TonyVan Senior Member 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 Mon Aug 13, 2012, 9:41pm Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
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?
As the many fine posts since your question indicate, you can't leave the "other things being equal" part out of that statement and conclusion. I think it IS fair to say that, all other things being equal, better equipment is more likely to provide a better result more often. And placing that thought upside-down, good tools can help us when we make mistakes - that "forgiving" nature often referenced be their owners.
In the same way, as Jon mentions, the better the barista the better the likely result. I would argue that with a little practice, a really good barista will figure out how to coax superb results from just about any equipment (though a poor grinder will usually be much tougher to overcome than a shaky espresso machine). But it may take a lot of compensating, waiting and extra steps, effort and concentration.
Coffeenoobie and Jon both remind us that "goodness" isn't a simple one-dimensional vector. There are always trade-offs, as in Jon's example, ease in producing state-of-the-art clarity and state-of-the-art body may not currently be available in the same machine, so personal preference and style will dictate choices too.
Although every readily identifiable jump in quality does become more costly as you approach the current state-of-the-art machines, I can't agree that home users won't get significant value from the incremental investment in that high-end equipment. "Bang for the buck" and "utility" are two very different things. While the Alex Duetto is an absolute bargain compared to, say, a Speedster (almost comparable shot capability at 20% of the cost), to some people the Speedster will deliver that difference - not all of which may be found in the bottom of the cup.
MJW Senior Member Joined: 25 Jul 2012 Posts: 179 Location: Silicon Valley Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Tue Aug 14, 2012, 12:08am Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
If the barista has to change grind, it is no longer a direct comparison of the machines. Grind is a critical variable When I did it (side by side) I had the pumps adjusted so that we could use same grind & dose for both.
In that comparison, JonR10, it seems like you are trying to isolate the character of each machine. In that case your preparations make sense.
My ideal comparison would be a blind test of 100 tasters lined up across from two machines, each paired with a grinder and barista to make them work best. We would then ask the tasters to make judgements on how "enjoyable" the shots are. This test as described is intended to serve as a "shopper's test" -- which machine should be bought? I assume that the grinder can be chosen to match the machine, and the barista (the buyer) will adapt reasonably to the machine they buy. In other words, once a shopper buys a machine they "optimize" to make it work well for them.
This does not isolate the character of each machine. It does not do what JonR10 is referring to.... There are other questions one might ask -- "which machine should I buy if I can't adapt at all" -- but the one I described seems like the most interesting one, and the one most shoppers are implicitly asking, when they ask "which machine is "best"?".
Once some objectivity can be brought to bear on whether one machine tastes better than another, then each shopper can make a personal choice how much he wants to pay for which "level" of quality. Probably it will be best for the shopper to taste two or three machines in their "quality window" themselves, to experience their individual character first hand. But the objective results from a test like above can still inform a shopper's decision.
P.S. I'm not suggesting anyone do this test. It would be nice, but it's only meant as a thought experiment.
Clancey Senior Member Joined: 8 Aug 2012 Posts: 11 Location: NYC Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Tue Aug 14, 2012, 5:22am Subject: Re: Espresso Quality: Double boilers vs La Marzocco GS/3
Hi MJW and All- maybe that is what we need to do? Organize a local event where everyone brings in their equipment for a 1-day or evening event. It would also give everyone a chance to see different types of machines. From experience, I can tell you that it is very difficult to get hands on experience with machines as most distributors are 'web only' or are only located in Oregon or Washington.
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