Mr. Piero Bambi, as the son of the founder of La Marzocco, you are the guardian of the original memories of this small but great company. What do you remember about the dawn of this adventure and, above all, what did your father's work teach you?

I have heard of many episodes and was a witness to several others; for the most part they concern day-to-day operations of a small-scale craftsman who had to compete with rival companies at the dawn of industrialization.

My earliest childhood memory was the erratic physical presence of my father since he was always very busy with new projects, designing, manual labor (he was skilled at operating all machine tools and equipment typical of the period: lathes, milling machines, grinding machines, etc.), and negotiating with suppliers and clients.

Although not an engineer or architect, he was an exceptional designer as is evident from the machine models he designed and produced. His most distinguishing feature, however, was his overwhelming determination. His sense of responsibility and love for the family, passion for his work and his manner with employees, clients and suppliers was a great lesson on life, a lesson that is still dear to me today.

Specifically, how did the Bambi family develop its passion for good coffee?

I think the passion developed gradually, and initially only to distinguish the company from rivals. The direct contact with baristas when out selling the machines played a fundamental role in developing their passion in light of the suggestions, comments and constructive criticism provided by the baristas themselves.

Finally, exceptional results in design and production stimulated and encouraged my father's and Uncle Bruno's passion and gave them pride. In my case, it's in my genes. The passion has grown and continues to grow. I'm always learning something new and I gain great pleasure from that.

What influence has Florentine art and culture had on the creation of the La Marzocco espresso coffee machine?

I think the environment you grow up in strongly influences your cultural growth at an unconscious level. My family was definitely influenced by Florence, the city of art par excellence where they were surrounded by timeless works of unique beauty created by self-made artists and artisans, a tradition that has continued over the centuries and that has very rarely engaged in large scale production because the terms "art" and "craftsmanship" were inscribed in the artisans genes.

For approximately 20 years, my father also designed and produced furnishings for cafes. The workmanship was so beautiful that a professor from the Florence Institute of Fine Arts accompanied his students to admire the work at the factory.

Every machine model, from 1927 to 1970, was based on my father's designs, including the GS series. I collaborated on the production of the GS2 series and designed all the models after that.

How did the idea of a horizontal boiler come about?

My grandfather and uncle, in addition to helping with production and sales, installed the machines and provided technical assistance. In this manner they established a good relationship, verging on friendship with clients, which understandably facilitated the exchange of information, recommendations and suggestions. I imagine the horizontal boiler came about under such circumstances. My father registered his patent in February 1939.

 

What models and innovations re-launched La Marzocco on the market after the war?

Since my father was declared unfit for military service he did not leave for the war. In that long period of unwanted inactivity, he designed a new semiautomatic group for coffee machines. The groups were activated by pressing a button rather than moving levers. The Eureka series was equipped with this technology.

What is the secret to pulling perfect espresso shots, if one exists? Why is La Marzocco machine performance able to meet this ideal?

There are four rules of the trade, or the 4 Ms as follows:

  • Miscela [Blend]
  • Macinazione [Grinding]
  • Macchina [Machine]
  • Mano del barista [The barista's touch]

This rule is still valid today, though with the addition of a 5th M which could be defined as:

  • manutenzione | machine maintenance

So, to pull a perfect espresso shot the barista will need:

  • top quality beans
  • a top quality coffee grinder
  • a top quality coffee machine

 The barista's personal touch is equally important in perfecting grinding as follows:

  • Pre-set dose of coffee to be used for each cup of coffee (minimum 6.5 grams).
  • Carry out tests, grinding and weighing one dose after another until extracting 35 ml of coffee in approx. 27- 30 seconds.
  • At each grind setting variation, empty the filter of previous residues before dosing with new grounds. 
  • Use a manual tamper rather than the built-in tampers provided on many grinders and dosers on the market today.

At this stage, the only remaining secret is manual skill, talent and enthusiasm. By enthusiasm I also mean the initiative to clean the filters and portafilters on a daily basis, and the coffee hopper on a weekly basis. Both are key to preventing unpleasant odors due to oxidization and/or fermentation of the coffee itself.

What lies behind the shift from a water pressure machine to one with continuous pressure?

It is more appropriate to say that we shifted from a lever operated water pressure machine, where pressure was created by a piston, to a machine where pressure was created by an electrical pump. Anyway, to answer the question, the mechanics are less demanding, therefore there are fewer technical problems to address. Moreover, the machine is more accessible for after-sales servicing.

What are the advantages of a machine with dual boilers rather than a single one?

By now all manufacturers make machines with so-called continuous brewing, where fresh water is pre-heated by passing through coils or elements inside the boiler. Then, by means of a rotary vane pump, the heated water comes into contact with the coffee grounds at a pressure of 9 atm.

To answer the question, first of all, the water required to make the coffee is heated indirectly in machines with a single boiler, which is practically a steam generator. Second, it's very important that there be a rapid heat exchange between the boiler and heating elements, but there is considerable variation as a result of the deposit of lime scale on the outside of the elements. Finally, since the pressure of the boiler is controlled by a pressure gauge, the temperature is subject to considerable variation when steam is used to froth milk or make other hot drinks.

We've opted for two boilers, and one is used exclusively to heat water for brewing coffee. This makes it possible to control the temperature of the brew water through a specific thermostat, enabling a more exact calibration of the temperature. A boiler strictly for coffee, moreover, makes the machine easily adaptable to different blends of coffee.