User Review – La Marzocco FB80

La Marzocco FB80 – 3 Group AVfb80-and-robur.jpgPositive:Industry leading thermal stability for brewing.PID Temperature control for brew boiler.Awesome steam power with easy to control taps.Easy volumetric programming (AV Model).Practical electronic features (eg. Auto back flushing mode).Programmable pre infusion.Gorgeous looks with customisable panel work.Adjustable hot water service temperatureNegative:Price (you get what you pay for though).Inconsistent hot water service button (EE model only)This is the customised paint job on our FB80.fb80-paint-work.jpgOut of the box.I wasn’t present at the installation, but it went smoothly.It’s an impressive machine to look at, Barista and customer sides alike. You can customise the exterior paintwork at any automotive spray painter. This is a great way of individualising your machine, and ours is painted in the Coffee HQ corporate colour “Sprint Red”.On the Barista side, it features an attractive & practical control panel. We have the AV model (auto/volumetric dosing), and the buttons are well laid out, backlit (they look cool at night) and are good to use during service. The buttons are mounted in a stainless steel panel, with 2 steam taps at either end. There’s also a LCD that provides various information, depending on the mode you are running at any given time (I’ll cover programming features below).This is the control panel with back lit brew buttonsfb80-control-panel.jpgHaving used the machine in competition, I couldn’t wait to use it at work. I had raved about the machine to my staff for weeks, and now it was time to show them what the fuss was all about.Outstanding Features.As with any new piece of equipment, you should RTFM. Normally, RTFM stands for Read The F@%$#&* Manual. In the case of some manufacturers it stands for Read The Funny Manuscript, as it’s hardly any use as a Manual. In this case I’d say it stands for Read The Fancy Manual, as La Marzocco provide an excellent Manual, without the usual translation “Glitches”. The machine’s features and program functions are well explained.Twin boilers.The FB80 is a twin boiler machine with saturated groups. Twin boilers means you have a boiler dedicated for brewing, and a boiler dedicated for steam. The advantage with this is that you can turn up the “Steam” boiler for powerful, fast rebounding steam without affecting the “Brew” boiler. A PID device, that provides incredibly consistent and precise temperatures, controls the “Brew” boiler. La Marzocco claim a consistency of .5 of a degree Celsius from shot to shot.The saturated groups are mounted onto the “Brew” boiler, and have water circulating through their very heavy, but hollow, structures. This maintains thermal stability at the group head.We previously had an FB70. It was a great machine in many ways, but it did have its weaknesses. I’ll probably write a review for the FB70 too, but I’ll also refer to it in this review for comparison.The reason I mention the FB70 is because it’s also a twin boiler machine, and it also had PID temperature control for the brew water boiler. The temperature stability on the FB70 was pretty good during regular and peak service, but it ran cold in the quiet service periods. I would have to pulse water through the groups periodically, to maintain brew temperature if the FB70 was idle for 10 – 15 minutes. However, the FB80 seems to have better temperature consistency, even during quiet service periods. We still need to pulse the groups if they’ve been inactive for 20 – 30 minutes, but they seem to come back to temperature more quickly than the FB70. (I say “Seems to” as I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, nor have I done any form of data logging on either machine. This is just my observation.)I’m not sure what design improvements have achieved this improved stability during quiet service periods. However, one design improvement to aid in “Brew” boiler temperature stability is the use of pre-heated water for the “Brew” boiler. Cold water entering the “Brew” boiler can dramatically impact the temperature stability of the boiler, which impacts shot consistency. By heating the water before it enters the “Brew” boiler, it allows the PID device to more easily control temperature stability.Steam Power.The steam power on the FB80 is awesome. It produces superb milk texture, no matter how busy we get. The steam boiler rarely drops below 1.1 bar, and that’s only if we’re drawing lot’s of water for teas or long blacks. The four-holed steam tip is easy to control, even in a 300ml (+/- 8oz) jug. The steam tap doesn’t have much (if any) “Dead” space before steam is delivered. Steam is fully on in about a half a turn, which means it’s easy to get the steam on and off. The power is predictable at any given turning point, so I know that I can turn the tap to point “X” when using the 300ml jug, and it will produce the amount of steam I want for 300mls, not blast the milk out of the jug.The steam wands are easily manoeuvred, and stay where you want them.You can also order the optional auto milk-steaming feature. (The steam wands measure the temperature of the milk and shut off the steam at a set temperature point.) We didn’t order this feature.Programmability.There are many programmable functions available, but I’ll just cover a few.Many of the features are only programmable by a technician (password required), so that the staff don’t get adventurous with brew temperatures, PID parameters etc.Auto Back flush: You don’t have to program this per se, but by holding down 2 specific buttons on each group, you can back flush automatically. Load the blind filtered portafilter (with/without detergent into the