La Marzocco Linea Micra Espresso Machine Review

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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

La Marzocco is best known for their commercial espresso equipment, but since the introduction of the home-friendly GS/3, they've had a special place in the hearts and minds of this site's members. Built on the feedback from owners of the GS/3, they later introduced the La Marzocco Linea Mini. Like the GS/3, the Linea Mini has its fans who actively participate in the forums.

We would like to think that forum members have indirectly helped influence the design of the next iteration of La Marzocco's home lineup, the Linea Micra:


Photo courtesy of La Marzocco Home

As the name suggests, it's really, really small. While it's easy to focus on its obviously reduced size compared to the Linea Mini, the Micra isn't just a scaled down version of its bigger cousin. Under the hood are some genuine innovations.


Photo courtesy of La Marzocco Home

Topping the list of surprises is a rapid cold to ready-to-brew in barely 5 minutes, thanks to its integrated brew boiler/group combination and unique portafilter. It also sports a powerful steam boiler and a whisper-quiet rotary pump. Like the Mini, the Micra can run from a water reservoir that's refilled by removing the driptray or it can be plumbed-in.



Several reviewers have had evaluation units to test the last few weeks and they'll post their initial review comments today. Their experience reports will include group taste tests. Once they've finalized their writeup, their loaner La Marzocco Linea Micra will continue to the next reviewer. Stay tuned!

Please note: So the reviews can be posted in an orderly fashion, this thread will remain closed. If you have questions about the review, please post them here.
Dan Kehn

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another_jim
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#2: Post by another_jim »

The La Marzocco Linea Micra - HB Team Review: Jim Schulman's segment

Headline: 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.



Back Story: 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
-- Depth
---- 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

Steam Pressure:
-- 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

Supplied Extras
-- 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.

-- Maintenance

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.
Jim Schulman
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another_jim
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#3: Post by another_jim »

Jaroslav wrote:For anyone interested to see the internals in detail, here's the Parts Catalogue which includes all specifications (weight, individual boiler wattage, etc.).
Jim Schulman

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IamOiman
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#4: Post by IamOiman »

I had to give the Linea Micra some thought before making a conclusion due to my complete and singular familiarity with lever machines only. This is a machine that is completely new for me outside of a few times while in Italy where I tried pump machines in a commercial environment. Until I received the Micra last month I had never used a pump machine at home.

Unboxing and First Setup

When I received the machine I was surprised at how small it was. I had my Faema Urania in the kitchen when the Linea Micra arrived for a size comparison. I was easily able to move it myself from the garage up three steps and into the house. Perhaps if a user is uncomfortable with moving it alone a second hand will make the job a breeze. It's 44lbs empty according to official specs, which is very light among the many lever machines I own (just the domestic machines weigh less). The feet have suction cups to secure the Micra to the counter surface more easily.





The matte finish is nice and goes well with the stainless steel backsplash. I only utilized the reservoir tank and deep drain tray (ie I did not make any water connections, neither inlet nor drain) for this test. Setup was pretty simple. The drain tray just slips off the front and the reservoir tank can slide out for easier access of the cap for filling. I have since afterwards left the tank in place after taking off the drip tray and can fill it without moving it. The plug is a standard NEMA 5-15 configuration, or a typical 120V 15A plug. Turning on the machine will fill both the brew and steam boilers, and as others have made note the Micra is ready for brewing in 5 minutes and steaming in under 8 minutes. If you want your cups warmed up I would recommend 20 minutes minimum.






I pulled maybe 20 shots on the Micra before beginning the real comparison with my lever machines, although I was already making conclusions since I often had the Micra and at least one other machine on concurrently. To make the comparison interesting I decided to have the Micra compete with the original lever (and modern espresso) machine, my 1 group 1953 Gaggia Classica. I also have a 1 group 1957 Faema Marte in the kitchen for further comparison. There was no true proclivity towards the two levers I selected, they just happened to be what I was using at the time of this review (the Classica is my main driver right now since it has the timer and water fill line attached to my FloJet). I often switch out what machines I use throughout the year.





