Since 1927, La Marzocco has made the world’s finest espresso machines. Most likely, your favorite coffee shop has at least one of their machines. When our friend Scott from La Marzocco USA offered to set up a tour of their Florence factory, we were excited to get an inside look at how these incredible machines are made!
The La Marzocco factory is located in the small town of Scarperia e San Piero, a short drive (through beautiful rolling hills) from Florence. As soon as you walk inside, you realize this is not a factory in the way we think of them in America. The lobby includes an espresso bar, a patio with a pizza oven, a gathering area featuring a meat slicer and wine collection, as well as a display of vintage espresso machines.
A stunning conference room features a collection of custom hand painted and La Marzocco machines, and modern Italian design touches like Kartell Louis Ghost chairs. This is also where we were able to try out their newest home machine, the Linea Mini. It was the perfect start to our afternoon tour, and where we fell in love with the machine. We asked our guide, Silvia, if La Marzocco prefers a specific espresso in the factory. She told us that they actually are constantly changing the beans they use so they can try all kinds of brands and roasts. Customers use all kinds of espresso beans, so it’s important to be constantly testing the machines with a variety of beans.
After enjoying an espresso in the lobby, we headed out to the workshop to see how these amazing machines are made. La Marzocco is known for its history of innovation. It was the first company to create a horizontally-oriented espresso machine (old models used a tall, vertical boiler), which allows for multiple shots to be pulled on one machine simultaneously, speeding up the workflow at your favorite coffee shops.
We didn’t get to see inside the R&D lab where the team is continually experimenting and learning (a top secret space), but we did get to see their newest technology at work in the Linea Mini. La Marzocco’s smaller units, the Linea Mini and GS3, are part of the La Marzocco Home division, and are each assembled by a dedicated team of technicians who specialize in these products.
As you can see in the picture above, the Linea Mini has a huge steam boiler, then a smaller “integrated” boiler for brewing espresso, which sits immediately above the group head. The water used for espresso brewing is preheated before it enters the brew boiler, and the fact that the boiler is integrated in the group head ensures temperature stability (the metal in the group head is a hot as the water in the boiler). The small boiler size allows for the machine to come to temperature in 10 – 15 minutes (vs. 40 minutes for the larger GS3).
The GS3, shown above, showcases another La Marzocco innovation, the “saturated group head.” In this design, the group head is welded directly to the brew boiler, which is another way to achieve temperature stability. The GS3 is a single-group machine originally intended for small cafes and catering operations. Silvia told us that people started buying them for high-end home kitchens, so the company realized there was a home market for their machines. The new Linea Mini was specifically designed for home use, but has been purchased by a lot of small cafes and catering operations. The La Marzocco Home division sells both models for home use, and both are equally capable of making amazing espresso.
After thoroughly admiring the home offerings, we headed down to the main floor, where commercial machines are made. Unlike the home models, which are relatively standardized other than finish options, commercial machines are built to order and completely customizable. Cafe customers choose a machine model, number of group heads, paddle or switch activation, paint colors, etc.
Each machine is bench tested prior to leaving the factory, and the ones bound for the United States get bench tested a second time in Seattle.From start to finish, a custom machine takes on average 7-10 days to complete. Each machine has paperwork that tells you the exact order specifications and where it’s going. We saw machines that were headed to the United States, Australia, and Italy. How amazing is the steel Strada with its sleek yellow lettering? We would have been happy to take this one home with us! This is where each machine gets carefully wrapped up and ready to ship out to it’s destination.
This custom bus was used for selling espresso machines. La Marzocco would go out on the road and showcase their machines in the back of the bus. Behind the two seats in the front, you’ll see espresso machines lined up for customer demonstrations.
Our last stop before heading out and driving up to the Veneto was the training lab and showroom. Teams from all over the world will travel to the factory to practice their barista skills. There was a team from Julius Meinl training while we were there. We took advantage of their perfectly dialed-in grinder settings and practiced pulling shots on a huge black Strada. Check out more from the factory tour in our video below, and La Marzocco Home Field Trip to Four Barrel Coffee Roasters in San Francisco.
After seeing the quality and care that goes into each machine, we left the factory wanting to take one home with us. Having been in Italy for two straight weeks, we knew that when we returned home we’d miss having a perfectly pulled espresso shot to start the day. If we were going to have an espresso machine in our kitchen, we knew this would be the one. How does the story end? Keep an eye out for more fun with La Marzocco Home.