Tuesday, October 31, 2006

From warheads to coffee machines

From the creative re-use of former weapons of mass destruction department:

My housemate, the taxi driver, somehow came across this link and, knowing my fascination with both geography and coffee, passed it along to me.

The full story is quoted below (just in case the link goes away -- dunno if the BBC times out their stories like the NYTimes and other online publications sometimes do), but here's the synopsis: African (Ethiopian) man takes old artillery shells left over from the Eritrean/Ethiopian (civil?) war, and turns them into coffee machines.

My first thought is: "Oh man, that's pretty cool."

I wonder, though... they're pretty vague in the article about what type of machine it is that is produced. If it channels water, coffee and milk, does that mean that it's actually an espresso machine? I've never seen an espresso machine that channels milk. Espresso machines channel steam, sure, which is used to steam milk... but actually channeling milk? I kind of wonder how much this writer really knows about the subject. The finished product looks like a European espresso machine, but I wonder if the finished product photo really is one of *his* finished products, or just a generic shot of an espresso machine in a coffee

In any case, I would love to find out more about this topic, as creative re-use of any old thing into a new thing is of interest to me, whether it be turning toilets or cars into vegetable planters, or bombshells into coffee machines.

Here's the full story: (click on the link to access the original version, complete with photos)

From weapons of war to great coffee
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Mekele

In biblical times they said "turn your swords into ploughshares", now in northern Ethiopia a tradesman is bringing the saying into the 21st Century.

In his workshop in Mekele, just 200km from Ethiopia's border with Eritrea, Azmeraw Zekele is turning burnt-out shells into cylinders used in coffee machines.

Most of the shells are left over from the 1998-2000 war between the two countries.

The workshop is made up of three quite small ramshackle rooms that lead from one to another with sunlight coming through the gaps, but it is a hive of activity for Mr Azmeraw and his six staff.


"The shells were dropped in Ethiopia during the war with Eritrea. They were dropped so people hid them in their homes and now they sell them," Mr Azmeraw says.

He uses old mortar shells, which stand about one metre high, to make his coffee machines.

He cuts off the pointed ends, seals them and puts holes into the aluminium cylinder. The cylinder channels the water, coffee and milk.

He told me he got the idea nine years ago when he was doing maintenance work.

"I saw some shells being sold for a different purpose and I studied them.

"They were used for washing clothes or crushing things. After studying them I came up with the idea of using them as a cylinder for a coffee machine."

Coffee is a major export from Ethiopia and plays a big role in life.

After meals, the traditional coffee ceremony allows family and friends to get together to share news and discuss the issues of the day.

Coffee shops are also popular.

Fair price

Cafe owner Haile Abraha bought one of Mr Azmeraw's machines a few months ago.

"I had one other imported machine but this one is much better. It is relatively cheap. The price is fair. The machine is good and it makes good coffee."

But Mr Azmeraw says it can be difficult to convince people to buy because of the mortar shell.

"These shells have all been used. We all need peace and we don't want war but once these shells have been used, we should use our skills to do something with them.

"Sometimes I think about the fact they were used for war but I want to change them to do something good. They could be a symbol of war but I am doing something good out of the bad."

Since he started production five or six years ago, Mr Azmeraw has sold hundreds of machines - he cannot remember exactly how many.

Each one costs about $1,300. Most of them have been sold to people in the Mekele area.

But in the future he hopes to sell them more further afield - maybe even to coffee shops and restaurants in Eritrea.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/10/31 14:37:37 GMT

So, the article says that these machines are about $1300 each. That sounds like a commercial-quality espresso machine with double boilers to me, based on the current market prices of other espresso machines. For comparison, my home espresso machine, with a single boiler, is about $500, and it's made from all-new materials in Italy.

Adaptive re-use. My buddy was just in L.A., where an old pwer plant has been converted into a nightclub. The club is in the basement, with a chic bar and a stage set up apparently amidst the old generators and industrial equipment, all shined & cleaned up for the occasion.

How else can we take the out-dated relics of the 20th century military/industrial complex and re-use them for the 21st century's information society?

1 comment:

Joe Root said...

Your articles don't displace around the bushes correct t to the part. coffee machines