Seattle’s Slayer Espresso, maker of pricey machines, bought by Italian coffee-equipment firm

Under the terms of the deal, Slayer will remain an independent operation led by its founder and CEO.

Slayer Espresso, a Seattle-based maker of high-end espresso machines, has been purchased by Gruppo Cimbali, an Italian manufacturer of coffee equipment.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The companies announced the transaction Friday as a “partnership,” saying Slayer will continue to operate autonomously as an independent brand out of its Georgetown headquarters. Founder Jason Prefontaine will remain as CEO of the 45-employee operation.

Slayer,now 10 years old, sells machines to cafes and doesn’t produce the type of coffee makers you might put in your home (unless you’re rich and really like specialty coffee). They cost $8,000 to $23,500 each before taxes and shipping, depending on the model, and allow baristas to control water pressure with precision. They’re used in coffee shops around the world, including Seattle cafes like Slate Coffee Roasters, Squirrel Chops and Urban Yoga Spa.

Espresso machines are hand assembled Friday at Slayer Espresso in Seattle. Espresso-machine group caps are ready for assembly. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Gruppo Cimbali says it has about 25 percent of the market share in manufacturing espresso machines, under the brands La Cimbali, Faema, Casadio and Hemerson. It has three plants in Italy and works with about 700 distributors around the world and said it was eager to establish a presence in Seattle, noting the city’s robust coffee scene.

Prefontaine said that up until now, he had funded his venture by himself. With the new owners, he hopes to expand Slayer’s reach internationally and improve its manufacturing and engineering.

He declined to release Slayer’s financial details but said sales are growing. The company in January is opening a new Pioneer Square showroom, where some of its employees will relocate as its main headquarters fills up.

After its current lease in Georgetown expires in a few years, “we are poised and ready to grow into a new space for production in Seattle,” he said.

The deal is the latest in a long-running Seattle-Italy coffee connection. There’s the much-told story of Howard Schultz being inspired by Italy’s cafes to launch Starbucks on its growth trajectory. And La Marzocco, which makes a lot of the espresso machines in Seattle cafes, has its U.S….

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