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The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > The ZP Machines...  
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SteveRhinehart
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Posted Mon Dec 12, 2011, 5:29am
Subject: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

The title isn't meant to be facetious, I'm just commenting on the fact that the features list seems more hefty than the price. This is a machine that recently popped up on Kickstarter for crowd-funding, and has been making the rounds on people's Facewalls and Twitstreams. Essentially, the creators want to offer a ~$300 machine ($200 if you fund the project) with PID-controlled temperature and pressure, a "re-designed" thermoblock, and readily available parts, that performs quite well for the price. Of course, this is still just a concept, and while the creators claim that baristas at Land of a Thousand Hills and Octane in Atlanta were pulling some very good shots with the prototype, the viability of the machine seems up in the air. In addition to the Kickstarter pager, there's also a Reddit thread in progress.

The features list:
*E-61 centered group head design, supposed to fit most standard 58mm portafilters
*Re-designed thermoblock with PID temperature control. The designers state that there is more surface area in theirs than in typical thermoblocks, perhaps meaning more inter-shot stability.
*PID-controlled pressure. Sounds like they're using the typical Ulka pumps or equivalent, maxing out at 15 bar, and they've stated that digital profiles can be used.
*Commonly available parts. They're not in it for the after-sales support paychecks, apparently. As few proprietary parts as possible.
*Open-source code. If you're a geek or a nerd and you want to tinker with the bits and bytes, go for it! Interfacing pins will be left in place, possibility of an SD card as well.
*ESE compatible. For, well, the people who don't need no steenking tampers.
*6- or maybe 12-month warranty. They're still working on the terms, so this is up in the air at the moment.

Like when the CC1 was still getting its kinks worked out, we're looking at a potential underdog in the marketplace. The interesting thing here is that these guys have no espresso machine manufacturing experience (that I know of, I could be wrong), meaning they could either be totally out of their element, or that they could bring some really fresh, practical ideas to the table. I haven't pledged any money to them at this point, but I might consider it if the designers start providing some testimonials from those baristas in Atlanta, and comment more on the maintenance expectations. So far, I haven't read anything about descaling, or customer service. For instance, while parts are readily available, what if I've got ten thumbs and I'm useless with tools? Who do I take my machine to? Not every appliance shop will repair espresso machines (as I've found), so what happens if there isn't anyone locally to do it? Who do you ship it out to? On a similar note, if they're interested in making this machine, and then their interest in the espresso business wanes, what happens to the customers? I haven't read anything about designing a lower-cost HX or anything, so the new-machine-new-company thing is a bit daunting to me.

Thoughts?

Also, Mods: If it's okay, I'd like to try to get the designers in here for discussion. I'm not on Reddit, I don't know how many of us here are, and I think it might be beneficial to get their input, as we did with Bill Crossland.
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frcn
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Posted Mon Dec 12, 2011, 8:06am
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

It does look interesting. I wonder what material they are considering for the thermoblock. The passages look relatively small and I wonder about scale.

 
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SteveRhinehart
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SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Mon Dec 12, 2011, 1:19pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

Here's a (noisy) video showing the machining of what seems to be quite a large thermoblock! I really want to see what the innards of that machine look like now.
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ZPMEspressoGleb
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Joined: 12 Dec 2011
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Location: Atlanta, Georgia
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Posted Mon Dec 12, 2011, 4:39pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

Hey Steve,

If the Mods are all right with it, I can do my best to answer all your questions here.

I apologize for our slow response time -- there are only four of us at ZPM, and we've been inundated with hundreds of questions and concerns about our machine.

- Gleb Polyakov
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SteveRhinehart
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SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Mon Dec 12, 2011, 5:11pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

Thanks for joining in Gleb! My concern for Mod approval is mainly that new users aren't supposed to endorse products, so I'm not sure how they'd weigh in. Perhaps that's less of a concern now that you've hit your funding goal - congrats by the way!

So, one of the big issues I haven't seen addressed anywhere is descaling. Am I correct in assuming the thermoblock is aluminum? Have you folks looked into scale buildup, and how to take care of it in the system yet? I imagine even a small deposit can affect performance, like a clogged artery, so it would be good to know if there is any info yet on that sort of thing.
Also, more in interest of the long run, what's your after-sale service look like? Will ZPM be a realized company, available to support machines down the line? Or are you really counting on DIY-users and parts availability to carry the machines? Just curious, as it's a brand new machine from an unknown entity, so service and support will be important questions.
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ZPMEspressoGleb
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Joined: 12 Dec 2011
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Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Expertise: Professional

Posted Tue Dec 13, 2011, 2:21am
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

Hi Steve, thanks for the great questions. I’ll just try to answer them as best I can, and hope that the Mods are OK with that.

