Over the course of two magical evenings in Seattle and Portland, our friends and partners at La Marzocco and Stumptown Coffee Roasters hosted guests from the La Marzocco factory in Florence, Italy. More than a 100 people in total attended the two events, which took place at Stumptown's roasting facilities in Seattle and their new HQ in Portland.
These events were both casual, yet deeply informative affairs, with video segments of time-lapsed Strada construction and factory tours sandwiched between interesting discussion and open Q&A. “What can we do better?”, LM's Italian Marketing Director Chris Salierno asked the room of baristas, technicians, and coffee professionals. Brains were picked, a nice glass of rose or two was consumed, and most importantly, some serious knowledge got dropped.
Here's 5 things we didn't know before we attended these events:
* Stumptown Coffee Roasters sells more La Marzocco espresso machines than any other company in the world.
“It is an understatement to say we stand by these machines,” Stumptown Director of Operations Matt Lounsberry told the crowd in Seattle. Speaking to the assembled in Portland, Stumpy's Senior Account Manager Skip Colombo further elucidated: “When Duane Sorenson started this company 13 years ago, he did so on a Linea. That Linea is still a workhouse in our training facility – the fact that it still rips is a testament to La Marzocco.”
* La Marzocco is actually a tiny company.
You might not guess this was a case, given their popularity in the specialty coffee market, but LM's facility in Florence, Italy only employs around 50 people. They produce fewer than 4000 machines a year, and certain models, like the Mistral, are available on extremely limited runs – only around 10 are made annually, all of which are built by one single individual.
* Every La Marzocco machine name has special meaning.
The “FB” in the FB/70 and FB/80 line stands for “Fratelli Bambi”, or the Bambi brothers, who founded La Marzocco in 1927. The patriarch of modern La Marzocco is Piero Bambi, son of Giuseppe Bambi – Piero still works at the LM factory in Italy and is closely involved in the design of all of LM's new products. His wife is named Giovana Bambi – her initials give the GB-5 series its name.
* La Marzocco's identity is closely tied to the city of Florence.
The La Marzocco lion symbol is adapted from the Il Marzocco statue of Florence, symbolic of Florence itself and dating back to the city's time as Italian city-state. The name – “Marzocco” – comes from Mars, the god of war. Mr. Salierno explains: “The Bambi brothers used this symbol, because for them, every espresso machine sold was like winning a war.”
In the early days of La Marzocco, the Bambi brothers created whole custom-designed cafes to suit their machines, and a few of these still exist in Florence and the surrounding area. “These men were like cafe tailors,” Mr. Salierno told us, “creating custom suits.”
*LM has some exciting new equipment on the horizon, tailored to the specialty market.
Details are still scarce, but Mr. Salierno and Scott Guglielmino, project manager for LM USA, made repeated illusions to new La Marzocco products slated to debut in 2013. They include an updated version of the Linea, scheduled for public exhibition at the 2013 SCAA Event in Boston, and an updated version of the Volcano grinder, which according to Mr. Guglielmino will provide significant improvements on the dosing precision and repeatability currently offered by other grinders on the market. Look for more info on these projects soon.
If you're reading this in New York City or its surrounding environs, it's not too late to catch Meet the Makers! The final event in this series happens tomorrow night, Friday Sept. 7th, at the Stumptown Roastworks in Red Hook (219 Van Brunt Street). The evening kicks off at 6:30 pm.