The La Marzocco Linea Micra - HB Team Review: Jim Schulman's segment
: The Linea Micra is a compact, apartment friendly version of the Linea Mini, with an improved, integrated brew boiler-group combination, a smaller 1.7 liter steam boiler, and a rotary pump. Like the Mini, it can run on a tank or be plumbed. It measures roughly 12 inches wide, 13 inches high, and 17 inches deep. It will be priced under $4K.
: About three weeks ago a very large preproduction crate with a very small machine inside arrived at my home.
It was the beginning of a team review of LM's new Linea Micra, a smaller version of the Linea Mini. The machine I tested for the last three weeks is now with Dominick. Dan, Tom, and Ryan also have machines that they will test and pass along. Scott Gugliemo is to thank for this early look. The HB reviewers agreed to maintain confidentiality prior to the product announcement; but we are not constrained in any way about what we say in our reviews.
Some specs and details:
These are my own quick measures; later reviewers will be diving far deeper and more accurately into the details.
First off: this is NOT a flow profiling machine. The paddle is a simple on/off switch, like the stock LMLM's. The Micra's sizing and internal layout differs from the LMLM, so I cannot say whether the existing flow control kits will work.
Dimensions in inches:
-- Width 11 1/4
-- Height 13
---- Rear to Front feet 13 1/2
---- Rear to drip tray end 16 1/2
---- Rear to PF Handle: 21
Power Use and Start Times:
-- 1600 watts max
-- From cold start to brew ready: 5 minutes
-- From cold start to 2.25 bar steam: 6:45 minutes
-- Idling power use after warmup estimated at 89 watts
-- 2.25 bar, froths 4 to 6 ounces in under 10 seconds. More details by later reviewers.
Shot Temperature Stability:
-- Straight line profile with less than 1C change. More details by later reviewers
-- Bottomless PF with single and double spout plastic inserts
-- 14 and 17 gram baskets
-- Convex Steel tamper with 58mm and 41mm ends
-- Frothing jug suitable for 6 ounce cappas
Using the machine and who should buy it
: The machine is small, but has the solidity of a commercial machine. There are now many high quality, dual boiler, rotary pump home machines running from $2.5k to $3.5k; the Micra is smaller than these and also more solid. This is not a matter of one thing that stands out, but of all the details being a little bit more solid and well finished. I do not know if this improved fit and finish will translate into higher reliability; but it does, IMO, justify the price premium.
The overwhelming impression in using it is an understated competence. This is a hallmark of both the standard and Mini Linea (see Chris Tacy's review
); but the Micra's group has better stability and shot tuning. The sweet spot for dose and grind is wider than the other Lineas, and the shots will reflect the coffees faithfully, without taste distortions or exagerations, after only minimal dialling in. I did not miss the flow profiling capabilities of the Bianca except for extremely light roasted or unbalanced coffees.
We have a regular get together with local HBers, and this time around, Dominick remarked that it was the first time the bulk of the talk was about the coffees rather than the machines or grinders. People would say they wanted to try one of the many coffees available -- they'd prep and grind, then mostly use the Micra to make the shot, rather than the Bianca or Decent, since the whole process was so fuss free. Note that most of the attendees own lever or profiling machines, so this was not a matter of know how.
Lever and flow profiling machines are like musical instruments, great for playing all the variations on a single coffee. The Decent is about deeply exploring all the variables of espresso prep. The Micra is more like a perfectly transparent tool, so that the emphasis is on the coffee, not the process. The Linea Mini has become well loved by roasters for their cupping labs and coffee sales demos, since it is bullet proof, understated, and puts the spotlight on their coffees. The Micra is solidly in this tradition; but aimed for home use. Think of it as a machine for "cupping" lots of espressos with minimal fuss.
In terms of capacity, like the Mini, it can turn out straight shots at one a minute indefintely. Unlike the Mini, it will hit limits steaming cappas after about four, and need to recover for a few minutes. So it is not suitable for catering gigs; but it will handle most in-home gatherings. In this respect, it is like the other dual boiler machines in this class.
Who should buy it? If space is a constraint and cost isn't; this may the best machine out there. If you like to try lots of different coffees, and get a faithful impression of each without endless fine tuning; this is a very good choice. If you want to do extremely light roasts, or examine all the variations of a single coffee; this is not your machine. Profiling machines do that better.
You will need to know your way around an espresso machine to get the most out of this machine. But it is forgiving enough to make learning to do so a pleasant experience; so this is is also a good choice for a beginner willing to learn.
A few details
-- Will you miss flow control?
I did two rounds of blind taste testing pitting the LMLu's shots (our abbreviation for the Micra) against my Bianca's profiled ones. This involved pulling the shots simultaneously, then me shuffling the cups, while my tasting partner looked away, then vice versa, then tasting and comparing notes. In the first round, we used one week old medium to light roasts, and we found no systematic differences. In the second round, we used 3 day old light to very light roasts, and the profiled shots were systematically distinguishable in being softer. This benefitted the more edgy coffees and hurt the mellow ones.
Others will comment in more detail. The group and brew boiler can be uncovered undoing four screws. The rest of the machine requires, in addition, loosening two nuts, removing the top warming plate, then undoing several screws to lift off the case. The pump pressure can be adjusted with only the warming plate removed, but firmware replacements seem to require a full opening up. Overall, the servicing of this machine is about the same as the LMLM
-- The App
This is my biggest beef. The shot temperature can only be adjusted via the app. Despite the machine having bluetooth (it's used to connect it to your home WiFi), you have to establish an account and log in to LM Home to adjust the machine. First off, this is a ridiculous invasion of privacy. Second it is buggy. I got locked out after a bug caused it not to recognize my password nor allow me to reset it. The machine should be adjustable locally via bluetooth, and not require logging into the LM servers. Everything about the Linea is understated and no fuss, except for this absurdity.
Please stay tuned for the rest of the team; this is just the first round.