I have tested the La Marzocco Leva espresso machine for a few months when I had a short but intense working experience in an Italian coffee shop in London.
When I first used it, the Leva coffee machine was just being launched! Therefore, I am quite sure about a few technical problems I am sharing in this post have been already solved by La Marzocco, the mother company of this forward-thinking machine.
It is well designed and the first time I saw it I thought it was something in between a sports car and a coffee machine. How cool!
THE BEST FEATURES OF THIS COMMERCIAL ESPRESSO MACHINE
- Design that can change the look of your coffee shops. Simple as that;
- The users can manually set the pre-infusion;
- A better ergonomically designed place to work as the levers won’t hurt your jaws.
WEAK POINTS (at the time of the trial)
- It is not an easy process to aim for the ideal coffee extraction while making new recipes;
- baristas need extra work and time to reach the perfect extraction;
- Consistency of the coffee extraction;
- as the machine is a complex piece of art, it is fragile;
- it is not the right commercial espresso machine for a busy London coffee shop.
- It is extremely hard (as I tested myself) to use this Marzocco machine in a super busy London coffee shop as the time required to make a new shot of coffee is longer.
As much as I love the idea and the concept behind this cool stuff, I must say that consistency doesn’t belong to this machine, hence it cannot be considered as a feature when looking for a new machine to buy. Coffee machines designer must always understand that a coffee machine is an important investment for small coffee businesses and the efficiency of the machine is the first thing the buyers look at.
INTRODUCTION TO LA MARZOCCO LEVA
I LOVE LEVA DESIGN.
LA MARZOCCO DESIGNERS DID TRULY THEIR BEST TO CREATE ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COFFEE MACHINE THAT THIS COMPANY CAMES UP WITH.
La Marzocco Leva is one of the best-designed espresso machines worldwide. You can truly see what it is going on in the machine while you are brewing with it, as part of the engine is not covered up!
How cool is that?
What about coffee extraction?
How does this piece of high-end engineering call Leva works?
The main heart of this made in Italy espresso coffee machine is its spring.
Let’s see how this spring works.
The concept is that the spring provides the force to drive enough water directly through the coffee puck using the coiled spring elastic potential energy!
This necessary force generated from the coiled spring elastic energy instead of keeping a constant pressure for the whole time of the extraction, as it usually happens in many professional, industrial or commercial coffee machines, declines over time.
This mechanism is regulated by the elastic modulus of the spring, directly installed inside the La Marzocco Leva machine.
The spring is wrapped up through the lever (La Marzocco clutch type) and at the same time, a pre-set amount of water (which the barista need to be careful of) is released into a restricted volume chamber.
When the barista releases the clutch to start the extraction, the spring immediately acts on the water within the volume chamber and the pressure created, will push it back through the espresso puck.
Simply put, there is a correlation between the amount of pressure performed for the extraction and how firmly and closely this spring is wrapped up.
This mechanism can be adjusted manually with the right screw in a section at the top back of the espresso machine which I have to say it’s not practical and also, it’s a waste of time.
When the barista releases the clutch and the coffee extraction starts, automatically the springs elastic potential energy will run and it will create the pressure for the extraction and this pressure will drop over time. Usually, conventional pump-driven coffee machines keep their pressure constant during all the extraction time.
Following this mechanism, the ping and the energy produced by pressing down the lever is truly important regarding the final result.
The machine allows you to modify the pre-infusion time, but actually, the barista cannot set any other pressure profile. There’s just one pressure profile that can be modified by changing the pre-infusion setting and the grind setting. This time, however, the changes you may apply while trying to modify the extraction profile, will not impact as much as you may think, which is not significant and doesn’t make any considerable difference in taste.
If you want to see how a constant pressure machine works you can read our blog-post on La Marzocco Strada AV.
During the time I was practising with this machine, I spent a bit of time to experiment on the different types of coffee extractions you can gain using different settings.
LA MARZOCCO LEVA CONSISTENCY
Because the force generated when you press down the lever of the coffee is the result of the pressure created by the spring, the barista needs to know as well how to apply the correct pressure when he/she releases back the clutch.
