In this interview we talk to Dr Markus Widmer. In partnership with Holger Weiss and Gordon Howell (the 2015 UK Brewers Cup Champion), he founded the Swiss-based TONE coffee machine company. Dr Widmer explains to us how the company replaced traditional boilers with flow heaters to harness the energy efficiency and power reduction this technology provides. We talk to Dr Widmer about his predictions for the future of coffee makers and the potential to use flow heaters to produce steam on demand.
Barista Hustle: We’d like to learn more about the flash-heating technology utilised in the TONE 03 and Espresso brewers. Can you tell us a bit about the history of this kind of heating technology? Is this approach completely new, or has it previously been applied in other industries? (Have you been able to patent any of your innovations?)
Dr Markus Widmer: The heating technology installed in the TONE Touch 03 is a flow heater. In this flow heater, the cold water gets heated to the desired temperature while it is flowing through the channel inside the flow heater. Flow heaters have been used in industrial applications for more than 100 years. In coffee machines, simple types of flow heaters have been used for several decades. However, most of those simple flow heaters consist of a tube attached to a heating element. This makes the heating-up process of the water inside such a flow heater slow, and such a flow heater does not allow the user to precisely control the temperature of the water that gets delivered to the coffee. For this reason we have decided to use a flow-heater technology that allows us to dynamically heat the water and control the water temperature in a closed loop. Our special way of heating the water with this flow heater has been patented.
BH: Can you give us some indicators of how energy efficient your flash-heating technology is, compared with a conventional brew boiler?
MW: The energy efficiency of the TONE Touch 03 strongly depends on the usage.