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Hands On Review: La Marzocco FB80 Paddle Group

First of all, I would like to thank May Soo from Wineberry, the official La Marzocco distributor in Singapore for inviting me and Kai Seng to Food And Hotel Asia 2010 at Singapore Expo. The first thing we did after passing through the visitor registration process yesterday was heading to the La Marzocco booth at Hall 5C-8. The La Marzocco booth is also conveniently located opposite from the stage area where the Asia Barista Championship is being held today and tomorrow. Thankfully, ABC’s La Marzocco machines are sponsored by Wineberry, unlike Singapore National Barista Championship’s mismatched pair of machine-grinder combo.

On display were 2 very sought after machines of mine.

This is a La Marzocco GS3 Paddle Group with clear side panels. The clear side panels are an exhibition only feature as the original GS3 comes with black side panels. This one time model is also on sale for a very good price of S$9000. I was told that there will be a price hike for La Marzocco soon.

And the winning espresso machine of FHA 2010 this year would be the La Marzocco FB80 Paddle Group. This machine is a beauty to behold. We could see that the 3 groups all had individual PIDs, with temperatures set at 94.8°C, 96.6°C and 95.5°C. As the temperatures show, it would mean the PIDs could be configured in steps of 0.1 degree. WOW!

This FB80 model comes with LED lights too. Note also the matte black steam wands. Sleek!

That’s one less trip to Ikea to get the LED strips.

Paired with the 2 La Marzocco espresso machines is the La Marzocco Swift, a grinder with auto-dosing and auto-tamping.

The real feature the FB80 and the GS3 had that attracted the both of us were the paddle groups and the ability of pressure profiling. So many of the other espresso machines found at FHA this year were mostly boasting Green-Save-The-Environment features. These paddle group machines meant that we could control the amount of pre-infusion time and the amount of pressure manually. The paadle group lever goes smoothly from right to left. As I gradually moved the lever to the center position, I could see that the pressure went to 3 bars steadily, and as I moved the lever to the left, the pressure began to climb to 9 bars.

With the La Marzocco Swift ensuring the tamping and dosing variable would remain constant throughout, we could easily put the FB80 to the test. I went first. I chose to use the 95.5°C grouphead and proceeded to flush the grouphead with the portafilter attached. I then detached the portafilter, gave it a good wipe and locked it into the Swift. The coffee provided was Oriole Cafe’s freshly roasted Espresso blend, another good match to the machine. After the Swift’s dosing and tamping ended, I unlocked the portafilter and locked it back into the FB80. I gradually moved the lever to the center position and then waited for the first drops. Just as I did that, I knew that Kai Seng would probably be thinking the same thing as I was at the time. This experience would be perfect if I had brought along my naked portafilter. After about 7 seconds, the first dark chocolate coloured drops appeared in the cup. I let it drip for about 4 seconds before gradually moving the lever the the left, bringing the pressure up to 9 bars. The pour was superb, the colours went from dark chocolate to lighter dark chocolate. The crema in the cup was so spectacular. At the first sign of very slight bloding, I moved the lever back to the right to stop the pour. The espresso was heavenly. I could taste the wide complex taste spectrum of the espresso. No bitters at all, some chocolates, a buttery mouthfeel. At 95.5°C, I was in 7th heaven with Oriole Cafe’s espresso blend.

Darn! I’m late for work. I will finish this review when I return later in another 11 hours’ time. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, please attend FHA 2010 even if it means paying the $80 at the door. Wineberry will not be having the FB80 for long. I’ve heard that the unit already has a buyer.

P.S.  The only odd feature we didin’t like was the fact that there was only 1 pressure gauge shared between all 3 groups. I turned on the 3 individual groups at different times and it seemed that the pressure gauge displayed the highest pressure at any one time.

Video – SNBC 2010 Finals – Keith Loh

This is the video of Keith Loh’s (Oriole Cafe) winning performance during the Final Round of the Singapore National Barista Championship 2010. Keith went on to win the Championship and will be representing Singapore in the World Barista Championship held in London later this year.

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Video – SNBC Day 2 – John Ting

Here’s a video of John’s performance at this year’s SNBC. Having participated in SNBC every year since 2007, John has been placed Runner Up in 2007, and Champion in 2008 and 2009. His latest WBC 2009 rank representing Singapore is #21.

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SNBC Day 2

Today, I came prepared, with my naked portafilter, a digital thermometer crippled from my Eric Svendson’s setup from home, and my Espro tamper.

While attention was focused on the latte art competition on the floor, I stole away to try my stint at the Rancilio Classe 6 unit at the door. A few points in summary:

My Rancilio naked portafilter locks in at 6 o clock

The Ditting-Mahlkoenig clumps to high heaven because of the lack of a doser to help in some unclumping. I had to use the digital thermometer to unclump the grounds in order to perfect my pour. I had spritzing in most my pours no thanks to the doserless grinder.

The Rancilio Classe 6 rapidly loses heat in the grouphead. I read initial temps of 205, and then it steadily decreases to a range between 165 and 175 degrees 20 seconds in. I’m sure past competitors would miss the PID’d temperature stability and machine build of previous SNBC sponsor who brought in La Marzocco. Even Nuova Simonelli had their WBC machines specially customized with a PID to ensure temperature stability.

The Spinelli roast worked very well with the Rancilios. I managed to test out one pour at the competition machine with the Boncafe roast, intended for the latte art comp, and it tasted inferior to the Spinelli roast. I would think Ross had tailored the roasts to suit his machines. Despite the temperature instability and the clumping, Spinelli pours from the Rancilio were all within a good degree of tolerance in body, flavour and acidity. Point in note, if all else fails in this year’s SNBC, be sure to use Spinelli roast. I’m sure it’ll taste quite fine to please the judges’ palates.

Updated with new photos: