in

LA MARZOCCO – IS THE LINEA MINI WORTH IT?

At £3,700 (nearly $5,000) for a single head machine, the first question we get asked invariably is, is it worth it? For most of us, if we have the money without selling a kidney, the answer is yes. But should you buy one?

That question requires us to look deeper into who La Marzocco aimed this machine for, and to understand what it does well, and where it is less than perfect.

Summary and Features

The La Marzocco Linea Mini is a quality machine with numerous small touches of class, and world-leading build quality. It has customization options and produces first-class espresso. It is missing some features of its higher-end brothers, but we forgive it because it does everything else so well and so consistently and because its looks and value will last longer than those cheaper competitors. But it’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone.

The only warning is to those who think the high cost of the machine means it will make a good espresso for them. If you’re brewing anything other than a dark roast, you’ll still need to understand about coffee mechanics to get good results.

FeatureDescription
Brew HeadIntegrated (not E61)
Boiler(s)Dual Boiler
PIDYes (analogue dial)
Flow Control?No
Pressure ControlNo
DialsTemperature and Pressure
Steam WandYes. Professional
Hot Water TapYes
Plumb in WaterWith modification
Cup WarmerYes
DimensionDetail
Height15in / 38cm
Width14in / 35.5cm
Depth21in / 53.3cm
Weight71lbs / 32.2kg

Cafe Quality Espresso

If you’re moving up from a cheap (sub $1,000) espresso machine, then you’ll know that the coffee you get at a speciality shop vs what you make at home is very different. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my Gaggia Classic Pro to produce anything near the divine taste that my beautiful Elektra 3 group machine makes at my cafe.

So if your goal is to get the same quality coffee at home as you can get in an upmarket shop, then this will do that for you, as long as you have the skills to get the best out of the machine.

Brewing Espresso on the Linea Mini

We already mentioned you get can cafe-quality brews from this machine, but don’t this is not a fully automatic espresso machine, and if you have no barista skills, don’t expect the machine to fix the problems. 

If you want quality espresso at the push of a button, you might want to look at some other machines – the La Marzocco is a machine for the enthusiast.

The level of control you have when brewing is reasonable, although not as extensive as its big brother, the GS3. For example, it is not volumetric, meaning you can’t set the machine to stop when it has reached a preset amount of extraction.

There is an automatic pre-infusion stage of about 1 second, which is a little on the low side, but I’m guessing that’s at full pressure as there’s no way to vary the pressure or flow control on this machine.

One of the nice features of the Linea Mini is the rotary pump, which is a commercial class pump that is quiet, consistent and reliable.

Water Temperature

Setting water temperature is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the brew boiler is a small square stainless steel variant that sits right on top of the head. It’s a simple design that others also such as the Victoria Arduino Eagle One does. The benefit is not only keeping a stable and consistent water temperature from the boiler to the head but also is energy efficient.

Now, if you want to change coffee between brews from dark to medium roast, for example, then you’ll want to change the temperature. With the Linea Mini’s small boiler, you twiddle the temperature dial (as long as you can access it – see below!) and flush the head. 

The temperature control dial sits on the bottom left side of the machine, which is a very odd design choice. It’s as if the engineers completely forgot about to do it until the night before the launch and then scrambled to find somewhere to stick.

Not only is it difficult to reach if the machine is against a wall, but you can’t see the setting – so not very useful then! There’s a reason why other manufacturers put an LED on the front – and this is something the GS3 does correctly.

Flow Control and the Paddle

I love analogue controls, and I’m not alone, so La Marzocco designed the Linea Mini with a paddle that you move from right to left to start the brew. You see something similar in the Slayer machines. However, while Slayer uses the paddle to change the flow control by setting the paddle at different stages, the La Marzocco paddle is a cheat – it’s just connected to a digital switch that starts the brewing when activated.

For many, that won’t matter, and honestly, the shots from the Linea Mini are great.

But, as we know, extraction is not a linea process (pun intended). Flavours of speciality coffee become enhanced by controlling the flow at various stages of the extraction – this is why the Decent Espresso machine was built.

The Linea Mini will not give you that level of control, but you will have a lovely paddle, especially if you replace it with a walnut one.

Contemporary Timeless Design

Making a classic and elegant design is so easy to recognise, and yet such an incredibly evasive goal. If it were easy, as they say, everyone would do it.

