We have developed a dependence on fast food; now we want it to be good as well. This machine, invented in Utah, delivers great coffee, the way you like it, right now. Every 7-Eleven should have one.
Alpha Dominiche in action. Photo by Tymer Tilton.
Christian Bombeck—yes, he’s related to Erma—worked in Bozeman, Mont., for a small coffeehouse and roastery from 2007 until 2010. He was thinking of the future the whole time.
American coffee-drinking habits have grown up: A scoop of harsh robusta beans boiled in a percolator pot used to be fine; now we want fresh-ground estate beans pressed or poured over to make a single cup. In that evolution, Bombeck saw a gaping niche.
But it’s not a simple matter of quality beans. The instant coffee of the ‘50s and the Starbucks explosion of the ‘90s had one thing in common: Both are based on the idea that when Americans want a cuppa coffee, they want it now.
Unlike the slow-sipping coffeehouse culture in Europe, Americans don’t want to wait for their perfect cup, and many times they don’t want to linger over it either. But still, we demand really good coffee.
Enter Alpha Dominche—its name translates as “first of its kind.”
“It’s hard to brew single cups for people in a busy cafe,” explains Bombeck. “People get impatient when they have to wait.” But brewing high-quality single cups of coffee takes time.
“My idea was simple,” says Bombeck. “I thought I could hook up a siphon brewer to an espresso boiler.”
Bombeck, in his button-up shirt and black-rimmed glasses, looks like the kind of guy who would invent things. He spent four years developing the Alpha Dominche, the last two years in Salt Lake City; last March, he sold his first one. Depending on bells and whistles, a machine costs $12,000 to $16,000. “The whole first run was sold before I finished making them,” says Bombeck, and he’s continued to pre-sell them. There are now Alpha Dominche coffeemakers in Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia and, of course, Utah.
There are several advantages of the AD: It gives the barista control over several cups at once, so a small cafe can serve more customers. It’s easier to train a barista on the machine than to teach all the different techniques necessary for a hand-brewed cup of coffee. The barista can adjust volume, temperature, time and agitation, as well as extraction styles—everything from French press (a thicker, denser cup of coffee) to the clarity of a pour-over style.
Does it eliminate the art of the barista? Emphatically, “No,” says Bombeck. “It’s like printmaking for an artist,” he says. “It still depends on the hand of the maker.”