It has been a long journey for espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco. Since the early 20th century the Florence-based company has been producing exceptional coffee machines; more than a decade into the 21st century, they continue their legacy. Those familiar with La Marzocco will recognise the names of some of their latest mechanical marvels: the GB/5, the FB/70, FB/80, the ground breaking domestic machine the GS/3 and of course the workhorse of the espresso industry, the Linea. The little lion statuette has become synonymous with a quality cup of coffee the world over. Needless to say, when a big wooden crate labelled ‘La Marzocco Strada EP’ arrived on our doorstep we were somewhat excited.
The Strada (literally meaning ‘road’) is a pioneer in many respects. Not only is it comprised of all the quality parts and accessories we have come to know and love from La Marzocco, it also is the first commercial machine with fully programmable pressure profiling. To fully realise the gravity of this new feature we need to back up a step. All modern commercial espresso machines extract coffee by forcing hot water through a compressed ‘puck’ of ground coffee. They do this through the use of an electronic pump. Until now, this pump had two settings, on and off. The pump would turn on and force water through the coffee at 9 bar pressure until the full flavour has been extracted from the coffee at which point the barista would turn it off – simple. The Strada complicates things somewhat by introducing a variable pump which can be manually or automatically set from 1 – 12 bar pressure or anywhere in between for any length of time. This new feature effectively throws traditional espresso making techniques out the proverbial window. It is now possible to extract coffee at a gentler (or harder) pressure and tailor each shot to utilise the full potential of the specific coffee being used. Add to this the ability to programme each individual group head’s temperature, an electronically variable steam wand, a mixing tap to the hot water spout (variable temperature) and a USB port and you have a coffee nerd’s dream machine!
But why mess with a system that has worked well for decades? Isn’t this new-fangled technology just making coffee more complicated than it already is? The short answer is yes. But what the average coffee-drinker doesn’t realise is that the coffee world is constantly evolving. In the last few years alone we have seen a huge boom in quality. Single origin coffee has become much more popular and people are becoming much more aware of what they are drinking. The Strada offers us a way to preserve characteristics unique to certain origins which would otherwise have been killed off by the high pressure of a 9 bar machine. The easily adjustable boiler temperature allows us to account for any sourness commonly associated with very light (flavoursome) roasts. We can even program every second of extraction via USB using our graphing software! The Strada truly is a glimpse into the future of coffee.