A coffee machine that is actually steampunk?

The Steampunk by Alpha Dominche. Is it steampunk, are they coining a name or could there be completely different reasons for the name?
The Steampunk by Alpha Dominche. Is it steampunk, are they coining a name or could there be completely different reasons for the name?

Can you all remember the Steampunk coffee machine that I reported on back in September 2013. It was a chrome covered minimalist box with high end technology and cutting edge customisation options. Looking at it didn’t really inspire the word steampunk into my mind. Luckily there are others out there who have a keener idea of what steampunk design looks like and it arguably won’t cost the $15,000 asking price of the Alpha Dominche version.

Recently I was telegrammed by Professor Harris. He’s the creator of the Steampunk Coffee Machine. It’s a splendid looking cold brew coffee maker made of brass pipes, gauges, levers and pulleys that came about when the Professor became despondent with the constant acceleration of technology and how it becomes obsolete so quickly, “Steampunk really piqued my interest because it showed heavily engineered technology that looks like it will last forever,” he says. His experience with steampunk began with a trip to the steampunk exhibition at the Museum of History of Science in Oxford back in 2009 where he got the chance to see some amazing pieces close up and could see how they were put together.

The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission
The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission

The Professor’s interest in coffee began a few years later when he started attending the London Coffee Festival. His experience there was enlightening to say the least:  “As I went round the festival I discovered a type of coffee called Cold Brew that did not require any advanced engineering, it just passes cold water through ground coffee into a container over 12 and sometimes a 24 hour period,” he says. “I noticed that some of these machines were meant to be show pieces that used scientific glass to contain the water and coffee.”

It was at this point that Professor Harris had a moment of clarity. “These coffee machines were meant to be impressive but it was obvious to the consumer how simple the cold brew process was because it was all visible,” he says. “I wanted to make an elaborate Heath Robinson inspired contraption that would look incredibly complicated and impressive and hide just how simple it was behind the scenes. Coffee and steam naturally go together so it would be Steampunk I was sure of that.”

The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission
The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission

Professor Harris has been a software developer for 28 years, so hasn’t any academic qualifications that could help him make the contraption, which means it’s a prime example of how dedication, hard work and a willingness to succeed can build pretty much anything. The materials came from car boot sales mostly, because people don’t put much value in old technology (it would seem that the reason he came to the project also helped with sourcing parts). Some parts came from Antique shops, but he never paid more than £20 for a part.

The total build from conception to completion took two years, although the bulk of the time was collecting the right parts and the actual build only took a few weeks. The jumble of pipes, dials and gauges follows the Heath Robinson rules of making extremely elaborate devices to perform simple tasks (American readers will be more familiar with Rube Goldberg).

The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission
The Steampunk Coffee Machine by Professor Harris, used with permission

The Professor intends to showcase the contraption at the London Coffee Festival, where it all began, which runs from the 7th April to the 11th and would also like to display it at other steampunk events. He’d also like it to be featured on a television programme or in a film. The machine is up for sale. The Professor has had interest from a Steampunk bar in Birmingham, a coffee roasting company in London wish to display it and a home design consultancy want to use it for marketing. In the mean time he’s still finding bits to attach to it; ” I found a demolition continuity testing at an antique market box today, that should give the coffee an extra kick!”

You can find out more about the Steampunk Coffee Machine by visiting the Facebook page here: Steampunk Coffee Machine

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