April 1, 2005
Coffee for Two
Joost Alferink reveals the finer points of WAACS’s Senseo Coffee Pod System for Philips.
Taking a cue from the pressure-driven technology of an espresso machine, the award-winning Senseo Coffee Pod System (www.senseo.com) brews one or two servings of coffee in just over a minute. In 1996 the Douwe Egberts coffee company commissioned WAACS Design Consultancy to design a pod system, which electronics giant Philips then produced. Since the Senseo’s 2001 launch, more than six million machines have been sold worldwide. “We had planned to sell 100,000 machines a year,” says Joost Alferink, founder of WAACS and principal designer of the Senseo. “It turned out to be a completely different story.” With the Senseo already inhabiting one-third of all households in the Netherlands and rapidly gaining a following throughout Europe, it may be only a matter of time before they’re just as ubiquitous Stateside. Here Alferink tells us the story behind his coffeemaker.
Because of the pressure involved in making coffee with the Senseo, you need a strong latch to close the lid. The first series leaked a bit, so we made a new heavier latch, which was also necessary to make the machine legally sound in the United States.
We wanted the tank to make up as much of the main volume of the machine as possible, and to be detachable so that you can easily carry it to and from a water tap. We made mock-ups with the water tank in different positions: front, left, right, and back. This was the best place for it; it pulls out very easily.
When we started the design, we wanted a new kind of coffee system that didn’t look like a traditional coffeemaker or like a complicated high-end espresso machine that you’d use once a week. The Senseo was meant to be used five times a day, so we came up with this purple-blue color that wasn’t associated with any other coffeemaker.
The machine’s curved form served design goals and accommodated limitations as well. Having a set retail price meant we would be limited in our use of materials, so we wanted to create the shortest possible distance between the brewing chamber and the cup. This curve also created a very nice aesthetic form.
The platform acts as a pedestal for the cup. The cup is your hero; the machine is serving, bowing, humble, and centered around it.
The angle of the spout is related to that of the top; in fact, all the angles are related. We try to work with as few focal points as possible—for a consumer to have a long-term relationship with a product, it should be simple with clean lines.
It was initially intended as a coffeemaker for one person, so we had one power button and two others, for a small and a large cup. Then we thought coffee for one seemed kind of antisocial, so we created two more buttons, for a total of five. But finally to simplify use of the machine, we decided that two buttons—one for one cup and another for two—were enough for the consumer.
At first we used a different pattern on the metal tray plate, mainly for aesthetics, with a few dots and dimples. But we needed bigger holes and more function, so underneath the plate we added a drip tray that holds exactly one cup of liquid.