La Marzocco position themselves at the high end of the coffee equipment market. When used correctly, they deliver superb results to a commercial business that needs consistency, quality and reliability. When they delivered the Mini Linea, aimed for the affluent home barista, I immediately wanted one but balked at the price – coming in at over $4,000 it might make sense for a small cafe, but is out of reach for most home users. Consider you can get an award-winning dual boiler Rocket Espresso machine for half that money and you have to wonder if you’re paying for more than just the name.
So in 2020, the Swift Mini grinder will enter the crowded market at the cost of € 1,615.00 plus VAT, which puts it firmly in commercial grinder territory. A superb Mahlkonig EK43 costs just over €2,000, for example. So, is it worth it? Let’s look at what you get for your hard-earned money.
The first thing I noticed is that it’s ugly. Of course, this is a matter of taste, and I’m sure many will disagree with me. But the construction looks somehow asymmetric and plastic. Although the overall proportions are kept compact, helped by the small hopper, and this will ensure it can fit under most kitchen cabinets.
Reading on, I’m pleased to say it gets better. There does seem to be some real innovation inside, and La Marzocco, true to their professional roots, have made those innovations serve a legitimate purpose. For example, the Swift Mini’s ground coffee distribution and the tamping system incorporates an impeller on an axle that spins independently of the burrs, moving upward against a calibrated spring so that it spreads and compacts ground coffee underneath. This is something I can appreciate. In tests at our coffee shop, and at home, I find even distribution to be an underrated element in producing fine espresso.
The Swift Mini is also volumetric, meaning you set the desired number of grams, and it will do the rest. Interestingly it works this out by the number of revolutions of the burrs, rather than by weight. When the grind has finished, the Mini will continue to clear the chamber of any residual grinds, compressing them into the basket, so you have near-zero grind retention. I’ve not seen anyone measure the input/output efficiency of this yet, and I’d like to know how this compares to something like the Niche grinder – which coincidentally costs around the same money, in an arguably better-looking package. Still, without all the extra features La Marzocco has packed in.
With the Mini, you put in your basket and push a button. You get out a perfectly ground, distributed and tamped puck of coffee ready to brew. It uses conical burrs, which are generally avoided in commercial environments because of the potential for heat build-up. La Marzocco says they have addressed this issue, and frankly, if it’s aimed at the affluent professional, then it won’t matter.
And that brings me on to the question of who is this for? Would I buy one, and more importantly, should you?
There is something we need to talk about. It’s about the flare a Barista, or home enthusiast brings to the art of coffee preparation. There is undoubtedly some theatre involved, a pride in the tools we use and the style with which we deploy our arsenal of equipment. From grinding to distribution and tamping, we do it with style, perhaps because there is something genuinely artistic about it, or maybe sometimes just to show off to our dinner guests.
The thing is, all that goes with the Swift Mini. You put in your basket, and it does everything for you. I am now virtually redundant from the process – even my wife will make a coffee as good as any I can, and she didn’t invest the time learning the correct placement of the fingers on the tamp, or take the time to ensure the grounds are evenly distributed.
So, would I buy one? Yes, I think I would.