We have a new shiny! Specifically it is a new espresso machine in our Spa Terminus shop, and it is ace.
Since we started making espresso-based drinks in the early 2000s we have used espresso machines made by Florence-based company La Marzocco. La Marzocco were established by Giuseppe and Bruno Bambi in 1927. They created the first horizontal boiler machine in the late 30s, the dual-boiler system in the 70s, and launched your writer’s all-time favourite machine in the early 90s – the Linea red series.
Espresso is one of the brew methods that requires a bit more gear than is available in the average kitchen. The number of boilers and how the temperature and pressure is controlled throughout the brew process are important factors in bringing out the very best from any single origin or blend coffee. Different manufacturers have different ways of trying to achieve this so choosing a machine supplier to go with comes down to personal preference and priorities.
We have been big fans of the Linea Classic series that La Marzocco started producing in the mid 1990s. The design has stayed true to its original styling and the interior mechanics and electronics have become more sophisticated over the years. La Marzocco have always prided themselves on their machines’ thermal stability and consistency. Espresso needs a stable temperature and repeatable brew pressure to develop the intensity of flavour and crema, so anything that helps achieve this is welcomed.
Back to our new machine in our Spa Terminus shop. This is one of the more recent models that La Marzocco has developed – it is the KB90. This machine is the first from La Marzocco that has ‘straight in’ portafilters. The portafilter holds the basket into which the ground coffee is loaded. Once loaded and tamped, the portafilter is locked into the machine and then the extraction starts. Usually the portafilters are loaded into the machine with a bayonet type fitting and they need to be securely fitted against the rubber gasket to create a seal between the machine and the portafilter. There is a bit of a knack to this and it takes a bit more than an effort to load the portafilter to create a successful seal, and then unload again to release the spent coffee and start again. The KB90 has a different action to achieve the same result – the portafilter is loaded straight into the group head and lifted up slightly to click into position. This is a terrific advancement – it makes absolutely no difference to the flavour of the coffee but all the difference to the barista working the machine. There is no more twisting of the wrists with effort or needing to hang off the handles to swing the portafilter in and out of position.
The KB90 has some other advancements in common with La Marzocco’s latest machines, but it is the usability that really stands out here, and it is why we have chosen to replace our very aged and well-used fleet over the next few months with the KB90. We started this project pre-pandemic so it is super to finally be getting them installed!
Keep a lookout for the new machines as we install them in our Borough Market and Covent Garden shops. They are identifiable from your side of the counter with their sith-red illuminated, three-button controls. Like any developed skill there is a lot of muscle memory involved in making coffee so if you see a few of us seasoned pros fumbling around with the machines, you will know why.
See you with your reusable,