ssobers Senior Member Joined: 6 Aug 2012 Posts: 9 Location: Washington, DC Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012, 2:03pm Subject: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
I have read a lot of posts about how stable new double boiler PID'd machines are, such as the Rocket R58, Izzo Alex Duetto II, Vibiemme Double Domobar, etc.
Currently, I have a single boiler HX espresso machine (La Valentina) and a Mazzer Mini grinder.
Over the years I have become pretty proficient at pulling excellent shots, but when I do go to local espresso shops in DC and NYC, i do notice their espresso has more depth and flavors...than what I am able to pull, using the same beans on my machine (Black Cat, Hair Bender, Rustico, etc.), even after adjusting grind, temperature and pressure (manually). In a number of reviews regarding the La Marzocco GS/3, many reviewers have mentioned "clarity", "new flavors", etc in their reviews. Obviously, much has been written about this machine and its merits- but does it really produce better tasting espresso than a single boiler HX, double boiler PID'd machine?
Theoretically, machines should operate at the same pressure, temperature, etc- if this is the case, is one machine going to produce better espresso than the next?
I have two questions (in the end I want to pull shots equal to those from an espresso shop using commercial equipment):
1) Is it worth upgrading to a double boiler- PID'd machine- will I taste new flavors, "clarity" and have new 'depth' in my espresso? Why?
2) What will I notice differently in espresso if I buy a GS/3? Why?
Looking forward to everyones feedback, especially those that have upgraded to a GS/3!
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 5,652 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Veneziano A1 Grinder: Many different commercial Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Milita, Bunn&Curtis... Roaster: Cast iron pan, gas burner
Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012, 2:17pm Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
The best place to spend money is to upgrade your grinder. The mini is a great starter grinder for serious espresso but your machine needs a better grinder to reach the max of what it can do. Not only that, if you ever decide to upgrade a machine later, the grinder will be covered. Start looking at the Major or Rober or better quality grinders, yes you will notice the difference.
In real life, my name is Wayne P.
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
Sylvain Senior Member Joined: 19 Dec 2001 Posts: 58 Location: Trois-Rivieres Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: La Marzocco GS3 Grinder: Mahlkonig K30 Vario Drip: Technivorm
Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012, 5:31pm Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
Hello, if you read my GS3 review, you will find some answer. Yes, the GS3 is a lot of money, but the main advantage is stability. When I make a superb shot, all the next one will be exactly the same. For the grinder, I have gone from a Mazzer mini electronic to a Mahlkonig K30 Vario. The difference was more mouth feel and more differents flavors. All theses differences in taste was not huge but evident. Sorry for my english, I am a french speaking. Sylvain
TonyVan Senior Member Joined: 24 May 2010 Posts: 268 Location: Pacific Northwest Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: GS/3, La Pavoni Grinder: Macap M7K, Rocky Drip: Kone
Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012, 9:13pm Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
First, I absolutely agree with Wayne (Calblacksmith) about the enormous importance of the grinder. Grinders never seem to generate the same excitement and appeal as espresso machines, but doubling your investment on a well-chosen grinder will give you far more improvement than a change to almost any new espresso machine costing twice as much as your current one. So I also recommend that you move on the grinder first - you may like the results so much that your upgrade-itis will subside for a while.
I also can vouch for similar experiences as reported by Sylvain. Extending his comments, it's not that improving your machine will suddenly bring you wondrous espresso every shot. Instead, a better machine will better reflect the improvements you make in the other areas of your espresso-making, better beans, grinders and especially your technique. When you improve something, the machine is less likely to limit or obscure the positive effects of those improvements in the cup. And if you repeat your preparation precisely, a better machine will be more likely to reproduce the result and with less fuss, tinkering and effort.
So a better machine will give you better espresso and more consistently, but that improvement will only be consistent if your coffee, grinder and technique have already overmatched the capabilities of your current machine. And if they haven't, the grinder upgrade is usually the easiest and most reliable path to that state.
But this does not mean you must have a state-of-the-art machine to make superb espresso. It's tougher otherwise to control all the brewing variables consistently, however, so there's more hit-and-miss. Good cafes can't afford inconsistency, so good baristas in good cafes use good machinery to leverage their own well-selected, well-aged, well-ground beans and well-practiced and consistent basket preparation.
Still, along with great shots from cafes' Synessos and Stradas and the GS/3 at home, some of the clearest, sweetest, richest shots this year also come from my old La Pavoni - just not as often.
Posted Mon Aug 6, 2012, 9:31pm Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
Scott, Wayne, Sylvain and Antony have given you wonderful advice. I thoroughly agree that a grinder upgrade will do good things. You have a great HX, one of the best. Interestingly, going from a Mazzer mini to a K30 isn't just a "better" grinder. They are totally different, in that the mini is a flat burr grinder, whilst the K30 is a conical burr. In my experience (I own examples of both, including manual grinders too) the conical burrs seem to allow a slightly more "fruity" perhaps brighter shot, while the mid priced flat burr grinders such as the Vario, Mazzer Super Jolly (which I also owned) and the Major produce shots that to ME articulate the darker elements, the caramels, chocolates, tobacco, etc. As was mentioned, this also occurs with lever machines.
If you like what you're tasting, but feel you're getting less of the intricacies, I might steer you towards a conical burr grinder such as the K30, or the gigantic, but awesome Mazzer Robur. I believe the K30 would be a wee bit more home friendly, though there a more than a few in homes. We're talking big bucks for a Robur, perhaps approaching 2k, perhaps less for a used shop grinder. (non timer version) The K30 is, I believe quite a bit less, still a fine grinder.
Stay with your machine. BTW, do you have a bottomless PF? If not, I suggest you get one, if one is available for the La Val. It will let you know if there are "technical" reasons for the perceived differences from shop to home.
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 1,605 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo,... Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Tue Aug 7, 2012, 4:44am Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
The increase in espresso quality will get less the more money you spend on your equipent. When you upgrade, let's say, from an entry level thermoblock SBDU to a prosumer HX or DB machine, you'll get a huge difference not only in thermostability, consistency and durability, but also in convenience. However, the next step, e.g. from a Rocket Espresso R58 to a La Marzocco GS/3 or a Speedster, will bring improvements, but they will be less noticable. And even less from there to a commercial machine.
Apart from that, upgrading the grinder is usually the best place to start.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee)
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