La Marzocco Linea Micra Espresso Machine Review - Page 2

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HB (original poster)
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#11: Post by HB (original poster) »

I loaned the Linea Micra to my friend Martin to get a "newbie" point of view; I've updated the first post to include the video. Later we'll post a comparison of the Linea Micra and a popular E61 double boiler, the ECM Synchronika.
Dan Kehn

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cannonfodder
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#12: Post by cannonfodder »

As my time with the Micra is nearing a close and I prepare my performance notes I find myself becoming bored with the machine, and in a very good way.

I find myself looking at my cup or pitcher and thinking, "Huh, another picture-perfect espresso". It just works, to the point the machine has become agnostic to the coffee-making process. Letting me focus on the cup, and not what it took to get to the cup. Weigh, grind, dose, tamp, flip the lever on, flip the lever off, and another perfect espresso.



By the way, that is a brown speckle glaze cup, that is not a messy spritzed all over the cup shot.
Dave Stephens

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HB (original poster)
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#13: Post by HB (original poster) »

As part of the review process, I like to "stress test" an espresso machine by serving a crowd. The General Manager at Leith Porsche in Cary, Jason Jones, was happy to host me and the La Marzocco Linea Micra for their monthly cars-n-coffee event:



Jason said the turnout was still down from pre-pandemic times; he expected around 40 people over the course of 3 hours. I planned for 60 and only had barely enough to make 3 more espressos when I shut down. It has been a few years since I catered an event and my speed /attention to detail were both a little rusty. It kind of shows in this video: :?
The pace was not a problem for cappuccinos and lattes, but Americanos really cratered the steam boiler. I had to use a mini pitcher to catch the espresso since the 12 ounce cups they supplied don't clear the portafilter, even if it's bottomless:



The extra step didn't really impact my workflow much -- the drink-to-drink time was around 2 minutes, which was fine for this relatively small crowd. The Linea Micra was plumbed in using a Flojet and accumulator, so there was no time lost to refilling the reservoir. I didn't count how many times I emptied the driptray, but I'd guess it was 2 or 3 times during active service and once for final cleanup. The longest the drink line got was 4 or 5 drinks, far from the record of more than 12 (!) from pre-pandemic days.

I had the steam boiler at its lowest setting. Given that the Linea Micra, grinder, and Flojet were all running off the same power strip, I didn't want to risk popping a breaker (my setup is the receptionist's desk and there's only one outlet). But even at its lowest setting, steaming was fast enough for a modest pace and producing microfoam was ridiculously easy.



Botton line: As La Marzocco mentioned in the announcement, the Linea Micra handles 5-6 drinks in succession without issue. But given its low clearance not allowing for go-to type cups beyond 10 ounces and the steam boiler struggling with Americano water draws, I recommend sticking with a home environment, or if it's a group setting, restricting it to a slow paced event (i.e., not faster than 90 seconds drink-to-drink time and use a hot pot for Americano water).
Dan Kehn
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cannonfodder
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#14: Post by cannonfodder »

The Micra performs like a champ. La Marzocco machines are known for their quality shots but not necessarily for ease of use. They can be a bit fiddly and demand your attention to detail which is rewarded with exceptional shots. The Micra on the other hand is a very forgiving machine. As long as you pair it with a good grinder, good coffee, and modest skills you are rewarded with easy-to-pull espressos. It is one of the most consistent and easy-to-use espresso machines I have used.

Heat up time
La Marzocco says ready to pull shots in 5 minutes, which is a very fast heat-up. While timing the warmup the brew boiler is at temperature (91C) in 5 minutes, the steam boiler is not. The system energizes the brew boiler first, then the steam which takes an additional 5-6 minutes to heat (steam boiler power setting of 2). If you want to make a cappuccino, plan for 10-12 minutes. It takes additional time for the portafilter and group mass to fully warm and stabilize. Personally, I would suggest giving the brew group 10 minutes. It is one of the fastest heat ups I have seen in a double boiler home espresso machine.

Steaming
The steam boiler has 3 power settings, 1, 2, and 3. Simple enough. I have been running the machine on setting 2, which is right at 1.5 bar. Steaming 4 to 8 ounces of milk is quick and simple. If you plan on steaming less than 4oz, you may want to lower the setting to 1. If you are a fan of big milk drinks, 10+ ounces, then a setting of 3 would be appropriate. You can turn off the steam boiler in the app, but I would suggest not. Even if you only steam milk once a day (more on that later).