Comparing to the Lever Machines

I will make a caveat stating that among the many lever machines I own (and of which I have pulled espresso on the majority of them) that I can produce just about the same shot results with my preferred coffee, the five Saka Caffè Bar Line roasts. The comparison between the Marte and Classica will be less interesting than the comparison between the Linea Micra against the Marte and Classica.

To make the comparison fair I used the same coffee in this test, Saka Caffè Espresso Bar. This is a 50% Robusta 50% Arabica roast that makes a very nice espresso that I try to describe as 'vanilla' and 'chocolate' depending on how I extract it. The dose is the same for all three machines but the Micra will use its 15g basket that was included with the machine while the Classica and Marte will use the same style 14g basket that originally was sourced from my Bosco Sorrento. The dose is 14.5g of coffee, and all three doses will be grounded on my Malwani Livi.


I did not change the temperature setting of the Micra, which came to me set to 94° Celsius/201° Fahrenheit. It can be altered on the Marzocco Home app along with automatic turn on/turn off, idle times, and steam boiler pressure.

I pulled quite a few shots between the three machines, and in the following pics I pulled all three shots about the same time. This was just a sample of all the shots I pulled, approaching a number that even makes me jittery. The Micra stands out because its body is very comparable to the levers, and in fact there was a ton of deflation from the Micra shot (part of it is due to the Saka roast being less than 2 weeks post roast date and is still degassing just a bit). I did not expect this result in testing.

Just to iterate: The Saka Cup is from the Classica, the Coffee Point Cup is from the Micra, and the Caffe Toraldo Cup is from the Marte.








In terms of taste I can dial the three machines to produce just about same result, but some adjustment is required as they all have slight preference in grind size. This is why the Micra shot was pulled a little quick in the photos but other times it worked out much better. I had a tester with me to ensure my conclusions were accurate with no prior info on which cup was pulled from each machine. In the end the tester stated it was hard to discern which machine each shot was pulled from but the preference was towards the Classica followed by a tie with the Micra and Marte. The Gaggia Lever group is quite the formidable opponent but it is a pain to service/maintain.



Frothing was extremely easy, I had no issues at all with the steam wand. I also will note I only used the double spout for splitting shots when sharing espresso and did not really use the single spout. They work fine and I understand people may be thrown off by the plastic, but I did not notice any strange or 'off' taste compared to bottomless.



Maintenance

Serviceability is pretty good too from an access perspective. Accessing the group is easy by undoing four slotted machine screws on the top of the front block. La Marzocco managed to cram a lot of parts in a small footprint. The back part of the cup tray is held in by two very strong magnets, and a strong tug is necessary get it off. Two M4 nuts secure the front part of the grille and also need to be loosened for the grille to fully detach.






The body panel slides off by undoing the four upper slotted screws and a phillips screw in the back holding the control box housing, revealing quite a few parts inside that surprised me to be honest. I'm impressed at the density of components. I had a Marzocco tech with me during this time and he told me he likes the Micra layout far more than the Linea Mini due to the ease of accessing the control box and the way that is mounted. On the Linea, he told me there are parts dangling once the housing is off and can be awkward to access.







The lower four slotted screws simply secure the two manometers to a bracket (two screws each).


The App

My final quip is the home app necessary to program the group temperature and a few other items. I absolutely am in the camp that prefers on-hand tinkering. I dislike utilizing the app primarily due to privacy concerns and the fact I never needed an app to program my levers (albeit I had nothing fancier than a Sirai pstat to adjust). I realize that having the options to change settings on the machine itself may have resulted in a screen or board that interrupts the looks, but perhaps if it was hidden somewhere out of side would have been the solution. I bet Marzocco looked into that already but I am stating my opinion only.

Conclusions

I went into this espresso machine thinking I would not be impressed, but now I will state the opposite. It is a nice machine that definitely competes with levers. I cannot say anything in regards to flow valves, mods, or anything pump specific that may be present on other pump machines but not lever machines. I also do not have a good understanding of the price point of $3900, but from using and inspecting the Linea Micra, I do not believe the price is too high from a component quality standpoint.
-Ryan
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
LMWDP #612
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cannonfodder
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#5: Post by cannonfodder »

More to come...

Dave Stephens