[D]ragos Manciu of Hedone got his start in coffee when he bought a broken espresso machine for 200 Euros. He disassembled the unit and repaired it himself. A short time later, he found a Ditting grinder on the fritz and fixed it.
Next, Dragos needed some coffee beans to test out his repairs, so he bought some commercially roasted coffee beans. But once again, something wasn’t quite right. Dragos sensed the taste was off; it needed fixing.
So, Dragos, the do-it-yourselfer with a degree in food chemistry, read up on coffee roasting and built his own home roaster. He fashioned the drum out of an Ikea cutlery drainer, a cardboard box became the chaff collector, and a car’s wiper motor became the drum’s rotary motor.
Driven by his passion for coffee, Dragos and a friend opened up a small coffee shop in their hometown of Craiova, Romania. Dragos roasted the coffee on his handmade roaster and pulled espressos on the repaired espresso machine. Dan Barbu, a regular customer, was so impressed by Dragos’s ambition he proposed starting a coffee business together, called Hedone Cafe.
The name was inspired by Hedone, the Greek goddess of pleasure, enjoyment, and delight. Hedone is the daughter of the Greek gods Eros (Cupid) and Psyche. She is associated more specifically with sensual, hedonistic pleasures.
“We associate coffee with pleasure,” Dragos says. “We have pleasure roasting it, smelling it, drinking it with friends: it’s all a pleasure.”
Hedone Cafe has grown from its original small shop with three employees to a company that not only roasts and serves coffee, but produces professional espresso machines and grinders, provides customers complete and integrated solutions for coffee preparation. Hedone provides fresh roasted coffee, private label coffee, coffee equipment, complementary products, and bar accessories.
The Coffee Roastery
The coffee roastery now has its own facility, equipped with 60-kilo and 15-kilo roasters. (The original DIY roaster will make a fine museum piece one day, Dragos says.) Total roasting capacity is over 100 tons per month, including Arabica and Robusta beans imported from Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, India, Kenya, Mexico, and other origins.
With a staff of 30, Hedone Cafe currently provides complete solutions for coffee preparation for over 800 commercial accounts in Romania, including hotels, restaurants, and cafés.
Hedone also makes its own line of professional espresso machines and grinders, based on Dragos’s designs. The machines are built according to Dragos’s specifications for optimum thermal stability and supreme consistency, whether pulling espresso or grinding.
“The idea is to refresh the culture of coffee in Romania and to bring specialized coffee to the gorumet on the market,” Dragos says. “The equipment used—the espresso machine and grinder—are of significant importance in this process, which is where the need to develop professional coffee equipment emerged from.”
Some of the manufacturing and most of the assembly is done in Hedone’s factory. Boilers are produced and insulated in-house, while cases are fabricated locally. The E61 group heads and a few other components are imported, and then everything is assembled in their Craiova assembly plant.
Hedone makes one, two, and three group machines, all featuring independent boilers and a separate head for steaming, electronic PID with thermal adjustment between 50–100 degrees Celsius, cup heater, and thermal stability system with an oscillation of less than one degree Celsius.
The two-group Wally was inspired by Dragos’s favorite movie character, the robot Wall-E from the computer-animated science fiction film of the same name. Wally comes in two versions: manually controlled pre-infusion (Wally GM) and automatic (Wally GFA).
The one-group version is called Evo, after Eve, Wall-E’s girlfriend in the movie. Evo also comes in manual and automatic models.
Triton, the three-group version with four boilers, is only available in an automatic version.
Hedone’s grinder is called Honne and features a striking design and broad spectrum of technical parameters: grind size with micrometric accuracy, permanent magnet motor with high efficiency, 68-millimeter hybrid burrs (two conical, two flat), two hoppers with individual capacity of one kilogram, and low coffee retention on the burrs—under 0.2 grams.
Honne evenly distributes coffee via its portafilter holder. Because Honne comes with a dual hopper system, the dosing of the coffee beans is done through a handler, which takes out between 8.3–8.5 grams of coffee from the hopper and sends them to the burrs. Dosing volume can be customized as well.
Dragos and his team later developed Honne Home Edition, a version of the grinder for baristas-at-home and coffee prosumers. This single-dose version has the same technical features as the original Honne.
“The best is yet to come”, Dragos says. The team is currently working on a new line of espresso machines and coffee grinders. They will present the new coffee equipment at Host Milano 2019 edition, but they do not wish to reveal more information until everything is ready. What Dragos will say, is that the new equipment will surprise coffee enthusiasts from all over the world. His goal is to launch Romania as an important player on the world market of coffee equipment.
From its humble origins to today, Hedone Cafe is dedicated to promoting third-wave coffee in Romania and helping people love their coffee. The Craiova team is trying to educate its customers about coffee consumption. “There is a false perception about the consumption of coffee based preparations,” Dragos says.
“A lot of people drink coffee for the stimulation effect. They think coffee has to be strong and bitter, with lots of sugar,” Dragos says. “But for more and more of our customers, single-origin coffee that is roasted lighter is more interesting. For them, it’s an experience: you wake up in the morning and smell the coffee. If people want dark roast and bitterness, we can offer that, too. However you like it, it is important to drink fresh coffee, with life in it.”