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La Marzocco's Linea Mini and the new tech uplifting my coffee ritual

Photography by Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed

Published April 10 2020

I was approached by La Marzocco late 2019 as an owner of a Linea Mini to share my experience with La Marzocco's wireless technology—redefining upgrade, I had the Linea Mini Connected Machine Retrofit Kit installed. I still think the Linea Mini is one of the best investments my partner and I have made to date—the machine and ritual which is connected to it.

I do believe that we need to be responsible, to act with intent when it comes to making purchases, but it is also not our sole responsibility. Some brands are more conscious and responsible for wanting to minimise their impact. For me, the responsibility of design — how something is produced, its longevity determines how 'sustainable' that product is. I don't own a lot of things, people think minimalism is for the privileged, but it is, that is not necessarily the case. It's an out for those no longer willing to participate in a consumerist society. We all need to slow down.

La Marzocco Mini Linea morning coffee rituals

Coffee is the ritual that brings us together each morning, and we make it for each other. I love espresso. For me it is a health move, science says so. As with all things, coffee's benefits come with buying quality and consuming with balance. And since drinking coffee with dairy milk cancels out any of the health benefits — my boyfriend alternates between espresso and soy and oat milk flat whites. This is slow coffee, and we make time for usually three of these a day.

The La Marzocco Linea Mini is an investment

I never found takeaway to be an enjoyable coffee experience. It was late 2017 that we decided to invest in a La Marzocco Linea Mini, not even an espresso machine— a La Marzocco. The Linea Mini is handmade with the same components used in La Marzocco's commercial Linea Classic which ensures the same quality and durability of which the brand is synonymous. The Linea Classic is the machine that launched the specialty coffee movement of the early 1990s. In 1939, it was La Marzocco that developed and patented the first coffee machine with a horizontal boiler, now the industry standard. And still today, La Marzocco is an artisan company. People are making these machines by hand in Italy.

Unfortunately today, a society moulded around capitalism, conditioned to expect things to cost so little, challenging this mentality is considered niche and alternative. If we are honest, you cannot buy an espresso machine for a few hundred dollars and those pod coffee machines—they'll tell you how you can recycle their packaging because they're very aware of just how much waste they're putting out into the world. We need to demand quality and within that, accountability from everywhere and everything; the people we surround ourselves with, the products we buy. Planned obsolescence is real.

Redefining upgrade. La Marzocco's wireless technology

La Marzocco had been quietly adding the necessary hardware into its latest production runs. So much like Patagonia's 'Don't Buy This Jacket' La Marzocco don't want you to buy a new machine—they will be offering a retrofit kit for Linea Mini and GS3 owners. Wireless upgrades are available for both Linea Mini, and GS3 machines and this technology upgrade allows you to:

Remotely turn the machine on or off Also with energy conservation in mind, often our phones are closer to us and so if you forget to turn your machine off at night or during the day if you already left for work you can do this remotely via the app.

Creation of an on/off schedule Ideal for saving energy, you can place your machine on standby. My partner and I have a schedule set to turn the machine on at 5 AM, so the Linea Mini is sufficiently heated for those early mornings.

Coffee brewed and machine flushing counter This is more for extending the useful life of your machine. Ours is serviced annually, though daily maintenance and more specifically backflushing is vital. Coffee oils are acidic — the group head and seals will be the worst affected, deteriorating the metal and blocking water flow. That and residual coffee grinds and oils will produce a bitter espresso. So yes, I'm definitely flushing the machine more.

Enabling and setting pre-brewing on/off times Once Dave from La Marzocco explained pre-infusion to me, I turned pre-infusion on. I felt like I had been making espresso wrong all this time. Pre-infusion refers to the process of gently soaking the ground coffee in your portafilter before extraction. With pre-infusion, water evenly penetrates the grounds to ensure that the entire bed has the same amount of water flowing through it throughout extraction. And in theory, you should have fewer instances of channelling — where water finds a path of low resistance and flows through it, avoiding nearby grounds. Uneven tamping will do this too. You'll end up with an uneven extraction and an inferior espresso. Pre-infusion has unlevelled the ritual.