Steaming times are quick. In my tests I was using cold tap water since milk is expensive these days. Using 55°F water and heating to 120°F (carryover continues to around 130F) with a power setting of 2. I was measuring with a Fluke and Type K thermocouple. Using 8, 6, and 4 ounces of liquid consistently took 14, 11, and 7 seconds to heat. If you are using 40°F milk in a frozen pitcher, add another 3-4 seconds, which still makes it a fast steaming machine.

Steaming is easy. I had a friend over to use the Micra and he was surprised by the speed and ease compared to his double boiler espresso machine. He was asking how deep to bury the tip at the start, how long to surf the tip before plunging, pitcher angle, etc... My response, "Just put it in and turn it on." No surfing, no dancing. Put the tip just off the bottom of the pitcher, turn on the steam, and when you feel the pitcher getting warm, turn it off. No fuss steaming and silky microfoam.




Brew temperature stability
Checking temperature stability with a Scace-II and Fluke, the Micra performed very well. With the steam boiler on I was getting 1.4 degrees Celsius above the boiler set point (91°C). With the steam boiler off, I was getting 0.5 degrees Celsius above the set point (91°C) with slightly more delta through the shot.

Earlier I hinted at keeping the steam boiler on, even though you can turn it off. That is for consistency and stability. The Micra has a preheat coil that runs around the steam boiler. With the steam boiler off, you do not get the benefit of pre-heated water hitting the small brew boiler. The result can be seen in the videos. Even with the steam boiler off, it is still a very stable machine, but the preheat adds that little extra.

91 Celsius with steam boiler on
91 Celsius with steam boiler off
Pre-infusion
The Micra has the ability to do real pre-infusion, provided you plumb it in. Pre-infusion is configured through the app (detailed in the first portion of my review). With most of my coffee, I found a pre-infusion setting of 7 to 9 seconds at 3 bar ideal. That gave me a gentle saturation of the coffee puck with slight beading of coffee on the basket's surface just as the pump engaged. That may have aided the Micra's forgiveness factor.

Plumbed-in you also have the benefit of never bothering with filling a water tank. All the water you want without being interrupted in the morning when you realize the tank is low and the machine did not heat. You also have the benefit of fresh, cold water. No stale water in the tank if you do not use the machine for a couple of days. Once you go to a plumbed-in machine, going back to a tank-based system is difficult.

Espresso
Yes, it makes espresso.

It took 3 shots to get the machine dialed in. After a week of use, it became silly easy to make drinks. I have used several La Marzocco espresso machines and own a GS/3 MP. Whatever LM did in the design of the Linea Micra, they succeeded in making one of the most forgiving and easy-to-use LMs to date. It just works.

One thing I noticed is that baskets needed a slightly reduced dose when compared to the GS3. On average I ran 0.5 gram less in dose on the Micra in comparison to my GS/3. It appears to have just a little less headspace. Dosing too high will cause the top of the puck to scrape on the shower screen and screen mounting screw. That will obviously disturb the puck and you will get uneven extractions.

Shots were creamy with ample body and clarity. Shots often ran to just below the rim of my demitasse cup with 36-38 grams extracted and crema to the brim of the cup.

For reference, I was using a KafaTek Monolith and Weber Key grinder. My basket of preference was an IMS competition precision basket. As with everything subjective, your preferences will probably vary.

I have really enjoyed having the Micra on my coffee bar. It has been my daily driver for over a month with zero issues. It does have its own little quirks. The most prominent is the app. It does occasionally drop the connection and without the Micra on your Wi-Fi network, functionality is limited. I had one instance in particular where I was using the backflush option in the app. It simply refused to connect. It would link over Bluetooth but not Wi-Fi. The function is disabled unless you are on Wi-Fi. I rebooted the phone, and the machine, turned things off, and on, reset my router, and it simply refused to connect for almost an hour. I was frustrated to the point of nearly tossing it back in the box and walking away. Then a half hour later it just worked. So expect an occasional application glitch.

The Micra became so simple and repeatable to operate that I eventually stopped thinking about the machine. It became a means to an end and part of the workflow. I could concentrate on the coffee, blends, and extraction ratios and not fiddle with the machine. Paired with a good grinder, quality coffee, and modest skill it turned out exceptional coffee with remarkable ease. I am going to miss this little guy when it goes back to La Marzocco.

Dave Stephens

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HB (original poster)
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#15: Post by HB (original poster) »

The question "How is the Linea Micra packaged?" came up offline and I thought it would be helpful for the review. Thanks to Ben at La Marzocco for the photos.






Dan Kehn