www.baratza.com: skilled in the art of grinding

Prototype La Marzocco GS3 - A Pro's Perspective

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:41 pm

This thread is going to provide an opportunity for you all to ask questions and provide guidance for my evaluation of the new La Marzocco GS3.

As an introduction, it is important to understand some of the realities and requirements of this review and this machine.

First (and foremost) -- this review is of a prototype machine. While most of the features and components are either final or near-final, you can assume there will be aesthetic changes as well as tweaks and fixes and alterations to some of the details. I will mention these when appropriate.

Secondly -- there are certain aspects of the machine that I won't be making public. So (as an example) please don't ask me to break down the machine and take detailed photos of all internals.

Third -- as with all my reviews, this is going to be a "Pro's Perspective". I will, of course, do my best to compare it to the home machines I have experience with - but the primary frame of reference will be to commercial machines.

Fourth -- this is particularly appropriate in this case as I don't think I would call this a "Home" espresso machine. It's a home machine like a commercial wood burning pizza oven is a home oven. Yes, you could do it - and it would be great - but it's outside of the "reality" of most our lives.


So... without further delay... we begin.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:49 pm

Day 1:

After much hope and much begging, Jacob today arrived with the machine.

Oh happy day.

Quick thanks to both Bill Crossland (the man behind the machine) and Jacob (who drove the machine down from Marzocco in the pouring rain). And, of course, thanks to Kent, Bronwen and Terry for vouching for me.

Image

First impressions - despite the warnings I was still shocked by how small the machine is. It is very hard to believe that this little box contains two boilers, a reservoir, pump and motor, electronics, plumbing. It's like some sort of clown car trick. I like the general look of the machine - though I would prefer to have a naked group head rather than the plastic cover and the drip tray does look a bit raw and "tacked-on" (of course, when I mentioned this I was told that it was, in fact, tacked on and wasn't even similar to what the final design will be).

Anyway... after running out to the store for water (I've been spoiled with a plumbed in machine), Jacob and I filled the machine, fired it up and then he ran me through the various settings, parameters and programming options.
This is a complicated machine!
Seriously!
I pity the person who has to write the manual. There are about a thousand various options and controls and variables.
Damn.

Just to make sure it was all working, I pulled a quick shot of an experimental blend from Andrew Barnett.
Mkay... first shot, grind a little off but none the less...Wow. I know that profile, that mouthfeel, that clarity and focus.
Tastes like a good shot from a temp-stabilized Synesso or GB5 or Mistral.
Oh my...

And off to bed. Like a kid on Christmas Eve I had a hard time sleeping.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca
bodkacoffee.com: good beans = good times
bodkacoffee.com: good beans = good times

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 2:55 pm

Day 2:

Bronwen sent me down some of a fresh batch of the Hines Espresso. Time to go with a known quantity (plus Bronwen told me that this was a "really good" batch).
Exciting moment.

Dial the temp to 200F. Adjust the grind. Gorgeous shot... hmmm... Tastes a little wrong. Maybe I mis-remembered the temp for this blend. Take it down 0.5F and another shot. Ahhh... that's more like it. A little fresh still but quite tasty. Very dense, rich... fruity and "tight" on the palate. Valerie describes it as "high volume" (in the musical sense).

Let's make that morning cappuccino now.
Oh no.
It's just like doing milk on a Linea. This is a good thing - but I was not thinking that way. Throw the pitcher of BAB milk away and try again.
Ahh... that's how I remember it. Less than 10 seconds and I've got perfect milk.

Heh Heh. Very very cool!!

So I pull some shots... lovely. Wonderful drinks.
Wow wow wow.