So as far as descaling goes, the thermoblock (which yes, is aluminum) isn't any different from a boiler. It just needs to be descaled periodically, about as often as you do on your current machine.

As far as customer service, we’re working on getting warranties for the machines as we speak. And know that you'll be able to send your machine in to us for service. We have designed the machine with standard parts, as you know, so the DIY community will be a big part of this. We are still small at this point, so we won’t be able to have dedicated repair facilities all over the country, but thanks to the simple design and use of of-the-shelf parts, we’ve made the machines to be as easy to repair as possible.

Sorry for the late response, we’ve been responding to questions non-stop. We are glad that you’re interested in the machine, and really appreciate your support!
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tek
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Posted Tue Dec 13, 2011, 8:36am
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

I backed the machine on Kickstarter because I liked what I saw and mostly because I like to support people trying something new. Its also possible that they'll deliver something new and innovative. I've been in contact with founders giving some ideas and trying to get some information.

They should be posting temperature and pressure profile graphs by the end of the week. I recommended they get Scace 2 since that is pretty much industry standard for sharing this type of information. I think having these should answer lot of questions about machine.

They use Arduino for control of the machine, which means if you have coding chops you can modify it to your hear content. I am super excited about this. The temperature and pressure is controlled via PID. They use Ulka EX-5 pump and DC-pulsing to control pressure. I have not heard of this being done on espresso machines before and would love to hear what resident pump experts think about it.

Machine indeed has no boiler and water is heated through thermoblock they designed. No stale water then :-)

They've been working on this for better part of the year, have funding from investors and have finalized sourcing for many parts.

I can't wait to see how this turns out.

 
www.10000shots.com
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SteveRhinehart
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SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Tue Dec 13, 2011, 6:17pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

Jason Dominy of Batdorf & Bronson posted his impressions today, found here. Sounds like he's impressed with his meeting with ZPM, and there should be some bench test results coming out soon. I'm really interested in seeing any Scace data that comes out, or really any real-use data at all. If the machine can deliver on the promises made, at this price, it's a shoe-in for a geek favorite, I'm betting. Looking forward to hearing more!
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Intrepid510
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Posted Tue Dec 13, 2011, 6:43pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

SteveRhinehart Said:

Jason Dominy of Batdorf & Bronson posted his impressions today, found here. Sounds like he's impressed with his meeting with ZPM, and there should be some bench test results coming out soon. I'm really interested in seeing any Scace data that comes out, or really any real-use data at all. If the machine can deliver on the promises made, at this price, it's a shoe-in for a geek favorite, I'm betting. Looking forward to hearing more!

Posted December 13, 2011 link

i find it weird that he was posting impressions of the machine without the thermo block since that is the heart of.this machine which to me makes it more theory at this point and his impressions pretty useless.

 
Less water, more grounds.
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SteveRhinehart
Senior Member
SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Hario Skerton
Vac Pot: Yama Tabletop 3-cup
Drip: Chemex, CCD, Kalita Wave,...
Roaster: Flavorwave/Stir Crazy
Posted Tue Dec 13, 2011, 8:17pm
Subject: Re: The ZP Machines "Nocturn" - New low-cost, high-promises machine
 

I can't agree that they're useless, as impressions are impressions - they aren't commands, they're evaluations, observations. Jason is a well-respected individual in the coffee world, and only just recently resigned from the Barista Guild of America. His thoughts aren't pulled from the aether, they're informed by his own experience, his discussion with the two fellows who designed the machine, and their expectations and design considerations. Jason was actually pretty clear that his post was based not on performance, but on possibility. True, the idea of a $300 machine with good performance and PID control is not something to sniff at, but there will need to be real-world results before people clamber to open their wallets. Again, a more hands-on review will take place in a few weeks, to verify some of their claims.

Reticence is certainly valuable in this discussion though, as you're right, there isn't concrete data to go off of yet. I certainly haven't (wouldn't) recommended to anyone that they should fund the project or pre-order the machine on faith and prospect alone.
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