This Bench review is entitled A Home Barista's Perspective
. For a home enthusiast, an encounter with a Synesso - in the kitchen, is perhaps the ultimate wet dream. It has been mine for a long time and the idea of reviewing this machine is both exciting and intimidating. Its bigger siblings, the Cyncra 2 & 3 group, have been the gold standard of the ultimate espresso experience since their introduction in 2004, and many of us have followed the machine's development, gathering every bit of information we could find through 3rd and 4th hand intermediaries.
Schomer used a prototype of the machine in his famous Techniques of the Barista video, and anyone who's ever used it cannot stop praising its bottom line quality in the cup. While in Seattle during SCAA 2005, I had a chance to pull some shots on the two group Cyncra, and at Victrola I was served one of the best straight shots ever - pulled on a three group Cyncra.
So we finally meet again.
When I looked at the giant box that landed at my doorstep I was pondering on its significance. As we climb the social ladder, we often expand in size: a bigger house; a bigger car; a bigger waistline (?). How do you know you've made it in the espresso universe? Is it when the package delivering your machine can block the sun?
This one can house a family of six, (well, maybe in Japan). Hook a parachute to it, and it could be dropped from an airplane in mid-flight. The guys at Synesso did a fantastic job in packing it. I feel we are off to a very good start. In the box
The machine weighs a ton. Forget about trying to lift it out of the box. The box walls are cleverly folded and attached with 4 screws. As I released the screws the box walls fell leaving the machine happily exposed on its wooden platform. I released two more screws attaching the machine to the platform, one swift lift, and the machine made it to my dinner table. Synesso Cyncra - front view, I couldn't get my eyes off that paddle wheel Synesso Cyncra - side viewLook at that cool steam wand lever
A bit of history about the machine. The Synesso Cyncra single group was developed for the small coffee shop market. Its intended market from the get go was not home users. So this is a fully commercial machine with an external pump and commercial plumbing hookup. However, products live or die by the market, and as things turned out, almost all the machines sold to date were sold to home users. So regardless of its birth pedigree, this machine was destined to become a home machine, hence my interest in reviewing it.
In this review I will focus on what caught my attention as a home barista. In between shots, I will collect technical performance data on the machine, talk about the machine's construction, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it does what it does. I will also spend significant time on the machine's performance in the cup. When I asked Mark Barnett, the machine's designer & owner of Synesso if there is anything about the machine's technology he wanted me to keep under wraps, he answered: "No, no secrets. Tell it all and tell it like it is." This is going to be an interesting ride, so stick around.
Sean Lennon has been working with me on the machine for the past three days collecting temperature performance data. For those of you who do not know Sean, he is a robotic engineer extraordinaire, and a great contributor to HB. His data collection instruments are hooked up to a laptop and allow automatic recording of machine performance as I take the shots. The data is then analyzed and presented in a series of graphs. Let the computers do the boring stuff; we're here to make espresso.
After all is said and done, the main two questions I will try to answer are these: does the machine really produce a better cup? And the followup question is, can the average home barista really taste that difference? The focus in the 2nd question is on the home enthusiast, with poor to average palate and barista skills. That segment of home users is about 98% of the market. Can we taste the difference, and if so, is it worth paying $3,000-4,500.00 extra over a prosumer machine?
I will be using a PID'ed Brewtus as my control group. Will I be able to detect a startling difference in the shots between a $2,000.00 prosumer machine and the Synesso? This & more will be revealed in the coming days, so stay tuned.