La Marzocco Strada EP: A Journey Toward New Ideas in Espresso

Pablo's Coffee - La Marzocco Strada EPYou could think of it as an Italian sports car that happens to make espresso.  Or a spaceship sent from another planet to show humans the future of coffee.  Call it what you will, but one thing is for certain:  The La Marzocco Strada EP is the most advanced espresso machine on the planet.  And starting this Thursday, it'll be sitting on our bar at 6th and Washington.

The Strada EP is an electronic pressure profiling machine.  What on earth does that mean you might ask?  Whereas most espresso machines extract coffee at a set pressure (usually between 8 and 9 bars, or atmospheres) the EP uses a continuously variable extraction method ranging between 1 and 12 bars, completely on the fly.  Other machines (even the Strada Mechanical Paddle or MP) also do this, but they use an analog system of mixing valves to accomplish this, and results must be replicated by hand each time.  The Strada EP (electronic paddle) uses computers and microcontrollers to actually control the speed of the pump motors for each group head.  This allows pressure profiles or curves to be saved to a memory system in the machine and replicated by the barista at will.

One look at the machine and it's easy to see it is indeed something special.  Chrome everywhere, mirrored glass, exposed group heads, digital readouts-- it really does look like something from the future.  Designed with input from World Barista Champions such as Tim Wendelboe, it is loaded with barista driven features, so of course we wanted one. 

But purchasing this machine wasn't exactly easy; it would turn out there was quite a winding path ahead of us to acquire one.  We first heard about the EP last year, and we contacted La Marzocco about it.  Marzocco indicated that yes, it existed, but it wasn't through development yet and the weren't shipping any units.  So we essentially stalked La Marzocco for several months until the machine was ready for market.  Then things got interesting.

La Marzocco indicated to us that they'd love to sell us a Strada EP, but there was no one in our market who had ever trained on one to become certified in maintaining it.  So, suffering another setback, we mulled it over for a while.  

Cue the narrative to March of this year.  Our coworker Joe Findeiss was slated to travel to Santa Cruz California to judge the Southwest Regional Barista competition at Verve Coffee Roasters.  Verve, it turns out, had an EP.  So we made arrangements with Verve and the team from La Marzocco for Joe to check the machine out and determine whether we really really wanted one, or if it was a bunch of hype.  It turns out of course that the machine was everything it was cracked up to be, and now of course we had to have it.

However we were still faced with the lack of certified service personnel here in Denver.  Really, few people in this market had ever seen one of these machines at all, and, having departed so far from traditional espresso machines it was doubtful that any espresso service technician would be able to handle it's maintenance.  There was only one thing to do.

Craig Conner atop the Strada CrateIn May of this year Pablo's founder Craig Conner, along with our preferred service partner Moses from Moses Espresso Service enrolled in the technical training course on the EP at La Marzocco's Seattle office.  Over the course of the training session, Craig and Moses completely took apart and reassembled an EP and serviced one of the machines in the field. 

Upon returning from Seattle Craig immediately ordered the machine, and it arrived a couple days later.  We installed it in our Roasting Facility at 7th and Lipan and began getting ourselves up to speed on its function and operation.  "This gives us a chance to look more deeply at how we create espresso coffee, and at the extractions that we're getting out of the coffee," says Craig.  "It helps us to exchange our own ideas about the flavors we'd like to see in espresso, and it helps us work and grow in ways that are really refreshing."