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Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
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ssobers
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Joined: 6 Aug 2012
Posts: 9
Location: Washington, DC
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Thu Aug 9, 2012, 1:33pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

Typo's do happen!  Will look at both.
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russel
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russel
Joined: 12 Mar 2010
Posts: 456
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Conti Princess 2grp, GS/3...
Grinder: Super Caimanos x2, Forte BG,...
Drip: V60, Kalita Wave, Clever,...
Posted Thu Aug 9, 2012, 7:36pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

I have to chime in on the grinder recommendations.  You are moving into the range of serious commercial grinders, and how you intend on using them makes a world of difference.  Getting good results with a big commercial grinder isn't about having the best specs, its about using the tool well.  You need a grinder that will get you a consistent dose of fresh grounds every time.  

Almost all commercial grinders have a fair amount of internal retention.  In the home this mean you have to purge the stale grounds so that you can make coffee with fresh grounds.  A Robur has massive grind retention, so if you want to use a hopper full of coffee you have to purge a lot at the beginning of each session.  I have a Super Caimano, and it has similar retention issues.  If I'm using the hopper, I waste a lot of coffee purging out stale grounds.  Some grinders retain less than others, and so the resulting waste varies.  The Mahlkoenig K30 is a great choice because it has low retention, so you can feel free to dump beans in the hopper, purge a little bit, and then grinds away.  If you aren't willing to compensate for the internal retention of a commercial grinder by purging out the stale grounds, you should find a different way to use your grinder, or find a different grinder.  The best grind quality in the world won't help if half of your dose is 12 hour old grounds.

If you don't want to purge wasted stale grounds and desire pinpoint dose accuracy, you will need to single dose.  At this point you are using the grinder in a way it wasn't build for, and its competency and ease of use will have less to do with its specs and more to do with its unintentional design details.  I find that the Mazzer E grinders don't work well for single dosing because the chute is hard to sweep and the funnel catches grounds.  I don't like the regular Mazzer doser, so in general I don't like single dosing Mazzers given that there are other options.  A K30 doesn't strike me as a good grinder to single dose because there is no simple way to sweep the chute clean.  The same goes for the Compak Fresh grinders (they have a chute design similar to the K30).  Single dosing is a oddly personal thing, and without trying it out on a particular grinder yourself the best you can do it to gather other people's opinions and preferences.

I'm sorry to sort of go off on this, but as you start to drift into the high end of commercial grinders, opinions based on first hand experience become harder to find, especially comparison opinions.  There are a good number of K10 owners here.  There are a bunch of k30 owners.  There are a handful of Robur owners. Etc. Etc.
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MJW
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Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Aug 11, 2012, 5:09pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

The talk about grinders is very informative.  I'm gonna make an attempt to revive the spirit of the original poster's question.

I'm not the original poster, but I think what many people want to know is this: let's assume the grinder is great... does the GS/3 make shots that are more enjoyable than, say some $1500 HX machine?

I have seen the following answers to the question, because the question comes up again and again:

1) More expensive machines are more "stable".  Meaning one can reproduce the same shot.
2) More expensive machines give enjoyable shots a higher percentage of the time.

Reproduceability is important because it lets you change one variable at a time as you explore the space searching for your enjoyable shot.  Like when dialing in a coffee that is unknown to you.  But, is it really not possible on a PID Silvia, to get the machine to the same state each time?  It's more work on the Silvia, but then we're talking about throughput or latency, not quality.

The GS/3 has design features that allow it to pull a large number of shots (I don't know the numbers), with not only quick recovery but without slowly losing heat as you pull more and more.  Not only does the machine catch its breath quickly, it also has stamina.  This is a throughput feature.  Not a quality feature.

In other words.  If you want stability on a cheaper machine, then slow down.  Eventually the machine will recover it's just a question of how long it takes and how much manipulation it takes to get the machine to the same state it was in before.

