Last week in Milan, our friends and partners at La Marzocco held the fourth edition of Out of the Box, a biennial event that brings together coffee professionals from around the world for two days of workshops and lectures in tandem with the city’s enormous hospitality conference, HOST. But before OOTB kicked off, La Marzocco held its annual Partner Summit (Sprudge was graciously given special access to attend), and used the occasion to showcase four concept espresso machines. It was here they unveiled La Curva, a prototype lever espresso machine that raised eyebrows and garnered a lot of attention from social media.
Much like auto manufacturers showcase concept vehicles long before production (if any production at all), La Curva is still very much a work in progress. The working prototype was on display throughout Out of the Box, giving the 1,000 participants a chance for a hands-on look. Not content to simply gawk—though that would be a perfectly understandable reaction—I sat down to learn more from Whitney Cornell, VP of Sales and Marketing for La Marzocco USA, and US Product Manager Scott Guglielmino to get the straight scoop on their new lever machine.
“Out of the Box is our opportunity to show what are research and development team is working on,” says Cornell. The company’s R&D department, tucked away in their Florence factory, is shrouded in mystery. La Marzocco is currently in the process of expanding the department’s footprint, taking over a large amount of the factory’s top floor. Only a handful of employees are granted access beyond the door, and that’s where La Curva has been hiding for some three years.
La Curva is a “modern interpretation of a lever machine,” says Guglielmino. In a presentation given before the machine’s unveiling, La Marzocco’s managing director Guido Bernardinelli likened it to “reinventing the black and white television.” One of the company’s newest mechanical engineers, Andrea Dionisio, was tasked with coming up with a reinterpretation of what a modern lever machine could be. In 1938, the first lever espresso machine paved the way for pressurized espresso. La Marzocco felt that Dionisio’s project would be a way of giving him an opportunity to learn the history of espresso.
Holland-based industrial designer Paul Schilperoord is largely responsible for the machine’s look. “I was inspired by the wild and expressive designs of espresso machines from the 1950s,” Schilperoord told me. Some of the design elements Schilperoord executed include side panels that curve, an adjustable drip tray, a back hood that lifts up for easy access to the machine’s parts, and a rounded body that highlights the dual boilers within. Drain tubes and electrical cords are noticeably absent below the machine, as they are hidden in La Curva’s back legs.
The machine features a completely different style of lever, with an emphasis on ergonomics and safety. The levers are easier to pull than your typical level espresso machine, and they have safety features that prevent them from kicking back. Instead, once the lever is pulled down, it locks into place and returns slowly [click for video]. A user can control the amount of water that dispenses by adjusting the spring and positioning the lever in a series of notches.
To steam milk, one activates the steamer with a small lever positioned directly above the wand, designed to be easy for righties and lefties. More impressive is the wand’s cool-touch tech, outfitted with double insulation and a vacuum to prevent burns.
Each group is equipped with probes that detect the pressure at the puck, with gauges that rest to each group’s side.
The machine will undergo at least another year of refinement (rumors were circulating that the company plans to reduce the size of the levers, among other styling tweaks) and no production schedule has been cemented. At this point, pricing information is certifiably “whoocs” (Portland slang for “Who Can Say”).
Not content to let just the La Curva get people wiggling, La Marzocco also displayed prototype Strada AVs (volumetric dosing), a next-generation Strada EP, and a GS/3 with classic GS stylings at Out of the Box. Expect much more to come from LM in 2016, and much more from Sprudge as we unpack what we unboxed at Out of the Box 2015.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.