Recently we cupped a new lot of Ethiopian coffee and were blown away by its sweetness and tropical fruit flavours. Our job this morning is to find an espresso brewing recipe that accentuated the flavours we found on the cupping table, and hopefully find a whole lot more. It’s important to note that we don’t want to extract all the flavour from the coffee. There are certain attributes that simply aren’t pleasant in high concentrations. The best balance in the cup is unique to each coffee blend or origin. There is no one recipe to rule them all!
I think we tasted around fifteen different recipes that morning, but we all agreed on one that was a little more delicate and nuanced. We believed this recipe really highlighted the coffees’ terroir and processing method at origin. The next step is to program our equipment to be able to deliver that recipe time and again.
The timer built in to the coffee grinder will give us our desired dose of coffee. A button on the espresso machine is then programmed to deliver the correct amount of water. Once these are set, we’re ready to serve our customers. The challenge now is repeatability. The investment into good equipment is of paramount importance in achieving this.
Many coffee grinder technologies these days achieve their consistency in dose by slowing the flow of the coffee grinds down from the blades to where it drops out into your handle. As mentioned before, the dose itself is set via a digital timer. With this style of technology there will always be small discrepancies in dose.
Many baristas will weigh each dose of coffee after it is ground, and adjust to achieve the target.
An espresso machine will produce that same programmed dose of water time and again, fairly accurately, but when you have dose fluctuations from your grinder, without manual adjustment, that recipe, that ratio of coffee to water varies slightly.
La Marzocco, the world renowned espresso machine manufacturer, have just released a machine to help a barista with the dosage dilemma.
Introducing the La Marzocco Strada ABR….
By having a set of dynamic scales in the drip tray you can program the machine to stop the flow of water when the espresso reaches its target weight. The Strada ABR isn’t the first machine on the market to put scales in the drip tray, but they certainly have put a lot of thought into their function. ABR stands for ‘Automatic Brew Ratio’, which means that when your ground coffee weight varies, the espresso machine recognises this and delivers an adjusted ratio of water. All you have to do is place your dosed porta-filter in the cradle of the scales, then lock it in the group head and push the brew button. The machine takes care of the rest!
Another time consuming operation baristas face is taring off their scales each time they use a different porta-filter. Often handle weights are quite different. The Strada ABR comes with ‘precision’ handles and baskets, identified by the Ω (omega) symbol. The set of handles has a maximum weight variance of 0.5g.
Repeatability also comes down to a machine’s ability to maintain water temperature. This is something La Marzocco have always done well. This Multi Boiler machine has a boiler for each group head, allowing the barista to set different temperatures for different coffees. The water coming into these boilers first runs through a heat exchange pipe through the steam boiler, ensuring minimal effort by the brew boiler’s elements.
There are many features to this machine that make it appealing to a barista, including an open, ergonomic design for work flow, cool touch steam wands, proportional solenoid for the steam delivery, and it sits in their classic, classy Strada chassis.