Boiler temperature status and control After speaking with Kōkako’s head roaster, Sam McTavish I now have a better understanding of how brewing temperature can impact flavour profile. Adjusting the temperature allows you to either accentuate flavour profiles or correct for less desirable characteristics. If your coffee has a sharp acidity you could, for example, increase your Linea Mini’s temperature, which would produce a lower acidity espresso. My machine is currently set at 94℃. I’ll be trialling temperatures between 90℃ and 93℃ as per Sam’s recommendations. Let’s see which produces an even better espresso.

We all need to consume less

We also need to consume higher quality—where personal circumstance allows for it. People need to realise that hidden behind a low price tag are incredibly high social and environmental costs that we will feel for generations to come. Until this self-actualisation occurs, industries, people will continue to profit from the ignorance and shallow 'needs' of everyday people at the expense of everything else. There is a wonderful book written by an Australian economist Richard Dennis — Curing Affluenza. An underlying theme, materialism versus consumerism. It means investing in clothing that you'll wear for the next ten years versus ten weeks, or an espresso machine with a lifetime warranty versus a year.

That said not everyone has the desire or financial means to invest in a Linea Mini — these machines retail for around NZD6,300 and that’s fine. We don’t own a car. Before purchasing the Linea Mini, my boyfriend and I would use our 6 Cup Chemex. I still use it today. And there are many other options for making great coffee at home — a Clever Dripper or Moccamaster are both excellent options. If you would be interested in owning a Linea Mini, for expressions of interest, you can complete the contact form here.

Correcting our disposable consumer culture

Coffee has become a necessity we rely on to meet the everyday demands of our modern capitalist culture. And so coffee shops are popular because coffee is and most people do not know how to correctly prepare a decent cup at home, so they do not realise when they are paying for someone to make bad coffee for them. There are some amazing coffee shops preparing incredible coffee, purchasing quality beans and using correct methodology. There's a certain level of respect for the bean, the process. But most of the coffee you’ll find on the street is not this. In many ways cafes have become a senseless amenity—we all survived when they were forcefully closed during the pandemic.

The landscape of litter has shifted during 2020. Disposable masks replaced coffee cups and became as commonplace as cigarette butts on sidewalks. The degenerative, disposable culture has led to much of the escalating climate crisis. While it is important to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, I question if this is even an effective model because it is either completely unattainable to most people and mostly the barriers are psychological. There was, and still is to an extent, a reusable movement that failed to scale in any meaningful way. It is a model for a few to feel righteous about themselves that essentially promotes consumption, which is a counterintuitive approach. Yes, we need to be responsible but it is also not our sole responsibility. We are within a society and context that is equally responsible.

We have cups made out of commercially compostable materials and yes there is a current lack of infrastructure but again, should our taxpayer dollars not be invested in a well-structured waste management framework—an environment that also prioritises decentralised waste facilities such as composting, enabling a shift from fossil fuel to plant-based plastics?

If coffee shops and the consumption of coffee is to be one of an altered view of convenience, perhaps key performance indicators [KPI’s] require assessment. Imagining a more sustainable industry isn’t just about compostable coffee cups and plastic reduction or using organic beans. Yes, it’s those things, but it’s also paying the person that works in that coffee shop at least a living wage. But businesses often don’t want to budge on their sales, and they aren’t willing to make such changes. If we aspire higher, these places would not exist.

Amandine and I had wanted this space to be one where we could continue to remind people of pressing issues but equally empower us, otherwise we’re basically proposing a model that is unattainable, and it leads people to disengage. Leading with solutions is important because solutions already exist.

Culture creates change

Even after a year of purchasing the Linea Mini, I was still frequenting my local coffee shop, I had underestimated how habitual the quest for morning coffees had become. It took a couple of months, but by 2018 I was making my own espresso. If anything, this machine made me reconsider how I valued my time. Yes, you can reduce resource use to an extent, though I always drank my coffee at a cafe, I never enjoyed coffee out of a paper cup.

Perhaps for many, coffee at home is either instant or some unsatisfactory plunger. Making better coffee at home, so much of it comes down to the quality of your beans and how you brew it. One of the most amazing coffees I had made for me was from a client in her home, from a Moka Pot. My boyfriend and I both work on freelance projects in marketing/website development/and photography. And we’re working mostly from home so it's so important to not have work dominate everything we do. That said, it’s not coffee-coffee-coffee all the time — it’s an opportunity to slow down. With all aspects of our life, intentional consumption is something we practice. Focus on quality. The quality of attention you give to others, to your goals — and to your purchases.

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