Image

Some notes:
- I'm pulling shots (so far) using the "continuous brew" button. i.e. I'm using the machine as if it were a semi-auto machine. I'll program the volumes for the auto settings and move to that soon. I'd not planned on really using those settings, but for some reason you cannot program pre-infusion for the continuous brew button. Hmmm... this might be an issue for me.
- In general, I'm rediscovering why I don't like automatic machines. I don't like keypads at all. In particular, I hate the lack of feedback and I think they are anti-sexy.
- Calling this a "home machine" is really, really misleading. My impression is that this machine is more accurately called a catering and light commercial machine. As such, it can (in fact) be used at home and is pretty ideal (if overkill) for such a use.
- The quality of the shots coming out of this machine is extraordinary. I'm sure I'm going to get more used to it and improve quality and consistency - and this is a frightening prospect.
- If this machine were a semi-auto I would have serious, serious machine lust right now.


More to follow.


Just had a dozen outrigger paddling team folks over - a really good test of the machine. And, not shockingly, it performed like a champ. Espressos, Americanos, Cappuccinos, soy Cappuccinos... one after another after another. Without a whimper without a complaint... brilliant.

I'm starting to get the hang of the steam control lever. It's still a little weird to use - and I'm still not a huge fan of the location (I'm afraid I'm going to bump the cup as a shot is pulling). But the milk quality is really good, ease of use is pretty good and steaming time... well, let's just say that it's a La Marzocco in all senses of the word.

Image

I would tend to expect that a lot of home baristas who buy this machine are in for a shock. When I said it was not really a home machine - I meant it. Folks who have learned to make espresso drinks on good home machines are going to have an "interesting" time transitioning to the GS3. For your average pro barista, the transition is going to be very easy. It's really just like working on a GB5, but with a weird steam lever control and only one group. But it's nothing at all like home machines. All the things you focus on with home machines tend to be irrelevant or at least unimportant with this machine. You have all the same requirements when it comes to general barista skills (grind, dose, distribute, etc) but all the machine skills that home baristas have had to develop (temp surfing, temp management, sequencing, etc) are simply transparent to you on this machine. At the same time, now all of a sudden you have steaming that is professional in style and strength - steaming 6oz of milk takes less than 10 seconds.

I switched over to using auto mode - though with a small modification. I set the machine up to pre-infuse for 0.6 seconds and then calibrated it for a 2.25oz double. This way I can terminate the shot manually when done. This worked quite well with the volume that I was working at. The shots taste a little different due to the pre-infusion. I don't know yet if I can conclusively say they taste better (or worse) - but rather different. I'll have to experiment more to know for sure. It's a little more "concentrated" in taste is all I can say right now.

I'm really loving the general quality of the espresso I'm producing from the machine. It's so dense, so focused and yet with such great clarity and balance in the cup. It tastes so much like what I'm used to getting from temp stabilized commercial machines like a Synesso. It's a great thing.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:03 pm

Day 3:

The usual morning routine - with the addition of one soy capp for a visitor. No muss, no fuss... quick and easy lemon squeezy.

Still working with the Hines espresso. I really like the ability to alter temp by tiny amounts with a fair amount of accuracy. Of course, right now I don't have the stability I'd wish (a sure sign I'm spoiled). I think a little PID tuning would get this down to an even tighter range. None the less - I'm finding I like the Hines best at 199.7F. Grin.

You cannot imagine how cool it is to be able to experiment like this.
Amazing.

Image

A couple of things have come up that are annoyances.

First - The lack of articulation on the steam wand is a drag. I've figured out the steam lever control. But the lack of articulation is requiring me to totally change the way I hold the pitcher and thus the way I steam milk. I know this seems petty - but my milk steaming is pretty much muscle memory so this is non-trivial for me.

Second - the steam wand is not long enough to do a "milk cleanser in the pitcher soak and clean" with a small pitcher on the drip tray. I had to stack the pitcher on top of an upside-down basket. (sounds like this is going to change with the final design)

Third - the drip tray doesn't stick far enough forward. When cleaning and rinsing the group water splashes all over the floor. (of course, as noted earlier, this will change with the real machine)

Some thoughts on the espresso.
I am having a hard time figuring out whether or not I prefer the flavour of the shots using pre-infusion on this machine. There is a discernable difference - but I don't know if either is "better" to my taste.
In a sense this is a good thing - as it removes my concern about there not being pre-infusion if you use the manual (continuous brew) mode.
On the other hand - if there is a semi-auto version of this machine in the works I really hope it uses a line pressure pre-infusion model rather than the pump pulse method.
In general - the espresso from this machine is fantastic. It is simply unfair to compare to home machines. I mean, yes... I've produced shots from home machines that are as good as what I'm getting from this machine. No doubt about it. But with this degree of consistency? Never. No way. The weak shots from this machine are always entirely my fault - I've either screwed up on the grind or my distribution.
Yes - espresso machines are "just a tool" but this is one nearly flawless hammer!!

