A revolutionary manual coffee grinder for a perfect aromatics extraction
Meet Pietro, the outcome of extensive research, fueled by passion, guided by design, and empowered by technology. It represents a flawless fusion of practicality and aesthetic grace
In the pursuit of a perfect cup of coffee, enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike often turn to the charm of a manual coffee grinder. Designed by V12 Design+Valerio Cometti for Fiorenzato, Pietro sets the pace within its category with a cutting-edge product, the result of a successful collaboration between the company and the Milanese design studio.
These elegant and hand-operated devices harken back to a bygone era, when precision and craftsmanship were the cornerstones of coffee preparation. While modern electric grinders offer convenience and speed, the manual counterpart offers a unique and rewarding experience, allowing coffee lovers to intimately connect with their brewing process.
As the coffee industry surpasses the remarkable milestone of 400 billion dollars in size (for context, the entire cinema industry struggles to reach 100 billion), the stakes, expectations, and competition in this realm have reached unparalleled heights.
We asked Valerio Cometti (Founder and Creative Director of V12 Design) to tell us more about the project (Red Dot Winner 2023), how it was conceived, and how the development process was approached. We gathered valuable insights for designers (and companies).
What insights or unresolved problems prompted the development of Pietro manual coffee grinder with this design?
“The manual coffee grinder is an expanding niche that coffee connoisseurs are enjoying more and more. Fiorenzato, the mother company of the new brand Pietro (which, by the way, is the name of the founder of Fiorenzato company and grandfather of the current generation running it) has experienced an impressive growth in recent years, due to technical prowess and a number of patents and features that put the company and its grinders in a spotlight.
The management of Fiorenzato challenged us here at V12 Design with designing a new manual grinder, but we were immediately struck by how the existing ones already on the market all looked the same. It seemed like a great opportunity for us to challenge back our friends from Fiorenzato/Pietro to do something truly innovative.
In a nutshell, the project started with the company desire to expand its portfolio whilst mantaining its high-performing reputation and we found this brief as an irresistible opportunity to deliver a project that stood out both for aesthetical and functional reasons.”
What are the innovative aspects of Pietro compared to traditional grinders?
“To many people, coffee is not much more than a brown warm drink, but DesignWanted readers must be aware that the coffee industry has passed the 400 billion dollars mark in size (for comparison the whole cinema industry struggles to reach 100 billion) and therefore the expectation, the competition, the skills of those working in this industry are second to none.
I said this because to make a great espresso there is an endless list of parameters that need to be kept under control and in the coffee grinding industry, the geometry of the burrs is one of the driving factors.
Burrs are gorgeous pieces of engineering built to grind the roasted coffee beans with impressive precision because smashing them is not enough: a very controlled fineness needs to be achieved with a very precise ratio of coarser particles and finers ones. Yes, I know it’s sounds madness, but when you have 400 billion reasons to succeed, no stone is left unturned. So burrs can be divided in conical and flat.
Fiorenzato’s signature feature is making their own flat burrs and no one had ever done manual portable grinders with flat burrs.
I wanted to celebrate and enhance this feature, but we needed to come up with a different form factor in order to allow the user to develop enough power and speed to utilize flat burrs. And this is the main innovation in this project: whilst the whole market used vertical axis burrs, with the user “stirring” horizontally with his/her arm, we developed a unique design that has a horizontal axis therefore allowing for a more ergonomic and powerful movement.
We observed several differents sports and equipments in order to find the inspiration for the best movement and we noticed that in racing sailboats of the top categories they manouvre the sails with tools that allow the athletes (amusingly called “grinders”) to spin a couple of handles around a horizontal axis, making the best of their powerful arms, shoulders and back muscles.
Once we felt that it was the right direction, we started working on a new layout that made it possible to be used on such a small device and after that we tailored a “suit” that enhanced the presence of the flat burrs.
The overall design is the combination of two solids geometries: an obround extruded shape that runs vertically and show the path of the coffee, with beans from the top that become “powder” that is collected at the bottom.
The second shape is a horizontal cylinder that is the shape of the rotation of the handle, it holds the round flat burrs inside and has the knob in line to micro-adjust the fineness of the ground coffee according to the beverage you are making, whether is an espresso, a filter coffee, a moka and so on…
Every aspect of the design of the Pietro has been developed in order to achieve the best performance and experience.
From an easy loading bay, from a retractable handle (where the majority of competitors need to detached it somehow tie it to the grinder’s body), to a reduced coffee retention thanks to gravity that pushes the coffee dust through the burrs and so on.”
When considering the CMF (Color, Material, and Finish) aspect, what approach did you take?
“The manual grinder Pietro is a very well-built piece of engineering, with loads of die cast metal components that feel sturdy and precious. With this in mind, we wanted to enhance such preciousness and the first release of color schemes was minimalistic and expressed quality, realibility and performance.
As one can see, we “dressed” Pietro with minimalistic lines and therefore the matte black, matte white and semi-matte silver were the perfect match for such a performing device. Then, also thanks to some clever marketing initiatives led by Giulia Bagato, the brilliant marketing manager of the group, we managed to broaden the palette with some awesome colours such as the classy matte pink, a dark hue of green that has probably become my favourite finish and a pale blue that couldn’t be more stylish.
Having said that, expect quite a lively future for the Pietro colour and product range in the coming times.”
What were the most challenging aspects in transitioning from design to manufacturing? How did you resolve them?
“What I love about my job is that it teaches you never to underestimate the objects that surround us. Complexity lies in the most mundane items (I would like to challenge those who disagree to design the mechanisms of a photocopier or a sawing machine…) and therefore the development of a performing little machine such a Pietro has been far from easy.
Good products are the result of a good collaboration between the design and the engineering activity and we had a very fruitful collaboration with the R&D Team of Fiorenzato/Pietro, led by Luca Lissandron, a very talented engineer. So, yes, the development of Pietro has been intense, but never “traumatic” for the project.
One big advice I always give to young designers is to push their boundaries way past the “aesthetics” or the “shape” and challenge themselves into thinking how the object could be manufactured, assembled, serviced and so on.
This will only anticipate issues that would become big obstacles if met down the line, but will be quite harmless if faced at the design phase.
When designing Pietro we followed a similar approach: within my V12 Design team, we challenged ourselves intensely during the design phase, but this helped the following development considerably.”
Who is the target audience?
“As a clarification for those who are less experienced in the coffee business, coffee grinders can definitely be enjoyed for their portability, but the top ones are mostly used for their superior grinding quality and for the fact that their lower grinding speed compared to electric grinders, doesn’t reheat the ground coffee and doesn’t alter its aroma.
Top manual coffee grinders are tools for true coffee connoisseurs, not just handy things for camping and trekking fanatics, and coffee connoisseurs are a very knowledgeable audience with their mix of high mechanical expectation and quite an eye for good design.”