Slayer Espresso: Out to Slay the Market

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

SlayerFor coffee purists, there was once a Seattle company that made
high-end espresso machines, which brewed what Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
swore was the best cup of coffee he’d had in 25 years. That company—and the
machine—was called Clover. And Starbucks bought it out, ensuring that no one
else would have the $11,000 machines.

If the goal for Starbucks was to corner the market, it will
have to get out the checkbook again. Three Seattle entrepreneurs, Eric
Perkunder, Dan Urweiler and Jason Prefontaine, formed Slayer Espresso to make
and market an espresso maker for brewing that perfect cup. And the Slayer
machine is a real heavyweight, selling for $18,000. Perkunder says the price is
worth it. “Within 30 minutes of using it, people are getting results that are
better than they’ve ever seen. They didn’t realize their coffee had so many
nuances,” he says.

Perkunder wanted a machine that would give a barista more
control over the brewing process. “Most espresso machines are designed to
reduce the barista to someone who isn’t engaged with the coffee,” he explains.

Steam handleThe added control comes from a sliding wooden lever that
permits the brewing pressure to be precisely controlled, allowing more flavors
to be coaxed from the grind.

The Slayer also offers a stable water temperature;
fluctuations usually don’t exceed half a degree, which helps to ensure that
every shot tastes as good as the one before it, even when multiple shots are
being pulled at once.

The first Slayer unit was sold in July of 2009, and by July
2010, the company had topped $1 million in sales. There are currently roughly
74 machines installed in coffee shops around the world, and about 20 orders are
waiting to be filled. Building a Slayer takes time; each is assembled by hand
and every machine is finished before work begins on the next.

This attention to detail along with the
company’s commitment to using the highest quality parts and local labor are
other factors that Perkunder feels will help sell the machine. “It’s actually
very inexpensive; it’s built with heavier and better materials, and every
detail is over the top,” he says.