For our Sustainable Design course, my team chose to perform a product tear-down and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a commercial espresso machine. We utilized the Okala Guide’s Single Factor LCA tool for our analysis. Based on our findings, we redesigned the system to reduce environmental impact. Our resulting concept had a 4x factor of improvement while maintaining the desired experience of an espresso machine.
Our project was documented through a series of four posters, shown below. The first phase focused on understanding the use context of commercial espresso machines. User studies allowed us to understand the way espresso machines are used as well as the people who use them. Based on our research, we identified the Function, Interaction, and Character of traditional espresso machines and developed a set of user personas. We also developed a framework for thinking about the role of the espresso machines in coffee shops by analyzing the interactions between the key stakeholders.
With an understanding of how espresso machines were used in coffee shops, we began the tear down of our commercial espresso machine. During this phase, we disassembled the espresso machine, weighed each component, and used FT-IR and XRF lab equipment to identify the materials present in each component. This information, combined with data about the power usage and manufacturing details resulted in a full LCA of the product. Because of the long lifetime of commercial espresso machines and several usage factors, the total environmental impact was dominated by the use phase.
Having identified that the power usage of the espresso machine was the key factor in its environmental impact, the team looked at how to improve the heating system. Traditional espresso machines have large copper or stainless steel boilers. Because these boilers are not insulated and machines are typically left on all day and night, there is a large amount of energy lost as heat. Our team developed the concept of a boilerless espresso machine which would use on demand heating elements to heat only the water needed for the coffee being brewed.