The idea of a stripped down La Marzocco home espresso machine modeled after the old, simple Linea is right in my personal sweet spot. In a world of precision digital systems and measurement and data driven coffee brewing, the idea of a purely analog experience felt not just retro, but rather liberating. It's solid and well-built, but most of all, it communicates the La Marzocco heritage and the model lineage perfectly. I just smile when I see it on my counter.
ESPRESSO: One of the most intriguing things about the Linea Mini is the way brew temperature is managed. On the side of the Linea Mini is a little dial marked at 200°F with detents at roughly 0.3°F increments. To adjust brew temperature, you rotate the dial, pull a shot, and taste it. You then tune based upon the taste and your target profile. Personally, I love the idea. Of course, there will be a segment of the audience that will find this unacceptable - and who will want the comfort of a digital control.
The Linea Mini was exceptionally easy to dial in. It took less than 5 shots to get the grind, dose and temperature in the right spot. The Linea Mini provides exceptional feedback.
CAPPUCCINOS AND LATTES: The steam wand was simultaneously amazing and frustrating. The steam is perfectly dry and the wand has extraordinary power. With the stock 4 hole tip, it's shockingly easy and quick to produce perfect thick or easily pourable milk. Steaming while brewing works perfectly. The wand position is constraining, but its power and control really is exceptional. It's quite similar to a commercial La Marzocco in that you need to react quickly as things change fast. Unlike with most commercial machines, however, it's less important to have "calm hands" with this wand. If you react quickly, you're pretty much good to go. Stretching milk takes only a few seconds, so it's important to be prepared in order to avoid over-stretching.
When serving a group, the workflow with the Linea Mini is easy, thanks to its prodigious steam capacity. I could lock in the portafilter, start the extraction, confirm the pour proceeded as expected, and still have enough time to finishing steaming before it was time to stop the extraction. Every barista will have their own preference for positioning the steam wand; I found positioning it facing outward and slightly to the right worked well for the back-and-forth movement necessary to purge condensation and creating a vigorous end-over-end roll in the milk.
NEWBIE VS PRO COMMENTS: Below is part of the participant feedback from the La Marzocco Linea Mini test at Counter Culture Coffee's training center:
And at the other extreme:Phillip "the newbie" Marquis wrote:I really like the paddle system to pull a shot. It does make me feel like a pro in a coffee shop every time I'm using it. Also, the steam is incredible; super-fast and powerful. It can steam a sizable cup of milk in no time at all. Faster than most other machines I've used. My thought is that this is an indication of why it is a larger machine than the others.
I also like the simplicity of this machine. I don't feel like it has a million settings that I'm not taking advantage of because I don't understand them. The lighting system is easy to understand... one light to let you know it's on, the other to let you know it's hot. I also like the water tank design how it is located under the machine behind the driptray. However, it can be inconvenient if your machine is not plumbed in, or next to a water source because it stays connected to the machine by a water tube. Because of this tube connection, it is hard to tip the reservoir over to empty it if you need to transport the machine. I do love the design of the driptray though. It has a magnetic connection that snaps into place to let you know that it's secured.
All in all, I'm most impressed with the sturdiness and build quality of this machine. Again, you truly feel like you are using a pro-machine. There is nothing on it that is flimsy or feels breakable. I'm sure even though it's considered a mini, it would be great for a small café.
SUMMARY: The La Marzocco Linea Mini is really gorgeous and accurately expresses the heritage and lineage that lies behind it. It's a wonderful espresso machine for those who want to focus on the coffee. The Linea Mini takes itself out of the equation, allowing the espresso to be simply about the coffee and the barista.Lem Butler, 2016 World Barista Finalist wrote:The "mini-liny" is an impressive home machine. After years of using the GS3 both at home and in the field (coffee demos), I would prefer the mini. Here's why: 1) The steam wand performance is reminiscent of its older siblings the Linea and GB5. 2) The consistency in espresso preparation outperforms any other home machine on the market. 3) The ergonomics make sense giving its user comfort and possibly extra confidence in their own skills on espresso preparation. 4) The compact size makes for easy kitchen placement. Finally, the price point is more "affordable" than any home machine with similar positives.
If you are a "gear head" who loves tinkering and modifying your espresso machine, the Linea Mini might not be a great fit for you. But if you are a "coffee person", you may well love this machine. This is not an espresso machine for beginners. If you don't know how to tune extraction parameters by taste, you're probably going to get frustrated. Personally, I absolutely love the La Marzocco Linea Mini.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)