Understanding Espresso

Today I hosted a gathering of coffee folks of all forms and persuasions.
They'd all come to check out the GS3.

It was really fun. People were really impressed.

We had a good time.

But... in retrospect... I screwed up.

The GS3 has been so exciting - it's so cool and so trick... it's one of those "fetish" pieces of gear. And as a result - I've kind of lost sight of what we're really doing here.

I've become so focused on the machine and its features and it's coolness that I've lost sight of what it means to be a barista. I've lost sight of the espresso.

Today I served coffee to people that wasn't as good as it could have been - not because I was having an off day but because it wasn't what I was focused on.
The espresso had become an excuse for the use of the machine.
And that is just plain wrong.

I wasn't paying attention.
I wasn't focused.
I wasn't thinking about the coffee.

It's been a slow, incremental process of losing my focus and becoming more and more distracted and less and less interested in taste.
I just stopped paying attention to the flavour - I stopped thinking about the results and treating the machine as what it is - a tool for creating great espresso. Yes - it's a truly great tool for this purpose - but I need to stay focused on that goal and on that purpose.

To those who came and visited - I apologize. I did you all a disservice. I promise I'll do my level best to never let it happen again.

I need to get back to what it's all about.
I need to get back to what's in the cup.
Because that is what this is all about. All the time. Every day.

Tomorrow is a new day.


Full details and progress notes (and tons of photos) for the GS3 Prototype eval are here.


I know that some people consider me an egomaniac.

Regardless, it's nice to get some external validation of my opinions on the GS3.

Billy and Dan from Albina Press came over to play with the machine today. It's was incredibly cool.

We all pulled a whole bunch of shots of the Hairbender, made some cappuccinos and an americano, drank way too much coffee, talked smack and even broke out the Scace again.

It sounds like we have total agreement on two differences in the cup with this machine (as compared to a Linea for example). First - it's a "denser" cup, with a very heavy and coating mouthfeel. Second - it's very, very clean - the elusive "clarity" thing again. It was great to have both of them say the same things I've been thinking when it comes to the experience of the espresso from this machine.

Billy made a couple rocking cappuccinos (though both he and Dan also struggled with the lack of articulation on the wand).

It was a serious geek fest!

Oh... and the Scace tests showed ridiculous temp stability - both Intra and Inter shot. Scary to think that this is a prototype and the PID is still going to get tuned more.

Way too fun!

Add to this Kyle's comment about a shot from the machine that "sweet jesus, it was one of the top shots of Hair Bender I have had, aside from ones pulled at the Stumptown cafes by Stumptown baristas" and I'm starting to feel more confident in my enthusiasm for this machine.


The GS3 continues to impress and delight.

And, in light of what I'm learning about this machine I have a little mea culpa to deliver. I've long said, "the espresso machine is a tool - like a hammer. It's all in the skill of the barista." While this may be true - the reality is that some methods of driving nails are far, far more effective, efficient, consistent and easy to use than others. If your usual "prosumer" espresso machine is a hammer than this baby is a belt drive, pneumatic nail gun.

I've issues an open invitation to folks to come and check the machine out on Friday AM. This will be a chance for people to look at the machine, taste espressos and espresso drinks made with it, pull shots and talk smack.

I have the feeling I'm going to be saying, "sorry - but you cannot look behind the curtain" a whole lot - but in the end I figure that I'm going to get some good results, some good opinions and give folks a chance to see something really extraordinary.

Should be fun.


Marzocco GS3

For those with a keen eye, yes... the previous post was, in fact, the long-awaited La Marzocco GS3. To be more exact, it was a prototype of the GS3.

For those who don't know... the La Marzocco GS refers to a series of historic machines. Beginning with the original GS (the "paddle group" machine) and then moving on to the semi-auto GS2 - the Marzocco GS line represented a breakthrough machine at the time. These machines are still in use and many people feel that they still represent some of the best machines made.

The folks at LMI (in particular, Bill Crossland and of course John Blackwell and Kent Bakke) began working on a new GS machine a while back. This has been refered to as the "La Marzocco Home Machine" on and off. As time has passed, various details have leaked and various prototypes displayed. Earlier this year better details were finally made public and recently some new prototypes have been released. These are "late model" prototypes given that the launch date for the machine is said to be in this coming year.

After much begging and pleading - and with the help of folks like Bronwen, Terry, Kent et al - I finally got a chance to check out one of the prototypes. So now I have a prototype GS3 sitting in my kitchen. Incredible!!!

This is a single group, 110v, automatic machine. It's a reservoir machine rather than a plumbed in one. It has an internal rotary pump. It's dual boiler and it's PID controlled.

It is sick.

After four days of testing it is very clear that:

1 - this is really not a home machine in the same way that an 8 burner Viking Stove is not a home range. Yes, it can be used in your home and yes, it would be amazing in your home -- but to say it's overkill is an understatement. If money were no object... sure, I'd have both in my home!

2 - this is a true, no-compromise dream machine. It takes everything that Marzocco has learned and applies it all in one, small, box. And it throws in a few new twists as well. The tech geeks are going to get all hot and bothered over this machine --- but at the same time, the coffee freaks are going to seriously flip out when they taste the results in the cup.

It's incredible. Truly incredible.
I'm actually having a hard time accurately measuring temp stability due to standard deviation with my measurement rig. I mean - sure, I can easily conclude that we're looking at stability of equal to or less than 0.5F. Beyond that... I'm having to jump through some ridiculous hoops.
And in the cup... I'm getting espresso with all the clarity I dream of - the definition and distinct flavours of a shot from a PID'ed Mistral or Synesso or GB5. And at the same time I get incredible concentration and a super dense and syrupy mouthfeel. Shots are incredibly intense and focused.

I've pulled shots with five different coffees now. I'm starting to see some commonalities in character of shot. Reproduction of flavour is fantastic, clarity is amazing and mouthfeel is just plain sick. I'm wondering if the incredible temp stability is resulting in a higher amount of emulsified oils.

Life is GOOD.