If a person wants high throughput and low latency then that is what the LMs are designed for.  That person might get by with 4 Breville Dual Boilers instead of one GS/3, but space might be a consideration.

If it really isn't possible for Silvia or the Breville Dual Boiler to get back to the same state to produce an enjoyable shot each time as long as you're willing to work and wait, then to my mind what that means is that PIDs don't work.

-Mike
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tek
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Joined: 27 Feb 2010
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Location: WA
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Espresso: Changes daily
Grinder: Kafa-Tek Monolith
Posted Sun Aug 12, 2012, 6:36am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

MJW Said:

I'm not the original poster, but I think what many people want to know is this: let's assume the grinder is great... does the GS/3 make shots that are more enjoyable than, say some $1500 HX machine?

Posted August 11, 2012 link

Yes, no doubt. You will not get same shot quality out of $600 machine and $5500 GS/3 if you use very good grinder. Only people that have not done side-by-side comparison claim otherwise.

Its not recovery at all that sets commercial machines apart from home machines in espresso quality department rather there are other factors and among those:

  • Water temperature throughout the shot. Stable temperature during shot results in cleaner flavors.
  • Vibe/Rotary pump. Vibe pumps pulses the water to generate pressure while rotary provides flatter pressure. Makes difference.
  • Water distribution out of group head.

And there are probably other factors that we don't know about since I have experienced commercial quality machines that have all above attributes but one produces noticeably better espresso most of the time.

So, unless grinder is limiting factor, in my experience commercial quality machines like GS/3 and Synesso will produce better espresso than lesser machines most of the time.

 
www.10000shots.com
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Clancey
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Joined: 8 Aug 2012
Posts: 11
Location: NYC
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Posted Sun Aug 12, 2012, 9:32am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

I have had experience over the years with single boiler HX's, double boiler's, commercial and the GS/3.   Going from the HX to the double boiler machines you get better temperature stability.  What do you get when you go from a double boiler, like the Izzo or R58, to the GS/3?  

1) a saturated group head that helps to improve temperature stability- wish more machines has this

2) boilers that are 2x the size of machines like the Izzo and R58- this further helps with stability, consistency
- The GS/3 offers a 1.5L coffee boiler and 3.5L steam boiler
- Big 4 group LM's have 6.8 and 14.5L respectively (approx 1.7L and 3.625 per group)
--> but if you look ratio of coffee boiler and steam boiler per group, the GS/3 is almost identical

3) PID- accurate to .1 degree increments with a more sophisticated controller and probe

4) Commercial rotary pump that delivers very smooth and consistent pressure. Not all rotary pumps are the same.  Very similar to car engines.

Lastly, pre-infusion.  LM has great pre-infusion, especially on the paddle version that leverages pressure from the water line feed and offers more control.

Yes, you can get great shots from a Izzo or R58.  Can you get the same depth of flavor and clarity from an Izzo or R58 as you would from a GS/3 or from your professional coffee bar- maybe every now and then- maybe 3 times out of a hundred, where as if you have fresh beans and everything is dialed in on a GS/3 you will get it 97 times out of a hundred.

Regarding the grinders, I do agree, a better grinder will help. But the Mazzer mini is a fantastic grinder.  My recommendation would be to get the GS/3, get used to is, then upgrade your grinder later if you want.  I have used the GS/3 with the Mazzer Mini- you will not be disappointed!
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Scotts
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Joined: 9 May 2004
Posts: 11
Location: Washington, DC
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Valentina
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Sun Aug 12, 2012, 11:16am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

I concur with Clancey's comments.  If you are ready to invest in a GS/3, Synesso or Speedster, you will be extremely happy and have the ability to pull shots equal to those on the most expensive commercial machines.
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MJW
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Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Aug 12, 2012, 11:36am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

Tek & Clancey, if I understand what you're saying, even a $1500 HX machine is not capable of producing espresso at commercial quality, most of the time (97% Clancey says).

Regarding the "saturated group", does a Gaggia Classic have a "saturated group"?

