If it’s not a fifteen year-old’s dream guitar, what is the La Marzocco Strada? The Strada is the first of a new generation of espresso machines. It’s been a project years in the making, as La Marzocco fine-tuned a machine that would give baristas more control and analytics tools than they could have possibly dreamed of. The machine is now here and there starting to conquer all over the fancy cafes in the world.
The Two Versions: Mechanical Paddle and Electronic Paddle
The Strada comes in two models, the MP (Mechanical Paddle) and the EP (Electronic Paddle). The Strada MP functions similarly to other La Marzocco Mechanical Paddle models. This model allows you to pre-infuse the coffee puck with lower water pressure before applying full pressure. The Strada EP takes pressure control to an entirely different level. Improving on the ability to go from a pre-infusion pressure level to full pressure, the EP model gives you precise and progressive pressure control. To steal some language from espresso grinders, this model of the Strada has stepless pressure adjustment. You can incrementally adjust the pressure from 0-12 bars. The barista can then store up to four different profiles. We’ll look more at the possibilities this opens up below.
New Technology: Internal, Geared Pump
The secret to this amount of control in the EP is La Marzocco’s new internal, geared pump. This innovative pump allows for a variable pump speed. On all other La Marzocco machines (minus the GS/3), the pump used is a rotary pump. This pump, along with the motor, is installed remotely from the machine (normally under the counter). This single rotary pump is then in charge of pushing out the pressure for the entire machine. The small size of the new gear pump allows La Marzocco to include one gear pump per group within the machine. This not only saves space, but allows the pressure for each group to be controlled independently of one another. As mentioned above, the added bonus of the geared pump is the controlled, incremental pressure adjustments that can be made through the duration of the shot.
The Possibilities of Pressure Profiling on the Strada EP
The amount of possible profiles for any given shot opens a world of possibilities for crafting one’s ideal shot for any given coffee. As has been the case with many manual brewing methods, the question is often raised, “How is it that you can reproduce the results of a profile that works?” Thankfully, La Marzocco has thought this through and programmed the Strada to give the barista the ability to save up to four profiles at any given time. These profiles map the pressure profile and time of extraction to allow the barista to reproduce the profile they deem ideal for the particular coffee and grind. The profiles act independently of the boiler temperature to enable the barista the ability to further play with the temperature after they’ve locked in a profile.
Since pressure profiling is such a new invention, there’s a lot of speculation towards the benefits of the technology and it’s ability to be accepted as a new standard. The Strada is on the outside fighting it’s way in. After all, it is going up against a standard of proper espresso extraction that has been around for a long time. That being said, the ability to save profiles has giving more stability to pressure profiling and the more people experiment with the effects of this technology on the shot, the more converts there will be.
Now for the fun part, dreaming about the possibilities of the Strada EP within the context of a cafe. With the ability to save four profiles on the Strada EP, the barista could set a different profile for each coffee they offer. One profile for the standard espresso offering, one for the decaf, and perhaps one for a single origin offering or maybe for a houseblend or anything the barista likes. Furthermore, the barista could create two different profiles for their main blend. One profile could cater towards a taste they wish to achieve for espresso, the other cater towards what tastes best with milk-based drinks. This is perhaps one of the possibilities that has the most promise. There would be so many possibilities and factors to try and have fun or play with! Many roasters have to adapt their roast to take into effect how the espresso blend will taste both by itself and with milk. What if the Strada could take some of the burden?
Some people may not fully understand the capabilities of this beautiful machine yet, but we know that the future of espresso is bright, sweet and balanced or which ever you want your espresso to be.
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