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Coffee City

Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

June 3, 2009 at 5:40 PM

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Slayer factory moves to Georgetown, gets ready to make first shipments

Posted by Melissa Allison



MELISSA ALLISON/THE SEATTLE TIMES

Eric Perkunder, Dan Urwiler and Devin Walker pull espresso shots on the Slayer they designed and built.

Seattle's newest espresso machine, the Slayer, will start shipping in the next month from its new factory in the old Sicks Rainier Brewing bottling building in Georgetown to coffeehouse customers in San Francisco, Michigan, Canada and Australia.


Seattleites will be able to see and taste the Slayer in action at the new Zoka Coffee & Tea set to open next month on Lake Washington Boulevard in Kirkland.

Zoka owner Jeff Babcock is psyched about the Slayer, which he'll use for single-origin espresso -- a very big deal that coffeehouses rarely, if ever, offer -- and two new machines he's getting from La Marzocco, which is based in Seattle but makes its machines in Italy. One of those machines makes a single cup of drip coffee, a la Clover, but has the temperature and other controls of an espresso machine.

"I covered all my bases," Babcock said. "[The Slayer] creates a drastically different drink. It changes everything."



MELISSA ALLISON/THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Slayer is made at the old Sicks Rainier Brewing bottling building.

It's also a beauty with Art Deco-looking groups (those are the nozzles from which the espresso pours) fitted with Peruvian walnut handles or "paddles" that let the barista control brewing pressure. Cost: $14,000 for two groups; $18,000 for three.


Most espresso machines produce high pressure that never varies. The guys who created the Slayer -- Eric Perkunder, Dan Urwiler and Devin Walker -- think that traditional machines push water through the espresso grounds with such force that not all of the flavor is captured.

The Slayer lets the water spend a little more time with the grounds, pulling a shot in 30 to 35 seconds -- compared with 18 to 23 seconds for your average espresso machine.

They think the sweet spot is a combination of pressure that begins around five bars of pressure, moves up to the nine bars that most espresso machines use, then pulls back to five bars. They're not sure why that combination works. "Everybody is working out their own hackneyed theories," said Perkunder. "Who knows?"



MELISSA ALLISON/THE SEATTLE TIMES

Close-up of a Slayer group with pressure gauge.

He and Urwiler have been around the espresso machine block. They worked for La Marzocco back when its machines were made in Seattle; they worked on a filtered brewing process for the German company WMF Coffee Machines, and they worked on the Treuh espresso machine -- a wonder of water-temperature precision that wildly impressed David Schomer, the notoriously exacting owner of Espresso Vivace.


They and Walker teamed with investor Jason Prefontaine to crack the pressure code with the Slayer, which they blog about here.



MELISSA ALLISON/THE SEATTLE TIMES

An old-time lever espresso machine, possibly from Italy.

When I asked Perkunder what they're going to do with their great big new industrial loft, he joked, "hold raves to pay for everything." (Let's hope.)


Right now, the space is about half filled with parts, a couple of Slayer demos and an old-fashioned lever espresso machine that might date to 1950s Italy, which is fitting for a company that some espresso-heads think has created an automated version of that.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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