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The great machine showdown
La Pavoni Espresso Plus vs. La Marzocco
Linea
Something dawned on me quite recently which caused me to panic.  Are "Coffeegeeks" and "alties" the
equivalent to the coffee community as the "boy racers" with Honda Civics with after-market surfboard-sized spoliers
to the auto enthusiasts?  Do people laugh at us yet we think we are the bees knees?

Then I sat down and wrote a list and what I eventually came up with was that the modifications to espresso coffee
machines actually do affect the experience in the cup - whereas "modding" your Toyota Supra just results in scaring
old grannies in the street with an exhaust pipe the size of an oil drum.

Lately I have noticed an awful lot of posts over on Coffeegeek about "upgrade fever" by people that already have an
amazing piece of equipment, and they have only owned it for a few months.  It was mentioned in a thread on
alt.coffee that people are actually more interested in the equipment and preparation side of coffee than the actual
drinks produced!

One thing is true, forums these days are dominated by talk about PID installations, Relays and K-type
thermocouples more so than the basics of espresso making - known as the 4 M's.  A lot of the questions posted in
forums are seeking black and white answers "What grind setting on my Mini do I use?", "Which temp is best for my  
blend?"  and the answer should always be the same "We don't know, your taste buds are yours, only you know".  
OK that sounds a bit harsh but coffee is a very personal thing and it is difficult to have grind settings, temp setting,
roast profiles, tamp pressures, dosage quantity, flat tamp, curved tamp, twist tamp etc...the same between two
people.

Get to the point...OK I think many people are focusing on the advanced techniques and skimming the important
basics, the foundations of the preparation process - the 4 M's.

   
Miscela -                     the blend of coffee
   Macinazione -             the grinding of the coffee
   Macchina -                  the coffee machine
   Mano -                         the operator, skill of the operator


I often say that I have a small Pavoni machine at home that can make drinks better than 99% of coffee shops, bars,
restaurants and dozens of  Five Star hotels in Hong Kong.  Well here goes....
The set-up
Other items used

Coffee beans - I used my own Fair Trade espresso blend which was roasted about 10 days prior to the test.  10
days!...yeah I know, I know...

Grinder - 2 x Macap MXA, (same as Mazzer S-J)

Tamper - for the LM PF I used a custom made stainless steel 57.5mm flat bottom tamper.   For the crappy 53mm
Pavoni basket (53mm why????) I used a custom made 53mm plastic tamper.

Water - Both machines used a "mineralised" distilled water from the same carboy.

Warm-up times - The Linea has been on for over 1 week. The Pavoni was switched on about 20 mins before the
test.

Dosage - The Pavoni has around 10g.  The double LM basket has about 16g
The shots from the Linea









I decided to do 3 shots from each machine, at the same time. So it was Linea, Pavoni, Linea, Pavoni, Linea and
Pavoni.  The last shots on each machine went into a ceramic cup rather than a shot-glass.  My routine for the La
Marzocco shots were; knock out grounds, quick wipe of PF was cloth, grind and then flap, flap flap as it grinds. Level
off and then tamp. The quickest of blips on the brew switch (since my group is modified) and then brew.  First drops
appear around 7-8 seconds and then the total shot pours were OK. (I stopped timing shots about 3 years ago).
This website is created by Paul Pratt, Hong Kong 2004-5. If you would like to use any of the images or text I am sure
I will say yes, but please ask first!  

Email me here.
Side by Side comparisons

Let me look at a few basic characteristics - the pour, the visual (crema volume and colour) and the taste.

The pours

My shots from the Linea have become pretty consistent over the years and I have been drinking shots with this
blend and roast for about 12 months. So I am familiar with the good shots, the OK shots and the great shots.  The
shots pictured above were OK shots to be honest.  The colour was turning pale a lot quicker than I would have liked,
but this coffee is 10 days after roasting so it may explain that.  The shots started out very well.  The first drips
emerged after several seconds and then the syrup-like pour begins to flow seconds later. They were hanging very
well too but the stream was flowing a bit too well to make it into a great shot.  Lots of crema and the Guiness effect
was there.   

The shots from the Pavoni were not bad for this machine I have to admit.  I mentioned above that the line between
choking the machine and fast pours is very thin.  But I got three good shots in a row which is not bad.  The machine
is a little unforgiving, and if the pour does not come immediately after the first few drips then it will drip, drip and drip
without breaking out into full flow, as shots from other machines would do.  The shot were definitely  "faster" than the
shots from the Linea.
Page 2
This website is created by Paul Pratt, Hong Kong 2004-5. If you would like to use any of the images or text I am sure
I will say yes, but please ask first!  

Email me here.


It really is David vs. Golliath
The Linea dwarfs the Pavoni.
The espresso cups.
La Pavoni Espresso Plus
Name/Brand
La Marzocco Linea
950W Single Boiler
Wattage
2300W (1000W Brew 1300
Steam)
Ulka Vibe Pump
Pump
Rotary Procon Pump
Internal reservoir 2.9l
Water Connection
Mains Water connection
22.5cm (W) x 26.5cm (D) x 29cm (H)   
7kg
Dimensions/Weight
50cm (W) x 54cm (D) x 50cm (H)
 60kg
EURO 330 / US$420
Rec. Retail Price
EURO 6652 US$8700 + MODS
The crema enhancer from the PF has
been removed.
Special
features/modifications
K-Type + PID controller,
Pre-heat boiler, modified brew
group, pressure infusion
valve.  
About 10 seconds after hitting the brew switch.
About 15 seconds in.
2nd shots about 10 seconds in.
The shots from the Espresso Plus


















The shot routine for the Pavoni was almost the same.  I was grinding as it was needed and flapping the dosing lever
all the time. Once I had levelled and tamped it went straight into the machine (with no flushing).   The infusion time
on the Pavoni was pretty darn good with the first drips and pour coming out around 5-6 seconds.  The trouble with
the machine is that the line between gush and choke is wafer thin.

The other issue to note is that the machine has no 3 way valve.  So you must wait after the shot has finished before
removing the PF otherwise you get the infamous "PF sneeze".  But this worked out OK for the test because whilst
the Pavoni was "de-sneezing" I was using the Linea.  This is again evident in the puck into the knock box.  The
pucks from the Linea were dry and hard whereas from the Pavoni they were all slushy.
Hardly any infusion time - this is around 10 secs.
Done.
The Guiness effect.
2nd shot from the Pavoni.
2nd shot settling.
2nd shot Guiness effect.
The final shot into the ceramic cup.
The final shot.