Home espresso enthusiasts, hold on to your butts.
After three years of engineering efforts and two years of development, our friends and partners at La Marzocco are unveiling their newest product: The La Marzocco Linea Mini. The Linea Mini, like the name suggests, is a miniature version of the legendary Linea Classic—a machine that, over the last quarter century, has reached legendary status. Lineas are loved for their durability and classic looks on the cafe bar, and now, the heavy duty workhorse comes home.
The Linea Mini is just the second home espresso machine developed by the Italian company, joining the GS/3, which debuted in 2007. It's also the second release from the newly launched La Marzocco Home, whose kandy-kolored hot rod mod new GS/3 store we profiled last November.
“This is the analog brother to the GS/3,” says La Marzocco Home Director Scott Callender. We visited Callender and La Marzocco Product Manager Scott Guglielmino in their marketing offices at a Ballard co-working space, where the Linea Mini has been secretly kept away from prying eyes, and dutifully put through her paces making cappuccino in the office kitchen. Unlike the GS/3, the Linea Mini has no digital control. The machine has a familiar paddle switch to engage the group head, which features pre-programmed pre-infusion (one second on, one second off). Temperature can be altered using a click-wheel located on the side.
When asked how soon the user could expect temperature adjustments to take effect, Scott Guglielmino assuaged our fears. “The very next shot will pull at the new temperature,” he said. How? Much in part due to the machine's group head/brew boiler configuration.
The Linea Mini features an “integrated group” where the brew boiler sites on top of the group head. For comparison, the GS/3 has an exposed, “saturated group” head which demands more power. “When there's less space, and it's more compact, less energy is needed,” Guglielmino tells us. “The technology harkens back to the early David Schomer Linea Classic modifications at Espresso Vivace.”
David Schomer was one of the earliest Linea Classic mod geeks, using PID technology to help control temperature stability. In his blog, Schomer writes, “My espresso machine was a prototype La Marzocco Linea that I had tricked-out to hold a two degree Fahrenheit range of brewing accuracy.”
And in terms of temperature stability? The Linea Mini is “phenomenally tight,” says Guglielmino.
But will it make cappuccino? Yes. Yes it will.
From our hands-on experience, the steam pressure on the Linea Mini is a joy to behold. “Steam on this machine is unbelievably powerful,” says Callender. For latte art geeks, the machine ships with a Linea Classic steam tip, and is fully capable of producing milk texture suitable for a 28-tiered tulip.
One big takeaway from the Linea Mini experience is the simplicity. On the front panel there are but two indicator lights: a heating/power light and a water light. There's a paddle to engage the group head (which also engages a set of “barista lights“ below the machine), two knobs on either side (adorned with the Florentine Lily) for hot water and steam, and that aforementioned click wheel on the side for temperature control. That's it!
“We're going back to the essence of making espresso by feel,” Callender tells me.
One feel-good element we loved was the redesigned drip tray. It features *magnets* for easy slide-in/pull-out functionality. It's a detail that's subtle but significant. LOOK AT IT!
In the last two years, tweaks and adjustments were made based on feedback from rigorous in-house and consumer testing. The machine went through two rounds of consumer testing, with 30-40 people having the opportunity to make cappuccino on it at home. “We put this under incredibly heavy use,” says Guglielmino. “We've tortured it, recreating insane use as best we can. It performs as a Marzocco. It's simple, it's reliable.”
* The Linea Mini has a reimagined Linea Classic logo, with raised red letters.
* There's a 3.5 liter water reservoir that slides behind the drip tray, which can be plumbed in as an option.
* Can you turn it off when not in use? Yes! It takes 10-15 minutes before it's ready to pull shots, twenty minutes before it's ready to make cappuccino.
* The Linea Mini is 15″ tall, 14″ wide, and 21″ deep. (The GS/3 is 14″ tall, 16″ wide, and 21″ deep.)
The machine retails for $4495 and comes in four colors: stainless steel, white, black, and red. US pre-orders begin today. Machines will begin shipping in May.
Want a hands on look? The Linea Mini will be showcased at the SCAA Event, within the La Marzocco Home Experience booth at the Washington State Convention Center Sky Bridge in Seattle. Callender tells us the experience “will feel like a kitchen, with Andrew Barnett of Linea Caffe, Kyle Glanville of G&B Coffee, and Chris Baca of HoneyCo pulling shots.”
“We found baristas who grew up with the Linea Classic,” says Guglielmino. Also on display at the SCAA Event are La Marzocco's new LUX grinder, a worldwide Mazzer exclusive designed for use with the Linea Mini. The Lux offers grind-on-demand functionality, funnel dosing, and an adjusted static screen. Retail options for the Lux begin at $975, and it can be shipped with a Linea Mini for a generous combo package price.
Photos by Zachary Carlsen for Sprudge.com.
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