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La Marzocco GS/3 MP Review
Conclusion


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La Marzocco GS/3 MP (manual paddle)
Many online comments I've read about the La Marzocco GS/3 emphasize its temperature reproducibility; there's less discussion of the machine's impressive capacity. I learned this first-hand at an event where I agreed to serve espresso/cappuccinos. For a home barista used to serving no more than 4-6 people in a session, it was quite a surprise to have 8+ orders waiting for my attention. I quickly came to appreciate the time-saving speed techniques mentioned by pros visiting this board, even if I applied them less fluidly than I care to admit.

What impressed me about the GS/3 is how effortlessly I was able to pull drink after drink with nary a thought about flush routines, recovery time, etc. Coupled with a steam time of 15 seconds for a cappuccino, it was easy to start the extraction and have enough time to finish steaming before it was time to end the shot. This level of speed and consistency was something I expect from the two-group on my espresso bar, but the GS/3 packs similar capacity in a portable (albeit heavy) package.

When someone who's unfamiliar with making espresso at home asks about budgeting for equipment on this site, the response is frequently greeted by an incredulous gasp. Their reaction is understandable because espresso gear-- for them --isn't a "rare air" purchase. That's the type of purchase where budget is a distant concern, well behind considerations like performance, capability, and the sheer pleasure of operating a top-notch piece of equipment. Keeping this in mind, a typical GS/3 buyer is someone who:

  1. Has ample funds to pay for it,
  2. Expects precise control of the espresso-making process, and
  3. Appreciates and is willing to pay a premium for uncompromising craftsmanship.

The last two points really encapsulate the idea that the "holy grail" of espresso machines is transparency, i.e., when the equipment is so consistent, predictable, and easy to use that it fades into the background so the focus remains solely on appreciating coffee. The La Marzocco GS/3 MP delivers this ideal; it's truly an exacting tool dedicated to the professional (or near professional) barista.

This review continues the use of this site's streamlined format, which includes a simplified 5 star ratings rather than the 10 point scale of the detailed Buyer's Guide. The La Marzocco GS/MP ratings are as follows:

    Overall: 5 stars
    Espresso Performance: 4.5 stars
    Forgiveness Factor: 4.5 stars
    Cappuccino Performance: 5 stars

The Forgiveness Factor rating captures how well the espresso machine tolerates minor errors in barista technique. When the GS/3 MP is plumbed in, preinfusion time is controlled by the barista. In this mode, the forgiveness factor is at its highest, 4.5 stars. When not plumbed in, the preinfusion pressure is too low, reducing this phase to prewetting, not preinfusion; the forgiveness factor takes a small hit as a result, lowering to a still rock-solid 4.0 stars.

As noted earlier in this review, the GS/3's temperature consistency represents the industry's state-of-the-art. It delivers espressos that are medium-bodied with clarity (separation of flavors). Coupled with these characteristics and its consistency shot-to-shot, the GS/3 earns a near perfect 4.5 stars for its Espresso Performance score. The GS/3's larger siblings, the La Marzocco Strada MP and EP, offer control over the brew pressure profile, edging them towards a perfect 5.0 stars.

For its Cappuccino Performance, the GS/3 is professional barista's dream. Fast, nicely balanced, and easy to control, even newbies will quickly master the GS/3's steaming power. Professionals will feel right at home with the GS/3 when compared to the mult-group La Marzocco equipment they use at work. Whether you're steaming milk for a standard cappuccino or a large latte, the GS/3 will never disappoint, meriting a unqualified 5.0 stars.

Revisiting the GS/3 review I wrote back in 2006, I recognize more than ever the value of consistency shot-to-shot and the barista's confidence that changing one variable (e.g., temperature, dose) will produce the desired result. In that regard, the GS/3 excels. The Overall score considers all the other previously mentioned categories as well as considerations like fit and finish, serviceability, and maintainability. La Marzocco collects feedback from customers/vendors to proactively correct problems via regular service update bulletins, which means even home users benefit. Combined with its selection of top-notch components and consistent espresso, the GS/3 MP earns an overall 5.0 stars. Plainly stated, it's a worthy reference platform for professional baristas and home baristas, assuming one is willing to part with a large stack of $100 bills to acquire one.

Acknowledgements

Without the support of HB sponsors, reviews such as this would not be possible. I would like to thank Chris' Coffee Service for the loaner evaluation equipment. I would also like to thank Counter Culture Coffee and Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea for the test coffees used during this review.

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