In the early days of espresso preparation a barista “pulled” an espresso. This meant that they actually pulled on a lever arm on an espresso machine activating a spring that forced a column of water down through the coffee bed producing an espresso. It operated like a giant plunger and the barista had the opportunity to control the descent of the plunger as it forced the water through the cake of coffee. This barista was controlling the level of pressure exerted on the coffee and ultimately effecting the extraction (and the final taste) of the beverage. The story goes that the best baristas knew the secrets of manipulating pressure to get the best flavors. Some coffee people still believe that the best espresso comes from these early lever espresso machines in the hands of a skilled barista.
As of today and for the next few weeks Ultimo Coffee is in possession of the worlds first programable pressure profiling espresso machine. For over a year now La Marzocco has had a manual version of this machine on the market, dubbed the Strada MP (manual paddle). A marvel in its own right, it allows a barista to modulate brewing pressure with the manipulation of an activation paddle just like those early baristas did but with the benefit of modern engineering. Like opening and closing a faucet, a barista can control the degree to which the machine allows water to flow through the coffee. This can be both the most amazing and most challenging thing in a busy espresso bar. Though it grants a barista minute and complete control over brewing pressure it also requires complete attention and constant manipulation in order to create pressure profiles. It is also very difficult to create the same exact profile twice. The Strada EP (electric paddle), however, is a game changer: This beauty allows for the programing of pressure cycles into the brewing process of an espresso. It allows a barista to manipulate the espresso into giving up its most pleasant nuances by regulating and changing the pressure throughout the brewing process. And its computerized brain allows you to repeat the same cycle again and again for consistency of profile and taste. The unofficial word on the street is that there are currently four Strada EPs in existence in the world — two are in labs and two are in cafes. As part of an east coast tour arranged by our friends at La Marzocco and Counter Culture Coffee Ultimo Coffee is proud to be one of those cafes.
Take the time in the next few weeks to come visit, check it out and join us in exploring this new frontier of espresso. You’ll be glad you did.