La Marzocco Strada Review: Should You Get the AV, EE, or MP?
If you walk into a coffee shop and see a La Marzocco Strada on the bar, you know you’re in a place that takes espresso seriously. You can find these iconic espresso machines in top cafes around the world.
But is it the right choice for your business? And which model makes sense for your workflow? This review is here to answer those questions and more.
Summary: The La Marzocco Strada
- Each group has an independent steam and coffee boiler with PID temperature control
- Steam wand with proportional steam valve for frothing any milk volume
- Three models with varying degrees of automation versus barista control
It’s a machine that really puts the barista back in touch with the espresso and makes you feel so much more engaged in the whole process.– Klaus Thomsen, Customer
The La Marzocco Strada Review
There’s a reason customers pay a premium for the La Marzocco brand, and it isn’t just style and name recognition; the best La Marzocco espresso machines are built to last! The Strada isn’t any different. This model has three variants: a semi-automatic (EE), a mechanical paddle (MP), and an auto volumetric (AV). Each offers the same stunning look and quality but differs in operation and ease of use.
Let’s dig into the details to find out which model is right for you.
Brewing Capacity – 5/5
All models in the La Marzocco Strada series have insulated stainless steel double boilers, one set for each group. You can choose a 2 or 3 group model, depending on the volume of espresso you need to produce.
PID independently controls both the steam boiler and the coffee boiler. This, coupled with a pre-heating system and saturated group heads, ensures that the Strada offers impressive temperature stability compared with standard E61 groups (1).
User Friendliness – 4/5
Ease of use is where we find THE BIGGEST distinctions between the three models. To decide which is right for you, you’ll need to weigh more automation against barista control.
The Semi Automatic (EE) model is the simplest and least expensive of the trio. The paddle on the grouphead is not manual, acting instead as a simple on/off switch. This is the same mechanism used in the La Marzocco Linea Mini. However, the EE offers programmable pre-infusion, while the Linea Mini does not.
The Mechanical Paddle (MP) model is the original. It offers the most manual control but also requires the most barista skill. Here, the mechanical paddle controls a valve that regulates water flow through the group. Because the conical valve controls the rate of water rather than the pump itself, you can carry out pressure profiling on multiple groups simultaneously.
This type of pressure profiling has become increasingly trendy over the last few years, opening new ways to explore speciality coffee beans (2).
The amount of possible profiles for any given shot opens a world of possibilities for crafting one’s ideal shot for any given coffee.
The Auto Volumetric (AV) model is the most expensive and easiest to use. Instead of controlling the shot manually, the group heads have buttons that you can pre-program with different extraction recipes. Each group can store 4 unique programs, as well as having a continuous flow option. The AV is popular in high-volume cafes because it allows the most efficient workflow.
A newly released Strada EP (Electronic Paddle) model also allows pressure profiling and claims to be even MORE barista friendly. Still, we’ll save that review for another time.
In every model, you program using a digital display on the front of the machine. The display also serves as a shot timer during operation.
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
The Strada has two fully-articulated no-burn steam wands equipped with proportional steam valves, a convenient feature. The user operates the steam wand with a lever on the machine’s front, but this doesn’t control the steam directly. Instead, it controls electronics that open and close the valve.
Barista here has more precise control, which is useful when steaming different volumes of milk.
It also increases the valves’ longevity, but they’ll be a bit more expensive to replace when the time comes.
The hot water wand is also excellent, with a mixing valve to easily adjust the water temperature. My only complaint is that the hot water button’s position is somewhat awkward, but this is a tiny detail that only stands out because the rest of the machine is so barista-friendly.
Build Quality – 5/5
When La Marzocco set out to build the most technologically advanced espresso machine on the market, they recruited hundreds of coffee professionals from around the world. They spent two years gathering input (3). They were known as the Street Team, and the result of their feedback was the Strada, named for the Italian word for Street.
As always, it’s near impossible to fault this brand on build quality. They use high-end industrial parts for the interior and body and stainless steel for accessories like portafilters and baskets.
Along with quality, functional design is a hallmark of the brand. The Strada’s exposed groups and height-adjustable drip tray have proven popular with baristas for the open feel and better visibility.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4/5
The Strada is subject to a bit more scrutiny than standard home models for cleanliness. And given how much espresso a cafe-based machine makes daily, preventative maintenance is far more important.
While the cleaning and maintenance procedure detailed in the manual is extensive, it is no more so than any other commercial espresso machine.
The nice thing about La Marzocco espresso machines is that their quality is so high that good maintenance pays off in the long run.
Aside from day-to-day tidying of the machine and regular backflushing, a blind filter is included. However, we recommend a weekly cleaning of the groups and drain wells, filters and filter holders, the drain collector, and the body the hot water and steam nozzles. Moreover, you should also clean the diffuser screen.
A qualified technician should do any more complicated maintenance in this level machine, and La Marzocco’s known for their fantastic service department.
Do Not Buy this Espresso Machine if….
- You’re looking for a home machine: Unless you run your home kitchen like a busy cafe, the Strada will be overkill. Instead, consider one of La Marzocco’s home espresso machines. The Linea Mini operates similar to the EE, while the GS3 offers the same pressure profiling technology as the MP.
- You’re on a tight budget: If you’re setting up a cafe on a budget, you can get a cheaper commercial espresso machine still designed for high volume environments. Check out La Pavoni’s Bar T, available with 2 or 3 groups, which is about a third the cost.
If you’re running a high-volume cafe, and your budget allows, the La Marzocco Strada is a fantastic choice for your espresso bar. It makes incredible espresso, looks iconic, and reassures your customers that you take expresso very seriously.
For the most barista control, get the MP; for simplicity of operation, go for the EE; and for ultimate efficiency, choose the AV.
- Burton, G. (2011, January 11). The E61 Group Head: An Oldie but a Goodie. Retrieved from https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/the-e61-group-head-an-oldie-but-a-goodie/
- Gaylon, M. (2011, July 31). LaMarzocco Strada: First Impression. Retrieved from https://prima-coffee.com/blog/article/la-marzocco-strada-first-impression/29030
- Sprudge Staff. (2013, February 5). Pressure + Flow: La Marzocco On The Sunset Strip. Retrieved from https://sprudge.com/pressure-and-flow-la-marzocco-in-la-33149.html