Interview Kent Bakke, CEO of La Marzocco

Read this interview with Kent Bakke Ceo of La Marzocco, about the recent launch of the La Marzocco Linea PB at coffeeuniverse.

The interview with Kent Bakke:

CU: Why is Linea referred to as the most iconic espresso machine that pioneered the specialty coffee movement’s birth and growth beginning in 1989?

Kent Bakke: For La Marzocco, the introduction of the Linea marked a new era of style and design. The Linea looked very different than the previous models that had been selling the US for more than 10 years, but with a new look: clean lines, stainless steel.

Certainly as Starbucks became an early adopter of the Linea it became one of the more well-known espresso machines. Having the La Marzocco Linea in Starbucks stores helped to collectively establish La Marzocco as one of the premiere manufacturers of espresso machines. Many consumers had some of their first specialty coffee experiences drinking espresso beverages prepared on Lineas at Starbucks.

It was the era when Seattle was the leader in specialty coffee, and as people sought information about how to become a part of it, how to start their own coffee businesses, Seattle was the source of information and leading trends. Starbucks was so highly regarded, that people would call looking for the machines without having done any research.

Coffee Universe:   How did it help usher in the movement?

Kent: And in some ways, I think we were the right age. Coffee as a business was a whole new thing. It was a way for first-time business people to get into business for the first time relatively inexpensively. With companies like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best Coffee and the Good Coffee Company, there was a level of coffee quality and a level of focus on coffee quality that inspired a lot of people. There was a new expectation of quality coffee and we were able to apply this to espresso.

We were also uniquely positioned – because we were uniquely passionate about coffee. No other espresso machine importers were particularly passionate about coffee. Other sellers were restaurant supply companies, and their focus wasn’t on the beverage, it was on a full lineup of restaurant equipment. We wanted the equipment to be successful, and we were able to support the equipment, but more importantly, to build strong relationships and educate customers.

The Linea was also unique in the marketplace among other Italian manufacturers. The fact that it has two boilers, one for coffee and one for steam, meant that the machine could keep up – in terms of temperature stability and steam volume – to deliver larger-sized milk-based beverages in high-volume cafes.  Because of the separation between the steam and coffee brewing, milk-based beverages could still produce great espresso shots and also have lots of steaming capacity.

CU: What is it about the machine that makes your customers have passion and enthusiasm for this machine?

Kent: The Linea has endured and has remained popular because, for the people who work on the machines (baristas and technicians), the Linea was the first espresso machine they worked on. The Linea has an incredible track record of serviceability, reliability, and durability – all of which has contributed to, and reinforced, the strength of the brand and the quality of our products.

CU:  How does this new machine ‘keep up’ with the demands of the barista – What new technology has been added to the machine that allows the barista to do what they need to do?

Kent: The Linea PB – the newest addition to the Linea family – has many of the features of the Linea Classic that people have loved for almost 25 years, but there are a number of updates that make the barista’s job a bit easier, the technician’s job a little easier, and that bring the machine forward stylistically – while also staying true to the Classic. These updates continue the Linea legacy as a highly dependable espresso machine best suited for high-volume settings.

Some of the updates that make the barista’s job easier include a new steam valve that is easier to open; barista lights; bigger, LED-lit buttons; and a larger workspace. 

The Linea PB is also the first La Marzocco espresso machine to feature a brand new electronics system developed exclusively for La Marzocco. The new electronics deliver significant improvement in temperature stability for both the coffee boiler and the steam boiler. For the operator, these electronics are very user-friendly: for the barista and the technician. It’s easy to make adjustments to the machine parameters – things like boiler temperature or water dose – directly from the display.

CU: With the coffee drinking consumer in mind, what would you say to them about knowing about the machine that their coffee is brewed in?

Kent Bakke: It’s been really great to start to see the coffee drinking community want to know more about the beverage. I think that the curiosity and the interest in coffee – understanding where coffees come from and who grows them, is consistent with the slow food movement and a new willingness among consumers to spend more in order to get highest-quality, sustainable products. In coffee, roasters have helped lead their customers down this path, by establishing direct trade relationships and shifting toward single origin coffees.

We definitely see that the enthusiasm and interest in our products – particularly because they are handmade in Italy – extends to consumers. As I travel the world, I’m amazed at how many people I meet who don’t work in coffee, but are familiar with our brand – not just familiar, but enthusiastic. And at the factory we receive hundreds of visitors – many of them consumers – who have that same interest in being close to us, knowing who we are and what we do.