I’ve decided to add another category to my blog, aptly named “Coffee tools” in anticipation that there are some readers of my blog that just want to know about the stuff needed to make coffee. Anyway, what better tool to start with than a La Marzocco coffee machine. I’m not really going to go too technical here because I only feel comfortable sharing stuff that I really understand and as I didn’t major/study in-depth any sciences especially engineering, I’m not going to bore you with stuff that you will need a dictionary to understand. OK ! La Marzocco espresso machines are generally what top baristas believe to be the best machines for making espresso and espresso based drinks. Their machines are used at the World Barista Championships to determine who is the best barista in the World. Of course, there are many good espresso machines like the Synesso Cyncra, which coincidentally is designed by a former La Marzocco engineer. There are other machines and of course many opinions but, the consensus is on La Marzocco.
In any case, I had the opportunity to meet with La Marzocco’s main rep in Austria, based in Vienna. It is run by Mr Reinhold Fliedl who supplies coffee machines and other stuff under the name Espresso Solutions. I had already met Reinhold when I bought a La Marzocco bottomless filter-holder and so this was our second meeting. His company was on the other side of Vienna and I took the opportunity to get a half day off from work on a Monday morning – more sleep for me. Anyway Reinhold is a really nice guy and he really knows his stuff when it comes to espresso, coffee, coffee machines and coffee grinders – he owns a La Marzocco GS3 – the only espresso machine suitable for the home made by La Marzocco and costing about 4,000 Euros ($6,000). I learned a lot from him as I was also looking to buy a new coffee grinder too and he talked to me about his two-group head La Marzocco GB5 (one of the best machines made by La Marzocco), which looks really nice.
I snapped away and also got a really great shot of him pouring some latte art in his Alessi milk jug, after he had showed me briefly how to froth milk on the GB5. Actually, this is one of my best shots yet, judged by the number of the views on my flickr account
He did a few practice runs on different types of coffee for espresso.
A couple of cappuccinos later and an espresso, I was coffeed-up for a few hours and we got talking about beans, roasting and grinders, as well as the poor state of affairs in Vienna with regards to getting really good espresso and espresso based drinks. Reinhold was so serious about this that when we met in mid-June, he was planning a trip to the World Barista Championships in Copenhagen to register through examinations to become an Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) trainer. I can gladly report that he passed and he is now one of only three in Austria. A coffee school is planned, which I hope to attend God willing if it is set up very soon.
Despite my intro about technical stuff, I cannot end this post just with pictures – I’ve got to delve into some of the tekky stuff and so here goes. I was shown the inside of the GB5, which displays La Marzocco’s unique dual boiler mechanism, which means, and I quote from La Marzocco ” the GB/5 ensures maximum temperature stability for coffee brewing, with electronic monitoring of all the machine functions” – in simple language, this means that the temperature for preparing coffee is always maintained at the ideal levels of between 90-93 C for extracting espresso. This is what I understand the now famous Proportional Integrative Derivative (PID) system is, which monitors temperature to all group heads. So for example, as we know, temperature is key in coffee preparation and a 1-2 C variation in temperature can affect the taste of an espresso, where you can loose out on high citrus tones for example in a type of coffee. Also, in lesser technology machines, the more you extract coffee, the less the temperature gets, whereby you begin extracting espresso at 87C, which could mean that the coffee will be a bit bitter on all group heads. However, with the technology on the GB5, the temperature is automatically adjusted for each group head and maintained at the desired level – now isn’t that cool. There’s also one other bonus – there’s a light under the main control unit, which means that if you have one of those dark looking interior cafes, the machine lights up to show where all the action is, just above the brewing heads. Of course, this type of machine is for those serious about their coffee and serving the best, but I believe it’s worth it whatever the price. Of course, all the other variables have to be right too, like the right grind, the type of grinder, the quality of the bean, in summary the 5 Ms – (Mescla (coffee type or blend), Machina (the type of coffee machine), Machinadosatore (the grinder that grinds the coffee), Mesura (the grammes of coffee used per espresso shot) and Mano (the hand of the barista) – now make sure you learn these as I might test you on it next time…. hmmmm !. In any case it was a pleasant trip and I learned so much. Perhaps next time I can try the machine out. If you live in Austria or Germany check out Reinhold’s website/e-shop on www.espressolutions.at