We are living in a Neo-Italian espresso preparation era. Espresso is being brewed meticulously by fastidious baristas around the world on top of the line equipment. Old world Italian methods like pre-ground espresso, full dosing chambers, 1:3 ratios, and 14 gram baskets are en vogue. What's old is new again. Perfecting these practices with scales, better grinders, and much better coffee? Well, that's what makes this such a delicious time to be an espresso drinker.
Here's a new wrinkle in the pursuit for delicious espresso coffee, courtesy of our friends and partners at La Marzocco: La Marzocco's Linea PB espresso machine will soon be available with scales built in to the drip tray. SCALES IN THE DRIP TRAYS.
Scales in drip trays are not a brand new concept; several other espresso machine companies have been tinkering with similar tech, and La Marzocco themselves outfitted prototype Strada espresso machines with scales all the way back in 2012. But in the three years since then, and with help in partnership with the scale masters at Luminaire, La Marzocco have created scales they claim are capable of reading precise weights during even the most jiggly of high-volume situations.
The Linea PB will soon be available for purchase with built-in drip tray scales. This is a real thing that is happening. La Marzocco have also created something called Auto Brew Ratio, a technology that's going to get coffee geeks wiggling.
What's Auto Brew Ratio?
With standard volumetric dosing, you're stopping shots at a predetermined weight. With BBR, you're weighing a dosed portafilter with a built-in scale. The machine reads the precise (tenth-of-a-gram) weight of the dose, and based on the brew ratio you program (say, 50%), the espresso machine will deliver the exact amount of water required for that ratio based on the coffee inside the portafilter. WTF.
Go Get Em Tiger, the popular and trendsetting cafe in Los Angeles co-owned by 2015 US Barista Championship winner Charles Babinski, are testing a prototype now. Two Linea PBs outfitted with BBR tech are also at the outdoor rooftop food hall at Mercado Central in Florence, Italy.
These machines are expected to start selling summer 2015. The price has yet to be released.
How to pull a shot using Auto Brew Ratio technology:
1. Set the ratio you prefer. Say you want a milk drink (your cortado, your flat white), and you don't want a big old high volume shot of espresso. You prefer a more concentrated brain-melter that'll sooth your cappuccino rather than over-power it. That's what I like, anyway. I'd probably aim for something like a 40% ratio.
But if I wanted to pull a lungo-Scandy-lightly-roasty-Pergy-is-this-an-americano?-Kenyan-single-origin-mammer-jammer, maybe I'd want a 70% ratio. Sometimes you just want a gigantic shot of espresso. Who knows. Too much? Let's meet in the middle, like 50%? Maybe 52%? The world's your oyster. It's up to you to pick the ratio.
2. Dose your portafilter.
3. Hold down the “single shot” button on the Linea PB.
4. Set your portafilter on the built-in scales. All portafilters delivered with the Linea PB are tested to be the same consistent weight.
5. The machine weighs the dose, and sends the information to the computer. Hold the “shot” button to confirm.
6. Place your tasteful espresso vessel on the scale.
7. Engage the group. The scale will automatically tare and begin weighing the shot.
8. As the scale reads, the computer plots an expected weight, filtering out erroneous data (counter bumps, machine shakes, and general jiggles).
9. The group automatically shuts off a few drips short of the ratio, allowing the water in the portafilter not yet read by the scale to drip down into the shot. The amount of drips vary based on roast level, coffee age, water quality, climate, and probably like, moonbeam variance and cow skull crystallization cycles, or whatever. This part of the process can be calibrated.
The result? A shot that matches the ratio you pre-set. Boom. Each group head is independently programmable, giving you the option of having a total of six brew ratios in a three-group machine. Or three groups with different temperatures. You have options.
For their part, La Marzocco calls Auto Brew Ratio “a proprietary advancement in electronics,” and claim that it “will give baristas the scale integration they have asked for, removing steps in preparation and ensuring the best shot-to-shot consistency.” Those quotes are from a La Marzocco press release, which you can read in full at SprudgeWire.com.
Innovative espresso companies like La Marzocco see the incorporation of scales with powerful computer brains as a potential boon for quality-minded baristas and cafe owners. Achieving consistent brew ratios in a busy cafe environment amounts to a kind of holy grail for espresso geeks: long sought after, hard to achieve, and surely worth the weight, er, wait. It means we as a society are edging one step closer to a future world where espressos taste good all the time. Yum.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and senior editor at Sprudge.