Espresso for All and Always

This is a page to detail the efforts to improve the SCS community by adding an espresso machine to the lounge in Wean Hall. For those that don't know, the lounge is available to all SCS faculty, grad students, and staff. If you don't have a key, you may obtain one from Skees.

Here's a table of contents for the information you'll find on this page. At any point, you can click the sad cappucino to return to the top of the page.

Why do we want an espresso machine?

While nearby coffee facilities are nice, they often don't serve the strange schedule many SCS members live by. Moreover, when we tend to desire coffee the most (i.e. deadline pressure times), we usually discover the time problem to be at its worst. With an SCS machine, espresso drinks will be available 24x7.

Furthermore, the bite that the caffeine habit can take out of our wallets can be quite unpleasant. We can supply drinks to the community at a fraction of the cost available from most places.

Most importantly, these benefits add up to an incentive for people across all of SCS to gather in the WeH lounge. Thus providing another good opportunity for interdepartment socialization in SCS on a daily basis.

Finally, it's just a nice addition to the lounge. It can also act as a recruiting boon (remember there are no 24-hr coffee shops in all of Pittsburgh).

But I want real espresso/cappucino...

The machine actually dispenses real espresso/cappucino. When you make your selection, the machine takes whole espresso beans, grinds them, packs them, and extracts an espresso. There is a built-in refrigeration unit that hold regular jugs of fresh milk. The machine draws milk from the jug, steams and froths it.

You can select decaf or regular beans, non-fat or regular (currently rotating 2% and whole -- give your opinion) milk, plus the size and style of drink.

If you'd like a closer look to be convinced we'll start giving demonstration of the internals for a short amount of time.

Who will bother with all the work?

The sheer fact of the matter is that very few if any SCS members want to spend time making their own espresso drinks. After all, that's not why we're here. Therefore, we'd like to "bring the mountain to Mohammed." We tried to find an espresso machine that fit the style of the SCS community without sacrificing quality of drinks. We also wanted something that met certain sanitary needs. With that in mind, we found something that will automatically dispense beans, grind, pack, make espresso, store milk in a connected refrigeration unit, and dispense fresh frothed and steamed milk. It will also dispose of the beans automatically. Furthermore, this is high quality cappucino. This isn't like many of your standard coin-operated machines. It's likely you've had products from a similar machine at high quality restaurants and cafes. The standard maintenance is minimal: (1) add more beans to hopper if they run out (each holds 2.2 lbs) (2) replace jug of milk in refrigeration unit if it runs out (holds two 1-gallon jugs) (3) empty grounds bin after every (approx.) 60 uses.

What machines are there like this one?

The model we have purchased is the Acorto 2000i. You can read more about it in the press release. Technically, there are no machines exactly like this. There are machines that have subsets of the features on this machine, but after looking extensively we chose this machine for a variety of reasons. Our primary considerations were (1) will a large part of the SCS community be able to use the machine (in terms of operation complexity, time, cleanup, etc.) on a day-to-day basis (2) will the community be able to easily maintain it in a sanitary fashion (3) will it provide all of the types of drinks we'd like (4) maintenance and warranty guarantees.

Unfortunately, ease-of-use comes at a price. This machine was quite expensive as its usual target is high-end cafes and restaurants. However, we felt if we amortized this across SCS, this was readily justified in terms of savings to the community and community improvement. With average use (1 cap per day/20 days per month), a $100 donation is earned back in about 3 months.

How will it be maintained?

As noted above the per-cup maintenance is almost nonexistent. A few things will need to be done on a day-to-day basis. These include: (1) running the machine through its auto-clean cycle (2) refilling the bean hoppers (3) replacing empty milk containers (4) purchasing new milk. We are looking for a group of graduate student volunteers to perform these tasks. Please contact if you are interested in helping. Yes, there are benefits for being a volunteer.

Who will be allowed to use it?

The machine will be available to all SCS grad students, faculty, and staff. We cannot make use of the machine available to anyone outside of SCS; our intended goal is to improve our community -- not to be a vending operation. Opening the machine to everyone would involve us in the University's vending rules.

How much does it cost for a cup?

Until the electronic payment system is finalized, the anticipated and current prices are $1 for any drink for a member and $1.50 for a non-member. (See below for information on becoming a member.) While some people consider that high, consider the fact that any regular coffee operation usually sells the same drinks for at least twice the price. In addition, since we are currently leasing to own, our costs for the machine are still quite high. Becoming a member is a one-time fee that will help us finish paying for the machine.

Will it also make coffee?

For those desiring standard coffee, you can use the machine to make an "Americano" (espresso + hot water) which is similar in taste and strength to coffee.

How can I contribute?

To make a one-time donation, address a check to "Dec/5, Inc." and write "espresso fund" on the subject line. It is very important that you send your check to either Paul Bennett (CSD) or Sharon Burks, so that your donation is properly acknowledged and credited to the correct account.

For those making donations, we have established the Espresso Club. Any donations are welcome, but for those making donations at certain levels, membership is granted to the Basic Club, Bronze Club, Silver Club, Gold Club, or Platinum Club. The benefits for these clubs are: (1) permanent recognition via dedication plaques to be mounted by the espresso machine (one for each club) (2) "free coffee days" whose frequency varies with the level of membership (3) lower cost per cup. We won't be able to say how often we can have these "free coffee days" until we can determine what community usage can support. The required donation levels for each of the clubs are (until 1/31/2002):

Basic Club Membership (only available for students and support staff): $50 and above

Bronze Club (minimum level for research staff and faculty): $100 and above

Silver Club: $250 and above

Gold Club: $500 and above

Platinum Club: $1000 and above

Later this semester (but no sooner than 4/1/2002) membership prices will go up 50% because of interest payments we make in paying off the machine.

Who are the current club members?

* = pledged
Members Bronze Members Silver Members Gold Members Platinum Members
Parallel Data Lab Anonymous
Danny Sleator Jeannette Wing Jaime G. Carbonell
Robert Harper Guy Blelloch Takeo Kanade
Lenore Blum Manuel Blum Mahadev Satyanarayanan (Satya)
Avrim Blum Peter Steenkiste
John Lafferty Randy Bryant
Anastassia Ailamaki
Alex Rudnicky
Gary Miller
Jim Morris
Tom Mitchell
Seth Goldstein
Additionally sponsored: Mahim Mishra, Girish Venkataramani
Anupam Gupta
Mark Moll Paul Bennett
Umut Acar Francisco Pereira
Stefanie Tomko Dushyanth Narayanan
Ted Wong Dimitris Margaritis
Ariadna Font Llitjos Derek Dreyer
Stratos Papadomanolakis Patrick Riley
James Fogarty Stavros Harizopoulos
Ke Yang John Pane
Alik Widge Spiros Papadimitriou
Alok Ladsariya Stephen McCracken
John Kominek Laurie Hiyakumoto
Ryan Williams Ioannis Koutis
Monica Rogati Leaf Petersen
Kevyn Collins-Thompson Owen Cheng
Heather Browne David Eckhardt
Dean F. Sutherland Jennifer Landefeld
Violetta Cavalli Sforza
Peter Dinda Donald McCracken

Who else has made donations?

This section is to detail special donations made by other individuals and groups who deserve special recognition.

Bruce Nelson

Go to the SCS Home Page.     Click to see me big.

Sad cappucino image (images/sad-cap-small.jpg and images/sad-cap.jpg) is courtesy of Nina Mazur Miller. For permission for use contact .

Paul N. Bennett
Last modified: Tue Feb 20 16:46:35 EST 2001