The rise of high-end espresso machines
The Techno was a dual boiler machine designed for light commercial use. Because of its features, it was a good choice of cafés, lunchrooms, or small restaurants, where the emphasis isn’t on coffee. The Techno became popular among home users, because of its compact size and modest price. In addition, the Techno was fairly unique in its design, with separate boilers for brewing coffee, and for steam and hot water, and the independent electronic temperature control.
At that time, there were few espresso machines with similar features. Most were large, cumbersome and costly devices, only useful in commercial settings. None of those was intended, or really convenient for home use.
Machines such as the Expobar Brewtus, Izzo Alex Duetto, La Marzocco GS3, and Dalla Corte Mini had not yet been conceived. There certainly was a group of highly educated, high income consumers knowledgeable about espresso. The same people who might spend several thousand euro on automatic watches, or carbon fiber racing bikes without blinking. And these consumers weren’t satisfied with the simple espresso machines available to them, or the quality of the coffee those made.
The idea that this would be an interesting market for expensive, high-end home espresso machines had not occurred to the management at these companies. They probably hadn’t even the beginning of a clue.
The fact probably also came as a surprise to the people at Reneka. And most likely they were terrified when they found out.
A brief history of the Reneka Techno
The first generation Techno V1 was launched in May 2000. The Reneka Techno V2 arrived at the scene a year after the introduction of the first generation. It featured a slight restyling, and some minor updates. It was easy to use, made an excellent espresso, and was small enough to fit on the counter. This was the machine I bought in 2002.
Meanwhile, an espresso enthusiast in New Zealand had arranged an agreement with Reneka to sell the machine to consumers. His patient explanations about the pros and cons of the machine further heightened its popularity among consumers.
The Techno V2M came about shortly after, with updates perhaps most driven by (consumer!) input. The temperature control was improved and could now be set to 1°C precision, and the machine featured an internal manometer for pump pressure.
A year later, early 2003, trouble struck for Reneka, when consumer owners started complaining about a foul smell coming from the Techno’s hot water boiler. Reneka temporarily halted production, and engineers eventually came up with a solution (by using Viton boiler gaskets, instead of the usual EPDM gaskets).
In later years, it turned out the problem wasn’t due to the material of the gaskets. The primary cause was using in an area with heavily chlorinated water, without a proper filter as the manufacturer had advised.
Looking back, the gasket problem may have been the start of the Techno’s demise. The affair had probably tainted the Techno’s reputation of solidly build, hassle-free machine. Once the online rumour machine gets started, it’s near impossible to stop.
Perhaps it was also what changed Reneka’s attitude towards consumers. The company had for the longest time been a B2B operation. It had neither the experience, nor the staff needed to deal with large numbers of impatient consumers demanding immediate attention.
Whatever the reasons may have been, Reneka decided to cease production of the Techno in 2007. That means my initial review isn’t just somewhat dated, it has also become somewhat irrelevant. It is no longer a review of a machine you can buy tomorrow, it’s a look in the rearview mirror.
Fast forward to 2015
After 13 years of use, my Reneka Techno still works. It still pours my daily espresso. It continues to make good espresso that many guests feel is better than what is served even in 3rd wave shops. Every cup is at the least decent, and some are actually outstanding.
Mind you, although the Techno’s features may seem subpar when looking at current day dual boiler machines with PID control, the Techno was years ahead at the time. Reneka’s engineers did a great job when designing this machine.
The craftsman at Reneka did an equally good job putting it together. The fact that an espresso machine still works great after 13 years is compelling evidence for its build quality.
Truth be told, my machine did require a few serious service jobs. In 2008, both heaters burned out, probably due to a power surge. Fixing that wasn’t any difficult. The Techno is put together very well; all parts are logically and neatly arranged, and easily accessible. Although it did cost me a pair of new heaters, the technical manual made repair as easy as assembling an Ikea cupboard.
Apart from that minor problem, and occasionally descaling the solenoids (three times in 13 years), the Techno has given me absolutely no trouble at all. The water in my area is relatively soft, and I’m using a good water filter/softener.
Opportunities for a Reneka Techno V3
The market has grown considerably since the introduction of the first Techno, and many present day double boiler machines seem more interesting in features. All these machines are fairly compact, feature PID temperature control, and differ only in internal construction. Unfortunately, most of these are also rather predictable. Most are similarly style blaring chrome boxes with an E61 group attached to it, like uninspired clones of the VBM Domobar design.
Nonetheless, I think that if the Reneka Techno were reintroduced tomorrow, it might still be a viable choice, if only for its build quality and durability. Well, that and of course for that excellent 3-prong bayonet group that makes for fast and easy insertion of the pf. For the machine’s superb maintenance-friendly modular design. For the steam tip that makes gorgeous pourable foam. And simply for the delicious espresso it makes.
Perhaps Reneka would be clever enough to throw in a few updated features, such as a PID control for the brew boiler, a way to control pump pressure for (progressive) preinfusion, perhaps a flow restrictor from brew boiler to 3-way valve, VST-like filter baskets, and maybe a slightly sexier package – one that doesn’t feature high polished chrome, or an E61 group.
All those modifications aren’t major headaches, but relatively small changes. It wouldn’t be designing a new machine from ground up, but rethinking an existing, and proven platform.
If Reneka were to take that approach, it would make such a Techno mk III (or whatever it would be dubbed) an interesting and competitive 21st century machine, that could easily fetch a price in the € 2000 – € 3000 range.
That would be a good proposition for both light commercial use, and for serious home baristas. And I might just be among the first to order one.
Of course, considering the Techno’s history, Reneka would not be too eager to market it to consumers. It may be persuaded to do so through a separate operating company.