San Marino – Espresso Machine Review – A New Look at the Timeless Classic

Rodolfo Schellin

The Italian country side of the Northeast is picturesque in November. Autumn has arrived, and whilst many of the days are characterised by blue skies that contrast with the yellowing leaves on the grapevines, the evenings are chilly, clean and brisk.

About 45 minutes north of the canal city of Venice, is the small village of Susegana. This town is right on the slopes that begin to climb away from the coastal plains up into the mountains behind. Susegana is in the area called Treviso, famous for its Prosecco wines, the HQ of Benetton, being the Ryan Air stopover point for Venice and perhaps most importantly for being the home of CMA- the makers of San Marino Espresso Machines.

The espresso machine company, started by Mr Nello Del Tio, is still run by the family. Up until last year the machines were manufactured in several buildings spread across one of the main roads into town. All the machines were 100% hand made, lovingly assembled on trolleys that were lined up on small rail tracks around the complex. In January of 2007, the factories were consolidated into a new ultra modern complex, still in Susegana. The new complex brought assembly under 1 roof- and added space for advanced training facilities as well as more area for the technical people. The factory still hand assembles a lot of the machines, but there has been some incorporation of computers for logistics, dispatch and testing/quality control.

One of the most popular lines of machine is the classic San Marino Lisa. This machine has the curves, the stainless steel finish and of course the quality in producing perfect steam pressure and shot quality that has made it a fast favourite in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Asia and the Middle East. The machine can be seen in cafes in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Auckland, Jakarta, Bangkok and Dubai. It is the workhorse behind such names as Black Canyon Coffee and Costa Coffee.

The San Marino Lisa has recently been modernised slightly and re-launched under the name “San Marino ‘R'” The R stands for redesigned but the machines keep the shape and curves, but take on such modern necessities as raised groups, new pre-infusion group designs, and in the case of the SME electronic models- temperature controls for the boiler, automatic latte maker, auto foamer and a variety of shot controls (up to 6 per group, excluding the auto selector which can add a further 6 options through 1 of the groups).

The semi-automatic model retains most of the classic features, with the updating confined to the groups, the rocker switches being replaced with sturdy buttons and of course some change in the bodywork.

The machine options available to a café owner are endless. The Semi-auto (SMAT) and the auto (SME) come in 1-4 groups. On special request bigger units can be built. On departure at Rome airport, a beautiful 4 group classic SMAT, with copper trim, serves elegant coffee at the Tazza d’orro café. To many tourists this is their last memory of Italy- a fantastic espresso served from a classic, timeless machine. Perfect.

(c) Alun Evans, Merdeka Coffee, 2007

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