Image

In addition, the shots from the Marzocco have a very specific flavour profile. First of all - they have a "density" on the palate that I do not get from other home machines. Secondly - they have that elusive "clarity" in the cup that I was able to produce on the Briccoletta, but only after a lot of work.

Image

Right now, I'd probably put this machine ahead of any Linea. Not a 1 group Linea. Any Linea.

I'm really happy.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca

Postby another_jim on Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:08 pm

malachi wrote:Secondly -- there are certain aspects of the machine that I won't be making public. So (as an example) please don't ask me to break down the machine and take detailed photos of all internals.


One of the major innovations slotted for this machine is the long rumored single unit motor/rotary pump from fluid-o-tech, which was supposed to be sized as a vibe pump replacement. Apparently LM's development of this machine finally spurred Fluid-o-tech to complete the project (they've been talking about it for three years or so). So, with all due respect to confidentiality agreements, the review will be seriously incomplete if no mention is made of whether this pump is in fact there, or whether they've had to go with a vibe due to production delays.

I realize there might be some proprietary tweaks to the feed water and boiler to volume control to group piping to bring this machine up to or beyond the Synesso level for "first shot from idle" temperature stability; obviously, they are fully justified in keeping such advances under wraps until they can introduce them across all their lines. But basics like pump type, boiler sizes, wattage, etc should be public information.

As I've said before, I'm seriously interested in the machine, and very thrilled you're getting a first look at it. But it would be sort of an anti-climax if that first look were uninformative.
User avatar
another_jim
Team HB
 
Posts: 8817
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: Chicago

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:12 pm

It's a rotary pump machine - no doubt about it.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca

Postby barry on Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:46 pm

another_jim wrote:One of the major innovations slotted for this machine is the long rumored single unit motor/rotary pump from fluid-o-tech, which was supposed to be sized as a vibe pump replacement. Apparently LM's development of this machine finally spurred Fluid-o-tech to complete the project (they've been talking about it for three years or so). So, with all due respect to confidentiality agreements, the review will be seriously incomplete if no mention is made of whether this pump is in fact there, or whether they've had to go with a vibe due to production delays.


i think mark mentioned that the mini-rotary from fluidotech was now vaporware.
User avatar
barry
 
Posts: 638
Joined: Aug 11, 2005
Location: St Louis, MO
www.seattlecoffeegear.com: let us help you find the right gear
www.seattlecoffeegear.com: let us help you find the right gear

Postby malachi on Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:57 pm

Actually... I believe the pump that turned out to not be feasible was the digitally controlled mini-pump from Procon.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin
malachi
 
Posts: 2545
Joined: May 05, 2005
Location: sfca

Postby barry on Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:06 pm

a mini-rotary pump would be cool.

maybe mark b. can put in one for each group on the synesso.
User avatar
barry
 
Posts: 638
Joined: Aug 11, 2005
Location: St Louis, MO

Postby Abe Carmeli on Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:23 pm

Chris,

A few questions:

1) Can you program the preinfusion length, if so, what are the limits? 0.6 secs is very short for preinfusion, as compared to a vibe on most E61 machines doing 4-5 secs.
2) What flush routine do you follow, and have you tested temp accuracy with the Thermofilter?
3) How noisy is the pump in pulling a shot and during the boiler refill ?
4) Must you keep the machine on 24/7 for temp stability, a-la Linea?
Abe Carmeli
Abe Carmeli
Team HB
 
Posts: 836
Joined: May 08, 2005
Location: New York, NY