Indy’s Mad Scientist Who Built His Own Espresso Machine

David Morse
David Morse with his creation.

Photo by Tony Valainis

David Morse is, improbably, no java junkie. “I’ve been working with coffee addicts for probably 12 years who tried to push it on me,” Morse says. “And eventually, I just fell in love with all of the mechanisms and engineering behind a shot of espresso.” Plus, adding milk and sugar resulted in something Morse actually liked: a latte.

Thus converted by his coworkers at Zipp, a bicycle component manufacturer, he decided to embark on an at-home engineering project: making an old-fashioned espresso machine. The lever device is more labor-intensive than what you see behind the counter at Starbucks, letting the user manually control how the espresso brews from start to finish. After procuring a combination of old parts (the vintage group head and boiler) and new (the touchscreen), Morse is now set with as many lattes as he’d like. The cost? About $550. To him, it’s a bargain.

“The gold-standard La Pavoni lever machines are $800 for the base model,” he says, “and not even the top-end model for $2,300 comes with PID temperature control or pressure sensors.” Who’s hot stuff now?