I know I have been writing about the La Marzocco Strada before, but back then I did not have a lot of experience using the machine.
Not that I have a lot of experience now either, after only playing and working with it for some weeks. To be honest, I haven’t had the time to use the machine as much as I would have liked, but I did get to use it during our 3 year anniversary and I was the only one using it for the whole day, profile-pumping out about 300 espressos from the 3 groups. I have also managed to make some terrible shots on the machine as well as some super delicate and sweet shots. (More about that later.)
Since this La Marzocco EP3 is a prototype, there are a lot of details that needs to be changed. I am not going to bore you with all that stuff, but I did send a 3 page long document to Paola and Roberto, the engineers at La Marzocco, and I got a great reply from them telling me that they are on the case in most of my comments.
So, what are my thoughts after using the machine in a more realistic environment?
- Working with pressure profiles, when it comes to taste, is very difficult. It changes the taste of the espresso so much that you can get anything from syrupy sweet espressos to more elegant and transparent shots. It is also very easy to make really bad tasting shots. I no longer know what I want my espressos to taste like. It is very frustrating! Therefore I think one needs to have a clear vision of what the espresso should taste like before one starts playing with profiles.
- Playing with the electronic paddle is very easy. The paddle is super responsive and allows you to change the pressure with great accuracy, once you get the hang of it.
- When experimenting with different pressure profiles, I always record them, meaning I am always programming the pressure profile when I experiment, as it is extremely difficult to make the exact same profile manually from shot to shot. When programming / recording, you are able to reproduce the profile you just made as many times as you want. But does it work when it comes to taste? See next point..
- When using a pre-programmed profile, one has to be super consistent in dosing in order to get the same results. I struggled a lot more getting consistent results with my blend than I did with the Single Origin coffee. Probably because the blend consists of different coffees and you will always get different beans in the filter from shot to shot. It is definitely more noticeable on the Strada as opposed to the FB80, probably because the coffees respond to pressure profiles differently.
- A profile programmed for one coffee on a Wednesday does not necessarily work with the same coffee on Saturday. The coffee degasses and this changes the taste a lot. I had to totally change the pressure profile from Wednesday to Saturday even if I was using the same coffee from the same roasted batch.
- Playing with the Strada is definitely very difficult when it comes to taste. Maybe there should be a default pressure profile that is similar to what you would get on a FB80, pre programmed, so that baristas could always use that as a standard reference to go after? I know the La Marzocco team is working on some standard factory default profiles that will help you get started. Realistically I know that time is expensive and also a thing we do not have enough of in our coffee shop. I spent about 2 hours tasting maybe 40 or 50 shots of coffee on the morning of our 3 year anniversary in order to make some decent profiles for the 2 coffees we were serving from the Strada. Of course with some experience you will get better at developing profiles more easily, but in order to make all my employees understand the machines and the effect of pressure profiling, I think we need to train and taste a lot together. It is going to take a lot of time and effort to become a true Strada player, so this machine is definitely not for the lazy barista or the cheap bar owner.
- Would I buy a Strada? YES, I can’t wait to get my hands on one! The possibilities are fascinating and when you nail a profile
is just absolutely fantastic. It has made me become enthusiastic about espresso again. The shots I have made with our Kenyan Mugaga espresso has been by far the best espresso I have ever tasted made on a Kenyan coffee, Ever!! The brew profile that worked for this coffee and actually has worked for some days now, has been like this:
Brew water temperature: 93,5 C +/- o,5 C
1-10 seconds: slowly ramp up from 0 to 7 bars
11 – 13 seconds: brew at 8 bars
14 – 20 seconds: brew steadily at 7 bars (slowly raising the paddle as pressure decreases during brewing due to less resistance in the coffee puck)
20 – 25 seconds: Ramp down to 4 bars and then shut off.
(This was an attempt to replicate on a blog post. I might post some videos later)
I haven’t measured the weight of the shot nor the coffee. The espresso is not short but normal, so I am guessing about 25+ ml per shot and the wight of the ground coffee might be abut 18 to 19 grams as Kenyan grounds tends to be quite dense and heavy.
The flavour profile of this espresso is:
Aroma: Strikingly winy and fruity. Intense!
Acidity: Super balanced and refreshing. Like eating very ripe fruit. Winy like in light red wine.
Mouthfeel: Very delicate. Not heavy but lively and light. The shot is still concentrated in flavour yet texture is somewhat between a french press brew and an espresso.
Flavour: Very intense and winy fruit flavour. Juicy berry aromas. Tropical fruit in the end.
Finish: Sweet and lingering. No harsh bitterness like in a lot of SO Kenyan shots I have had before and that is much more present when pulling this coffee on a FB80.
We will be having a Strada party in our bar tomorrow where some fellow coffee enthusiasts and I will be playing with the machine. The machine is on trial for a couple of more weeks in our bar, before we have to send it back to Italy. Feel free to ask questions in our comments section on this post, and I will be happy to answer. (If I know the answer).