How large does a brew boiler have to be before it can deliver 2oz per 25 s with a flat temperature curve?  And for shot taste, does it absolutely have to be within one tenth of a degree centigrade?  Thanks.

-Mike
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TonyVan
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Joined: 24 May 2010
Posts: 276
Location: Pacific Northwest
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: GS/3, La Pavoni
Grinder: Macap M7K, Rocky
Drip: Kone
Posted Sun Aug 12, 2012, 8:12pm
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

Please, don't think about these these variables as absolutes!  

The consistency and control of good grinders and good machines when handling perpetually varying coffees and perpetually varying human technique is all bell-curve stuff. It's all about an increased likelihood of good - and sometimes great - shots across many, many instances.

Miss Sylvia and her buddy Rocky will sometimes turn out a better drink than their distant Strada/Robur cousins from the Upper East Side. It's just much more difficult and much less likely.  Great equipment just moves the bell curve of likely result quality over to a more favorable place.

Besides brute-force production capacity as a table-stakes requirement - which home baristas may appreciate but seldom need - a good cafe depends on that kind of high-level consistency to maintain a reputation.
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MJW
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Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Aug 13, 2012, 12:04am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

TonyVan Said:

Besides brute-force production capacity as a table-stakes requirement - which home baristas may appreciate but seldom need - a good cafe depends on that kind of high-level consistency to maintain a reputation.

Posted August 12, 2012 link

Hi TonyVan, first let me see if I understand what you're saying.  You're saying that whereas lesser machines (US$1000-1500) consistently achieve a medium quality level, they only rarely achieve a high quality level.  The GS/3 achieves that high level, consistently.

Is that what you mean?  Would you agree too, Tek & Clancey?

-Mike
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JonR10
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JonR10
Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 10,376
Location: Houston, Texas
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: E61 Legend, Livietta,...
Grinder: Robur, B-Vario-W
Vac Pot: Hario Tabletop, Yama...
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Roaster: 1-lb US Roaster, Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Aug 13, 2012, 2:39am
Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
 

MJW Said:

You're saying that whereas lesser machines (US$1000-1500) consistently achieve a medium quality level, they only rarely achieve a high quality level.  The GS/3 achieves that high level, consistently.

Posted August 13, 2012 link

It's not just the machine, it's also the barista.  The machine is a tool.  It's easier and faster to do the job if you have better tools, but you can still do a good job if all you have is hand tools (as opposed to power tools).  The machine doesn't do anything by itself, the barista is the key element.  

The GS/3 saturated group does tend to have better clarity (flavor separation) in the shots, but this clarity in flavor also comes at the expense of the more dense body you might typically get from an E61 group.  To me, it's a trade-off rather than an absolute measure of shot quality.

Boiler size (within reason) has very little to do with shot quality unless you're serving a larger group of people.  If the machine thermal system (system = boiler + brew path) has enough thermal stability for the shot then that's all that is required.  You don't need a whole liter of heated water for 1 shot.  

As for vibe vs. rotary pump; blind taste testing reveals no discernable difference in shot quality or taste for identical machines fitted with different types of pumps.  I like rotary pumps for the quiet operation and (IMO) better reliability, but there's no difference in taste.  

One can make just as good a shot on a nice home HX machine as with a GS/3, but the flavor/body character will be different on the two machines.  When I went from the Wega Lyra (E61) to the GS/3 there was a period when I had both machines operating side-by-side.  I could make shots that were fairly equivalent in quality with either, but the Lyra tended to have heavier body and the GS/3 tended to have more clarity for flavor profile.  

Both made great shots.  

In the end, I sold my GS/3 for a Faema Legend.  I prefer a heavier body even if it comes at the expense of the clearest flavors.  It's still easy (obvious) to distinguish the finer characteristics of the single origin espresso coffees I prefer.  Maybe the separation of flavor layers isn't as distinct but the body and mouthfeel is a bit fuller.

 
Jon Rosenthal
Houston, TX
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