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Overrated high end machines in cafes

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  • Overrated high end machines in cafes

    I had an interesting chat the other day with the owner/head barista of a couple of highly regarded coffee bars about his machines. He’s got two high end machines, a Strada and a KvdW.

    His view was that the non-volumetric Strada has too many variables for an inexperienced barista and that weighing each dose is really necessary to get accurate shot control, given the inherent inaccuracy of the Robur E, or any other high-volume grinder for that matter, but of course weighing each dose is largely impractical in real life for a busy cafe.

    His volumetric KvdW is a bit easier to get good shot control from in the hands of an inexperienced barista, but still far from ideal.

    The upshot of it all was his view that you really can’t go past the volumetric Linea for a foolproof high volume machine. Yes it’s old looking, no pressure profiling, etc but it’s solid as a rock and produces the same shot each time. (Presumably he'd put PB70/80 in the same category)

    Of course there are other reasons for getting a fancy LM/KvdW/Slayer, such as marketing to customers and staff, but it was interesting to hear this view from someone who actually owns some high end machines.

  • #2
    I dont really follow the logic there.

    If you have a machine with lots of adjustable variables and you don't fiddle with them, it becomes just like a machine without lots of adjustable variables...

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    • #3
      Originally posted by MrJack View Post
      I dont really follow the logic there.

      If you have a machine with lots of adjustable variables and you don't fiddle with them, it becomes just like a machine without lots of adjustable variables...
      I believe his logic was that the Linea is a fire and forget-type machine. Set the volume of water and then all you have to to is worry about dialling in the grinder on a regular basis.

      Whereas with the Strada, the complexity of the group meant that to get a good shot you needed to essentially dial in the machine to each bean.

      It wasn't that the Strada was producing bad shots, but there was a variability to the shots that he might not get with a Linea, or other volumetric machine.

      Just to be clear, he wasn't for one second saying the Strada or KvdW were bad machines, just that, in his opinion, they need a very experienced barista to get shots that matched the machine's true potential.

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      • #4
        Strada, Slayer et al.

        I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...

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        • #5
          yes and it has to come from you guys for others to prick up and listen, because when people from coffee roasteries and supply businesses say similar things, they get bagged out.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
            Strada, Slayer et al.

            I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...
            I thought the ideal machine was one which allowed programming by an experienced barista to deliver as good a shot as could be expected, with repeatability backed by high reliability and consistency. To that extent, any strictly manual profiling (Slayer) is not repeatable. Any lack of consistency in terms of precision and quality of components is also a nonstarter.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jonathon View Post
              The upshot of it all was his view that you really can’t go past the volumetric Linea for a foolproof high volume machine. Yes it’s old looking, no pressure profiling, etc but it’s solid as a rock and produces the same shot each time.
              Lineas are known as high volume workhorses, but the automatic (volumetric) versions had an issue with variable brew water temperature. This problem was fixed with the development of the "Piero Cap," which could be retrofitted to the Linea. The Linea's successor, the GB5, came from the factory with Caps installed.

              As your conversation revealed, however, some people still prefer the old-school Linea.

              Originally posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
              Strada, Slayer et al.

              I seriously doubt that many (any?) cafes have the time to allow baristas to experiment enough on a given day to determine what the optimum pressure profile for a particular bean and environmental conditions might be. In most cases, I'd reckon bragging rights and at best a lever analogue style profile...
              Every time I go to a new cafe with a profiling machine, I ask the barista if they use the profiling capability. About five times out of six they say no, but occasionally a dedicated small or medium size cafe operation takes the time and profiles the shot.

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              • #8
                Hazel at Gumption declares her favourite machine to be the Linea. I keep hearing that in most cafes using Slayers the baristas tend to just slam the paddle to full flow...

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                • #9
                  The Strada EP will allow for programmed shots but I wonder if there are really any places that have the time and resources to do the research to use these machines as the makers have intended. Bottom line is that 95%, maybe more of their client base probably couldn't pick the difference anyway.

                  Originally posted by ASchecter View Post
                  Every time I go to a new cafe with a profiling machine, I ask the barista if they use the profiling capability. About five times out of six they say no, but occasionally a dedicated small or medium size cafe operation takes the time and profiles the shot.
                  I'm curious as to whether they just do something such as attempt to replicate a lever profile because they think it will work or do they pull a hundred experimental shots to determine what's actually optimum for the bean/day?

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                  • #10
                    Am I right in thinking with the new strada the roaster can provide a pressure profile on USB or similar to the cafe with each batch of beans that can be uploaded and used to best match the beans?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
                      The Strada EP will allow for programmed shots but I wonder if there are really any places that have the time and resources to do the research to use these machines as the makers have intended. Bottom line is that 95%, maybe more of their client base probably couldn't pick the difference anyway.

                      I'm curious as to whether they just do something such as attempt to replicate a lever profile because they think it will work or do they pull a hundred experimental shots to determine what's actually optimum for the bean/day?
                      Here's a photo of barista Christian manually profiling a shot at Sweetleaf in New York City. Sweetleaf is, however, a very unusual place and one of the best cafes in NYC. They actually spend the time to experiment with various profiles, although maybe not a hundred per variety.


                      Click image for larger version

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                      • #12
                        Been thinking about this today. My office is in Melb CBD so I'm surrounded by many great cafes, and many not so great.

                        Of the 6-8 cafes close to my office that serve great coffee, here are the machines:
                        Linea
                        Slayer
                        Linea
                        Linea
                        Strada
                        Linea
                        FB70/80

                        I'd never actually thought of this concentration of Lineas until now!

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                        • #13
                          That's a line up of Lineas ;-D

                          They are great machines. Quite a few at airports too, high volume, reliable and consistent, high end workhorses.

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                          • #14
                            Perhaps the argument about consistency comes down to the client's requirements? When I am visiting a cafe with a client, usually a CBD-based cafe close to Collins Street, I usually pick a place that produces high volumes of coffee fast (time is money) and with high consistency (if I've told the client that he'll like this cafe I don't want us to be served something substandard on the day because the barista has temperamental equipment). On the other hand, when I'm visiting a cafe alone or with a friend I am typically more adventurous and will try new places or places where I have experienced some variability.

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                            • #15
                              The Lineas are what we call in the business the Ferraris. Fantastically assembled and when polished up, it looks mighty fine! I use an FB80 and 4 Robur E's at work. Now when it is quiet, we do indeed weight out every dose! Pretentious and tedious but consistent. But during a rush, you can manually dose pretty accurately using the timer and levelling or topping up as needed.

                              With regards to the machine, I know someone who is operating a Strada E. He enjoys playing when it's quiet and such, however during a rush he can't put on a shot and then go take a customers order or get started on another shot because of the profiling. So can a Strada handle high quantity? I'm not too sure when using the classic 1 barista pulling shots, 1 one steam and one pouring set up. However, If we think differently it can be quite feasible. This is greatly shown in Proud Mary in Melbourne. They have a 6 group Slayer and they get pretty busy. When I was there they had one person dosing and tamping and two people profiling and more steaming ect. This is fantastic with a massive machine since you have room, but at my work with the three group during really busy periods we had 4 baristas behind the machine. One dosing (weighing out every dose), one tamping and putting the shots on. It worked! (albeit a bit tight)

                              So, what I'm trying to say is these new high end machines are still viable in a high quantity environment. They just have to be used well.

                              Michael

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