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Think Twice Before Buying the La Marzocco Linea PB
April 16th 2023
The La Marzocco Linea PB is a traditional espresso machine, which many industry professionals are very familiar with. Marketed as a “Dependable Classic” the Linea PB is an upgrade to the Classic Linea, La Marzocco's first multi-boiler espresso machine. Before you purchase the La Marzocco Linea PB, you may also want to consider the Slayer Steam EP. Right out the gate, the Steam EP is roughly a thousand dollars less than the PB, even though it is manufactured in the United States. Both are high-end, volumetric dosing commercial espresso machines, and are almost identical. Both are durable, multi-boiler espresso machines, with mineral resistant stainless-steel boilers. Both also offer an LCD display with shot timers, auto cleaning programs, and features such as on-off programming. The operation features include two programmable brew buttons for four dosing options, a manual stop button, and on/off pre wet delay. For the most part, both machines offer very similar functionalities, but there are a few distinctions that might make one of these machines much more suitable for you than the other.
Individual Group Temperature Control
Temperature control is often an important espresso machine feature for businesses who utilize specific temperatures to bring out the best flavor in their coffee. Between the two machines, the Steam EP offers more control with its independent brew boilers which allows different temperatures to be set for each group. The Linea PB models are designed with only one brew boiler, which means only one brewing temperature can be set for all groups. If you are planning on selling multiple roasts of coffee, you may want more than three groups. The Steam EP is capped at three groups and three individual boilers, however the Linea PB steps in and makes available a four group with two separate brew boilers. This additional boiler provides the option to set two brewing temperatures, one for the first two groups and another for the remaining two which could be reasonably all you need. Today, having control over brewing temperature has proven to be vital to many espresso bars. Even if you prefer to only serve one selection of coffee, you may want the option of individual group temperature control in the future. The interior workings of the machines may not be a deal breaker but the exteriors of the Slayer EP and La Marzocco PB may be what swings your vote.
Exterior Designs are Noticeably Different
The Linea PB as well as the Steam EP are referred to as low profile espresso machines, however the Slayer is about four inches shorter. This lower profile can be ideal for giving baristas and clients better eye-to-eye contact. Neither machine has a tall group for larger cup sizes, but the Slayer does have more room than the traditional height of the La Marzocco. Additionally, the Linea PB is designed with a “traditional” look, whereas the Steam EP has a sleeker and more modern appearance. You will most likely prefer one machine’s design over the other, however a unique feature of the Steam EP is its distinctive winged channels which are not present on any other espresso machine. Slayer designed the channels with a secondary purpose in mind, which is to hide unsightly electrical cables and plumbing hoses. This leaves the Steam EP with a clean presentation while on display. While looks are important, there are also some interior design differences and options between the Linea PB and Steam EP that could tip the scale for users who are looking for consistent results.
Temperature and Volume Stability
Both machines incorporate a saturated group. You can think of a saturated group as an extension of the boiler, rather than a separate piece. Water never leaves the brew group to lose heat, therefore both espresso machines are thermally stable. Considering precision, flow meters are placed before the brew boiler, which is where you will find them on the Steam EP. In contrast, as an upgrade to the Linea Classic S, La Marzocco integrated their flow meter on the top of the Linea PB brew group, which is famously referred to as the “Piero Group Cap.” This unique design aids with accuracy in brewing volume because the water is measured immediately before brewing. When the flow meter is placed before the boiler it must travel some distance in which the measurement can be possibly skewed. To some this feature may mean little but to others, La Marzocco’s innovative engineering is an added measure to ensuring product consistency.
Optional Built in Scales
Unlike the Steam EP, the Linea PB has an option for built in scales located below the brew group and underneath the drip tray. The scales operate with a programming feature referred to as Auto Brew Ration (ABR). The ABR feature allows a ratio to be set between the weight (grams) of coffee and the weight of the product. The PB can also be set for for a desired product weight without a set ratio. If you are searching for an espresso machine that incorporates scales, La Marzocco also offers them on additional models such as their GB5 S and KB90. Although this notable feature comes at an additional cost, it is another tool that can be utilized for product control and consistency. The creation of espresso drinks is one of the most important functionalities of an espresso machine, but steaming is also essential and very different between the two machines.
Mechanical Valve vs Electro Valve for Steaming
The Linea PB offers a knob for actuation and a mechanical valve for steaming operation. This feature allows hands on control over steaming pressure. The Slayer EP however, utilizes an electrovalve with lever actuation. Although there are fewer moving parts and less maintenance, you will not have the same type of control over your steam pressure. It will be either on or off. The Slayer EP allows you to adjust your steam pressure in programming, but you will not be able to do this spontaneously. If latte art or instant steam pressure changes are a must, the Linea PB will be a more suitable machine. La Marzocco also made their hot water wand adjustment more easily accessible.
Easy Hot Water Temperature Adjustment
Additionally, the Linea PB offers a reachable cold water mixing valve so you can easily adjust your hot water temperature. The adjustment on the Steam EP is placed out of reach. You will have to remove a panel to gain access so you cannot make any changes spontaneously. There can be challenges to both placements. With the Linea PB, having an easily accessible adjustment also means that it is just as easy to displace the setting especially while cleaning. On the other hand, when your hot water temperature needs to be changed, you will most likely only want a responsible team member removing the panel of your Steam EP to safely make the adjustment. Select the machine with the feature that is right for your business.
Support Network in the Service Community
Slayer and La Marzocco both have reputations for quality, high-end espresso machines; however, La Marzocco has been available in the U.S. for much longer. What this means to an equipment owner is local service companies will most likely have experience servicing La Marzocco espresso machines as well as have parts on-hand. Slayer is still developing their service network and therefore you should speak to your local service provider to ensure they are trained and ready to support your machine especially in emergency situations.
If you would like to serve multiple selections of coffee, the Steam EP will provide you with the tools to serve each variety at its most favorable temperature. The Steam EP is beautifully and uniquely designed, and the price is more appealing than the Linea PB. It is ideal for flavor profiling if you are not quite ready to spend money on a four-group machine. The Linea PB is a commercial espresso machine bestl for baristas who wish to have more spontaneous control over their espresso machine. Most will choose the Linea PB for its internal and external design, brand reputation, or for its unique options such as ABR programming or four-group model availability.
Regardless of whether you decide the Slayer Steam EP or La Marzocco Linea PB is the better choice, you should always purchase your machine direct from a trustworthy local service company. This guarantees that they will have the necessary training to maintain your new investment because manufacturers rarely sell to unauthorized service providers. Retailers who subcontract their services are not regulated in the technicians they hire which means you could wind up with a technician that cannot program your machine or thoroughly set up your equipment, which can deprive you of using your new investment to its fullest potential. Purchasing local will also hold your service provider accountable for maintaining parts on hand for your maintenance needs regardless of if you purchase the Slayer Steam EP or the La Marzocco Linea PB. Lastly, your machine will automatically come with installation so remember to negotiate additional perks such as water treatment to protect your equipment and one or two complimentary preventative maintenances.
To find a local sales and service company in your area, visit https://espressoservicedirectory.com/directory.
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