We are looking at machines that allow for pre-infusion, and I am really interested in learning more about the Mechanical Paddles available on the La Marzocco machines. Does anyone have a La Marzocco with a MP, if so what are your thoughts. How has it worked, constancy...also, how much does it slow down production in a fast paced bar? I am assuming the Linea is the most affordable option out there, with MP and PID?
I played with the MP Linea briefly last year. Neat idea, not terribly impressed with the results I saw. Never had a shot that was any better than the ones off of the "gradual ramp-up" on the FB-80 that was next to it.
Saw a discussion either here or somewhere else that concluded that, in many shops, the paddle had become just a really cool on-off switch.
Its kind of a "meh" for me... wouldn't be a first choice for my dream bar.
Our tasting room has a Faema E-61 Legend and it makes killer coffee. The technology is nearly 50 years old and it will still make a better shot than the Kees Van Der Westen Mirage we have in our cafe. (Granted, we are splitting hairs for the judgement.)
My point is that even "old" tech is awesome. The La Marzocco MP and The Slayer are not the only contenders in the field. There are actually a dizzying array of really good machines: Simonelli Aurelia(WBC), Del Lacorte, Synesso, Van Der Westen, E-61 Legend, La Marzocco Strada, Linea and FB-80 MP, GS/3, and GB5, Slayer, and many others I am not aware of. Not to mention your basic hand operated lever machine. All of these units will deliver mind blowing awesome coffee in the hands of someone who knows. Which brings me to my main point:
All a really good machine does is get out of the way of the operator. Hendrix played a Stratocaster. If I play a Stratocaster will I sound like Hendrix? (Rhetorical question.) At a certain point it is no longer about your machine. It ends up being about you. How much do you know about coffee? How methodical are you? How exacting are you? Do you have a sense of what the physics of pre-infusion are? What do you think will happen? Is the coffee you're using good enough to get that something extra from pre-infusion? Can you tell the difference between a coffee worthy of a good machine and one that will give its best results on a super automatic? How good is your grinder? Would you grind finer or corser for your pre-infusion machine? And on. And on....
Before you buy you're gonna have to hop on a few of these with your coffee and your technique and see how they perform. Some will make you look better and some will make you look worse. You have to find the right one. And paying more doesn't always get you better coffee. Sometimes it just gets you a cranky, handmade machine that nobody knows how to work on or has parts for. Or you could get a overpriced/overhyped sherman tank of a production machine that has some residual cache. And sometimes you get what you pay for.
Mike Sabol's post is beautiful. I agree completely. Keep in mind that the manual preinfusion you get from a lever operated machine is comparable to that of the Marzocco paddle group and costs thousands of dollars less. Of course there are several reasons to use a La Marzocco espresso machine of any model, but there are other machines that give you a precise programmable preinfuse.
The Conti Twin Star, Twin Star II, and Xeos models offer a programmable preinfuse, and are very well built machines with a build quality that matches La Cimbali & La Marzocco. I own a Conti Xeos, and I really like it. I also own a commercial lever group machine that I'm quite fond of.
If you have a mind to preinfuse some coffees more or less than others, a lever group machine is a great option. They're not the most thermally stable machine, but if you're able to get a lever machine "out of the way of the operator" by stabilizing its temperature, the benefits of its manual preinfusion are detectable in the cup. If you aren't interested in temperature profiling a lever machine, don't bother with the preinfusion.
Strictly speaking, all commercial machines allow for preinfusion by pushing the button that initiates the shot and leaving it on for a second or so before pushing it again to turn it off, wait a couple seconds/an empirically validated amount of time, and then hit the button again to extract the shot. It ain't rocket science. Rather, it's an extra step to add to your shot pulling routine.
I’m the one who wrote about baristas using paddles as on/off switches. But, when people talk about paddles, they have to distinguish between the paddles that only have line pressure and pump positions (Synesso Cyncra and LM GS/3) and the newer machines that allow continuous pressure profiling from zero to full pump (Slayer, LM Linea Paddle, LM Strada and Synesso Hydra).
I was writing about baristas bypassing the line pressure position on Cyncras and relying on the gicleur to gradually preinfuse. That seems to be how most use them in the shops.
At home I have a GS/3 and use line pressure for about 6 seconds of preinfusion and occasionally at the end to “save” a shot that seems to be pulling strangely in the last few seconds.
The new LM Linea paddles that the OP asked about are full-on pressure profilers, and I think you need to ask people who are using those models (or Slayers) what their experience is. There is still a lot of interest in pressure profiling and debate about how effective it is.
Just went to the coffee school matt milletto runs and they were pullin shots on a synesso had a chance to play around on many machines. And yes it does depends on alot of other factors other than just ur machines if your goin into the pre infusion field. Really liked the synesso as well as the linea. Heard slayer is pretty up and coming and we will have alot to see from them in the future! saw alot of them in shops in portland that produce some really tasty shots. For the machines without out the paddle I liked the simonellis as well as dalla corte. In the end I think its all a matter of preferance.
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