So the Linea Mini has achieved that goal. No. Yes. Well, it’s a matter of opinion, but maybe 50%. It certainly looks good, but, and this is just my opinion, not great. However, it’s going to look good today, and it won’t look dated in 10 years, and it has pretty much nailed build quality. That means that it’s going to retain those looks for all those 10 years and more.

Build Quality and Maintenance

Steve Jobs of Apple once asked an engineer to show him the internals of their new iMac. When he saw the bundle of cables, he was disgusted and wanted the whole thing redesigned. ‘But Mr Jobs’, the engineer is reputed to have said ‘It’s a sealed machine, nobody will know’. ‘I’ll know’, Jobs retorted.

The La Marzocco is a bit like that. You don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate the craftsmanship. Look at this valve I found on Amazon. Everything is made in Italy, no doubt by a stubborn fussy Italian engineer. And that’s the way I want it, and the way you should want it too because this translates to a user experience that brings joy every time you interact with it. And isn’t that what life should be about? 

The somewhat disgraced philosopher Osho wrote that we should not look for happiness through big achievements, but find it in the mundane everyday small things. This is what the Linea Mini can bring you – the pleasure and appreciation that comes through using a crafted tool for the purpose for which it was created.

One of the problems I used to complain about from La Marzocco was the cost of parts and overall maintenance, but I’ve softened my stance a bit as It’s no different from the German car I drive. I could have bought a cheaper car, but I enjoy driving the one I have, and I’m willing to pay for the increased maintenance because it’s never broken down, and it makes me feel good every time I get in it.

As expensive as parts are for La Marzocco, at least they are available, and the build quality is such that a well-maintained machine will last many years longer than cheaper alternatives might. So, over its lifetime, and considering the resale value of the machine, the cost is lower than it first looks.

Linea Mini Accessories

As standard, you get a decent standard 58mm portafilter, though no brass, which is a shame, but the spouts are removable for cleaning, and it comes with a single, double, triple basket, and a blind, which is great. 

The basket is angled so that you can place it on a work surface and it will be level so that you can tamp it. It also has an edge on it so you can choose to rest it up on a table edge if you like.

They throw in a nice milk jug, the obligatory cheaper tamper, some cleaning chemicals, and a water testing kit, which is also thoughtful. 

Linea Mini Custom Parts

If you’re going to drop $5k on a machine that makes coffee, you might be in the market for adding some aesthetic details yourself. Out of the factory, you already get to choose between several colours; yellow, red, white, black, stainless steel, and powder blue, and honestly, all of them look good.

Fortunately, there is a healthy aftermarket for customizing your Linea and making it something beautiful. The design is already classic, but replacing some of the plastics with wood turns it into a piece of art. It comes at a price, £1,100 or $1,400USD to be exact. You can pick it up from their US website.

la marzocco linea mini walnut kit
Beautiful walnut kit costs $1,400 from La Marzocco

Plumbing it into the water mains is possible with some customization options you can easily find on the internet. However, it’s not difficult to add water by pulling out the drip tray, then pulling out the water tank right out the front.

One of the nice touches is the drip tray is connected with a magnet so that it doesn’t vibrate noisily when the pump is running.

Steaming on the Linea

This boiler means business. I mean, steaming is possibly one of the strongest points of the Linea Mini, which can be a problem if you’re not used to it. Slow steaming gives the novice time to correct mistakes. The Linea Mini will blow the milk out of the jug if you give it a chance, and it will continue to do so cup after cup. 

This ability to pump out steam continuously without stopping makes this a perfect machine for small events where speed matters. 

The Linea Mini Vs the GS3

I expect La Marzocco put a severe dent in their sales of the GS3 when they released the Linea Mini, and that’s a shame because I prefer the design of the GS3. I think it’s beautiful and more practical to use, and it has more gadgets, but it’s more complicated, perhaps too much for many home users, and it’s $2,000 more expensive.

Summary

The Linea Mini is a machine to aspire to own. To me, the only let down are the temperature dial, and the pretend analogue brew level. I would love to see some flow control options. However, it’s small, beautiful, produces great espresso and is going to last a lifetime if treated well. It’s also going on my Santa’s wish list this Christmas.

What do you think?

Written by Nick Baskett

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GAGGIA CLASSIC PRO REVIEW – WHEN TO BUY ONE AND WHEN NOT!

Starbucks

STARBUCKS PLANS TO REOPEN 90% OF ITS STORES BY EARLY JUNE