The ideal pressure to start with was around 3-4 bars on average (the pressure started at 3 bars and then up to 12 for a couple of seconds. Then rapidly decreased and steady to 4 bars for most of the extraction), which it was what I find the best profile using a medium-to-low quality arabica beans with a medium to dark roast profile that I was using at that time while experimenting with this machine.
Because the Leva can be regulated manually, by few changes while using it consistently, by modifying the pre-infusion and the coffee dose, the grind setting and the correct tamping pressure, I could reach a pretty smooth extraction, avoiding that bitterness related to the roast profile.
That must be said quite clearly that a pressure profile is something that is hugely affected by the coffee beans we used, how it has been roasted, processed and how fresh it is. So, for every kind of beans, there’s a different amount of experiment that needs to be taken, and therefore, different profiles.
HOW DOES THE FINAL COFFEE TASTES?
If the barista sets all the correct features, knows exactly which kind of pressure needs to apply on the clutch and the characteristic of the coffee he/she is extracting, coffee results with La Marzocco Leva could be extraordinary.
Unfortunately, obtaining the same, exact, flavoured coffee can be extremely hard as the pressure generated by the spring could be different for any extraction, which was the main weak point of this machine at the time of my trials.
During the time experimenting with this coffee machine, I have noticed a few interesting things:
- When I increased the pre-infusion time, the intensity of the coffee drastically decreased. Making this an official statement is impossible! These results have been achieved with that Italian arabica coffee blend from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia that I was using at that time;
- I couldn’t experiment the LEVA with different types of coffee and speciality coffees but I highly suggest to use only single-origin speciality coffee;
- I have reached the best extraction, balance and related sweetness, using that specific arabica coffee, had a great ‘peak’ by setting around 5 seconds of pre-infusion time;
- With a longer pre-infusion with about 8, 9 or 12 seconds, the coffee was unbalanced with the bitterness that was overpowering and unbalanced the cup;
- I have found that a pre-infusion between 5 or 6 seconds was the right set up for the best extraction and let me achieve a smoother and richer taste with a balance between the acidity and the sweetness.
La Marzocco LEVA and la Marzocco AV comparison
Technically speaking, the mass flow-rate between the 2 machines would be the same at the start of the extraction (this is the period during the extraction where flavonoids and sweetness are extracted) and both espresso machines accelerate the process over time as solutes are dissolved, generating a faster water flow.
The main difference is that, in the Leva espresso machine, the spring will accelerate but at a slower speed than the La Marzocco Strada AV.
This reduced flow-rate has a solid impact on the dissolved solids during the extraction procedure and it could be a very good thing as it could generate a more consistent solids extraction over the whole pull and release routine.
IS THE LEVA GOOD FOR LONDON COFFEE SHOPS?
- It is nice pulling the shots with the Lever watching the overall extraction process and the spring in action;
- A great and sophisticated “cool touch” steam wand;
- It will be a great conversation point for the customers as it will attract interest.
Having said that, as a professional barista, passing from a well-established and intuitive push-button operational machine such many models on the market to a coffee espresso machine that requires so much user interaction is a challenging task.
For a really busy coffee shop, this Italian made espresso coffee machine could be a risky investment that business owners need to calculate adequately.
- The height of the lever and the user interactions do not help at all when we talk about speeding of the service;
- It usually takes roughly 30 seconds as the operational time for a barista to pull an espresso shot. But with the La Marzocco Leva you will need more time, nearly double;
- Once the extraction time ends completely, the portafilter is still pressurized for a significant amount of time and the barista needs to be careful to avoid the small splash of boiling water while removing the “handle”. The risk is that the metal mechanism will fly back and damage the control module made in plastic.
I would suggest this particular machine to a coffee business which doesn’t need to pay particular attention to serve high amounts of coffee shots in a very short amount of time.
I would like to see this good-looking coffee machine in very high-quality hotels, lounges or clubs that do not require to pull so many shots as in a fast-paced environment. I would say this machine does its best in a coffee shop that works with a couple of kilos a day. Having said that, who is going to pay more than 20.000 pounds for this business type?
I would truly love to try this piece of art with a single-origin speciality coffee to see the potential of this Italian coffee machine and if consistency is finally something that can be considered as the main feature.
How much La Marzocco Leva costs?
La Marzocco Leva X is for sale in the UK market for £25.000 for the 2 groups model and £27.000 for the 3 groups.
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.