group, activate the buttons, and the machine goes through a back flushing cycle automatically. No need to supervise, just get on with other tasks. This is a major time saver at the end of the day!Chronos Function: This function displays the shot times for each group on the LCD. This is such a practical function, and allows us to easily monitor shot consistency when we’re churning through 2 kilos of coffee per hour.Auto on/off: You can program the machine to turn on and off automatically, on any give day of the week.Pre-Infusion: You can program pre-infusion individually on each group. The function allows you to set the time for water delivery and then holding time before brewing commences. (Eg. 1.1 seconds of water delivery, pause of 1.8 seconds, commence brew.)Brew Temperature: You can set the brew temperature in .1 of a degree increments.PID parameters: You can change the way the PID behaves. (The manual provides “Guidance” on this function, as it’s something best left to someone who REALLY knows what they’re doing).Auto Steam Off (Optional): You can set the temperature point at which the steam tap turns off for auto milk steaming.Cup Warming (Optional): You can order an additional cup-warming element (fitted underneath the cup warming trays), and control it through the programming mode.Usual FeaturesVolumetric Dosing.Each group can be programmed for 4 different volumetric doses (as with most autos), and you can also program 2 different hot water doses (eg. one dose for tea pots, another dose for long blacks/americanos).The method of programming is simple, and easily explained in the manual.According to the manual, you can program all groups to have identical doses by programming the left group only. However, I prefer to program each group individually.As with the FB70, we have to periodically monitor the volumetric doses from each group (every week or two) to confirm the accuracy of the doses. We find that the doses on all groups eventually run longer or shorter than originally programmed.Backlit brew buttonsimg_2920.jpgAdjustable Hot Water Service Temperature.Your technician can adjust the temperature of the hot water service temperature. There’s an adjusting screw that mixes cold water with hot water from the “Steam” boiler.Angled Portafilters.The portafilters are typical La Marzocco – Quality! They’re angled for easier level tamping. They’re well balanced and comfortable to use. The spouts are narrower than those with the FB70. It’s now easier to pour a double ristretto into a 4oz cup, as the tips of the spouts fit inside the diameter of the cup.Our machine came with four handles (3 handles with double spouts and 1 handle with a single spout).Pulling shotsPulling shots into 8oz paper cupsfb80-pouring.jpgI haven’t done any data logging with this so, once again, I’m just going to give my impressions.A few facts before we start.Our FB80 is fitted with .8mm restrictors, and you can opt for .6mm restrictors.We don’t use the pre-infusion function, and it’s a function that is only supposed to be activated and modified by a technician (password required).Our grinder is a Mazzer Robur (single phase), and the (drop) dosing is set at +/- 20grams for our 18gram baskets.Now onto the fun, even if it’s not overly detailed.As typical Australians, we up dose our baskets (and we love it ;-)). As most of our coffees are take away, and therefore have more milk (compared with ceramic or glass), I ensure that the espresso base has as much flavour impact as possible.Anyway, the extractions are gorgeous to watch. It takes 5 – 6 seconds from the time the brew switch is activated before liquid emerges from the spouts. Our shots generally run at 60mls (2 x 30mls) in 24 – 28 seconds (climate depending). The liquid emerges from the spouts in a smooth flow, no bursts or splutters. It’s like the FB80 is sighing espresso! The streams look syrupy, and the colour is rich, reddish brown. In the cup, there’s mottling when extractions are closer to 28 seconds in length. Compared with extractions from the FB70, the FB80 produces a richer mouth feel, and the flavour is more dynamic (the flavour from the FB70 was flatter).The shots look and taste more consistent from shot to shot and group-to-group. If I get the opportunity, I’ll take my multimeter and thermocouple into work and check the shot temperatures in a mocked work cycle.The brew button flashes if the flow rate is choked, just in case you weren’t paying attention.As I said before, the brew buttons are well laid out and are easy to use. They must be pressed for more than an instant to avoid accidental activation, which takes a little getting used to. I do miss the rocker brew switches on the FB70, but I’m not sure how they could include these on the FB80 and maintain the integrity of the design.The other thing we miss from the FB70, is the shelf/plate above the groups where we could line up cups for orders. We now have to line up cups in the cup warming area. Unfortunately, this means the cup warming trays get dirty very easily. Fortunately, they are easily removed for washing in the dishwasher.In ShortSimply beautiful!As an experienced Barista, I’m impressed with the thought that’s gone into this machine. It’s easy to use, provides me with feedback (eg. Chronos function), produces consistently great shots, has awesome milk texturing potential (you still have to know how to do it), is packed with other great USEABLE features (eg. auto back flushing) and looks gorgeous.What more do you want?

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2 thoughts on “User Review – La Marzocco FB80

  1. Pingback: cafe zoe in rockridge opening soon?

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