants, as it was this year that saw the release of its much anticipated Eagle One machine. Then, after plenty of rave reviews, the Eagle One group grew as its latest model, the PRIMA, was launched earlier this year.
The Eagle One group is the result of collaboration – the project was designed by numerous industry innovators (including James Hoffman, Carlo Viglino, alongside the Simonelli Group R&D team), to fill a gap in the market that is of paramount importance. Sustainability represents the biggest threat to speciality coffee as we know it, and the Eagle One machines have been created with an aim that is nothing short of tackling this daunting challenge head-on.
In this piece, we’ll be delving a little deeper into the intriguing development story of this project from the brains at Victoria Arduino.
The problems that the Eagle One sought to solve
When we look at the market of speciality coffee, we can all see that, right now, it is evolving. Speciality coffee shops can be found throughout Europe’s big cities and, what’s more, they form a much-loved part of popular culture. More and more people are learning about coffee, and appreciating the value of sourcing a particularly special cup.
When working at the drawing board, devising the next new products to create, VA was attempting to hone in on this ever-shifting coffee market, and create a piece of kit that would be of interest to this huge variety of consumers. Interestingly, when this growing market was considered by the VA design team, they were able to isolate one problem that is shared by every single one of the world’s coffee-lovers – sustainability.
Fabio Ceccarani, the CEO of Simonelli Group, reiterated this focus on sustainability, which formed the core focus underpinning the Eagle One group:
“In Eagle One, we strongly committed to technology research and innovation but also to find the right product that balances esthetical quality and functionality while satisfying the user and the consumer. The result is a complete experience; from the design to the user-friendliness of the product, we created a sustainable machine that respects the environment in terms of cost and energy efficiency.”
Eagle One’s redesigned engine
With the Eagle One, efficiency, affordability and innovation have successfully been made accessible to small-scale speciality cafes across the globe, who are all sharing the same current concerns.
In a statement, James Hoffmann (Coffee Opinion leader and author, who was heavily involved as a consultant of the development of the Eagle One machines) succinctly outlines the innovations that came to play in this new machine:
“In Eagle One, this is what drives the design. The machine is simple and compact, and able to respond to the new needs of the latest generation of coffee shops. The heart of the machine, the new engine (called NEO, New Engine Optimization), is smaller but at the same time, able to deliver great performance with a reduction of energy consumption.”
As the Eagle One concept came to life, each component in our standard expectations of a coffee machine was picked apart, and carefully considered at length. Again and again, the question was asked, how can the environmental impact of this process be reduced?
Saving energy throughout the process
Take the way in which the machines typically heat the water – the temperature of the group head does not need to be the same as the boiler (what is the point in using up such vast amounts of energy to heat up that entire bank of water?). Instead, the water from the boiler can quickly reach the temperature of the grouphead once it reaches that point in the machine. For the Eagle One machines, the brew boiler was shrunk down (from that of the VA’s Black Eagle model) from over 1 litre, to just 150ml.
This change in itself meant that the Eagle One already represented a huge energy saving. But the team tackled this issue of sustainability from several angles.
As a great example of one of the smaller day-to-day user issues that VA considered with this machine, the Eagle One features an auto flush function. This means that, as the barista cleans the group head after making a coffee, the machine will automatically flush out the exact minimum amount of water required to achieve this (rather than dumping out loads of water from the machine as you get distracted by other tasks).
Furthermore, inside the drain box, there’s a heat exchanger, which uses discharged (already hot) water to heat incoming water. This new patented T.E.R.S. (temperature energy recovery system) massively limits the occurrence of thermal waste. Far higher levels of energy efficiency were attained through this innovation, and an 8% reduction of the total machine consumption was achieved through this one little feature.
The new NEO engine features an instant heating system, which strictly heats only the necessary amount of water required for the extraction process. Not only are the boilers smaller, but they are also insulated with a new material that limits the occurrence of heat dispersion. The machine maintains a stable temperature throughout the whole dispensing phase.
Compact size and affordable customisation
Alongside cutting down on CO₂ emissions (compared to other coffee machines of a similar nature), the New Engine Optimization (NEO) technology within this machine allowed the design team to achieve their goal of cutting down the energy costs that users had to incur, without forsaking any of the high performance that the brand’s reputation demands.
In terms of the machine’s design, the Eagle One group offers cafe owners a far more easy and affordable way to customise their machine. Its easily adjustable front panel follows the trend of espresso machine customisations, without forcing the customer to spend a fortune opting for expensive, intricately designed panels. Instead, this panel can be replaced with materials like wood, steel, resins or aluminium – to best suit the established aesthetic of the cafe.
What distinguishes the models in the Eagle One group?
The Eagle One was launched in 2019, during Design Week at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Then, following on from the success of this first model, Victoria Arduino evolved its kit once more. The Eagle One’s bold new baby brother, the Eagle One PRIMA, was launched in 2020.
This latest member of the Eagle One group uses the Eagle One’s technology (in exactly the same form as its full-sized model) in a super-compact device. The PRIMA is designed for smaller cafes, training centres or quality control labs at specialty coffee roasteries that might be a bit short on space – it is a far smaller model, which still boasts all of the key features of the Eagle One group.
All in all, the combination of all of these intelligent, user-considered changers means that these machines use approximately one third less energy (than other popular competitors) to make the same number of coffees. What’s more, the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of this machine revealed that the Eagle One had 23% less of an environmental impact than a similar machine of the same category.
With this collection of machines, consumption is reduced across the board, in a way which does not hinder performance in any way. This is what achieving sustainability in the greatest sense of the word is all about – performance and consumption have come hand in hand, without one having to be sacrificed in favour of the other. These evolutions in coffee machinery represent a permanent change and realistic solutions to the problems that the industry faces. It is work like this that, we hope, will pave the way for a more ethically conscious coffee process into the future.