Quality espresso machines will age with dignity. When treated to regular maintenance by responsible owners, a solid piece of equipment can offer enduring beauty and reliable performance for generations. Sinonimo Design, the new maker of a unified, craft-oriented line of barista accessories called Sinonimo Essentials, believes that a coffee aficionado’s handheld tools should age with equivalent grace.
“We realized the current tools and accessories in the market that belonged together with espresso machines were made to be disposable,” Sinonimo Design Co-Founder Emma Tian told Daily Coffee News, noting that while consumers can pay a premium for longer-lasting professional gear, that may not be a realistic solution in the home.
Sinonimo has therefore entered into production a kit of aesthetically and functionally streamlined espresso tools of “timeless appearance and almost indestructible material,” according to the company’s pitch, intended to gain character and patina through enduring use.
The set is composed of an oak-handled stainless steel tamper, a stainless steel dosing funnel and an aluminum tamping station that all nest harmoniously onto the oak lid of an aluminum knockbox that holds about 6-8 pucks and features an upright natural cork knock bar. The knockbox and tamp station are both unibody die-cast aluminum, polished and then bead-blasted for adhesion of a hybrid liquid and powder coating.
This coating method imparts the durability needed to prevent chipping when hit by the solid metal portafilter head, but also the “warmth and familiarity of an imperfect texture,” according to the company.
The dimensions of the tamp station take into account the absence of standards among manufacturers for portafilter depth and spouts versus bottomless. Its construction and footprint are also designed to maintain balance under the awkward weight distribution of spouted 58-mm portafilters.
A hydrophobic coating is applied to make the knockbox easy to clean. Side slots inside allow steam to channel outward while other coatings applied to the underside of the oak lid are intended to prevent it from warping or otherwise wearing down over years of exposure to heat and moisture.
“With its durability and its sustainable feature, we chose cork as our knock material and [it is] designed to be easily replaced when damaged, with little cost,” said Tian. “It also provides a very satisfactory sensory experience of ‘oomf’ when hitting cork, which is a contrast experience to the cheap plastic pieces.”
Sinonimo’s business operations are split between San Francisco and Taiwan, with design occurring in the Bay Area and manufacturing occurring overseas. The company’s founders come from a background in designing and manufacturing such mass-produced electronics as 360 VR cameras, smartphones, tablets and watches.
“The connection between SF and Taiwan is not so direct and obvious; however, when you are in the product making world, connection becomes more evident and interesting,” said Tian. “Through our past experiences we value the importance of hands that touch and form the product during the production process.”
Tian said that in recent decades, global demand for low-cost, high-volume production has caused the manufacturing culture in Taiwan to shift away from “mom and pop workshops,” causing many to disappear, while those that remain are now respected as more experienced craftspeople.
Said Tian, “For example, our funnel craftsman has been turning flat sheet metal into art installations, pots and everyday objects for over 50 years, since he was 14 years old, with usage of custom tools that he builds.”
Meanwhile, the electronics industry driving that manufacturing boom is led by tech giants like Apple, Google and others, whose culture of detailed and streamlined design has also fueled greater appreciation for the cohesive design of other everyday objects, such as furniture and ceramics.
“Design in [San Francisco and the Bay Area] has reached its maturity, just like craftsmen in Taiwan,” said Tian. “For this synergy to work, designers must appreciate and work intimately with craftsmen to share the vision and understand the limitations to adapt, which is why we have spent countless hours together with our craftsmen, to make conscious decisions that impact the product.”
The Sinonimo Essentials kit of barista tools, including a tamper, tamp station, funnel and knock box with lid are currently launching for sale online at a price of $199.95 USD. Tian said the first 100 units will ship Friday, Dec. 20.