Blog of Ian Callahan and exciting new specialty espresso and brewed coffee bar, Bar 9


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1970 Rancilio z8 lever piston vs Rancilio 1974 z9

Aka Mario vs Luigi

Around 12 months ago we were fortunate enough to take ownership of 1974 z9 lever piston. After a few minor tweaks and adjustments the affectionately named Luigi was pulling some of the most amazing espresso we’d ever tasted. Then, around a month ago we saw Luigi’s “older brother” for sale on the bay of evil, a 1970 z8 lever piston... In red! “Hey, it’s Mario!” one of our friends exclaimed.

Unfortunately we couldn’t justify the funds to purchase dear old Mario at the time and the Auction ended without a buyer. After much tossing and turning another colleague got together the funds and contacted the seller. He arranged the purchase of Mario and not having anywhere to store the contraption asked if Mario could live here, at Bar 9.

A short couple of weeks later Mario arrived and the Microwave was removed from to make room. Now the two brothers sit competitively side by side vying for the next sweet shot of espresso.

Needless to say we were super keen to hammer the two machines to find out what differences, if any, existed between the two.

Side by side Mario (1970 Rancilio Z8) looks in better condition than his younger brother Luigi (1974 Rancilio Z9), though Luigi is almost entirely comprised of original parts (reconditioned) while some of Mario’s are aftermarket.

The flow rate of Mario is slightly faster than that of his brother (reaching 30mls around 2 seconds earlier), though the pressure curve on both is around the same (I say pressure curve as they are both lever pistons the pressure profiles in a bell shaped curve. Ramping up to 8.5bars fairly quickly and trailing off throughout the length of the shot).

After dialling in both machines until they tasted at their best, the temperature curves were wildly different, representing the biggest distinction between the two machines (besides their colour). Luigi’s temp (in the puck) starts at 97C and ramps all the way down to 88C by the end of the shot (we cut it at around 24mls). Mario’s temp however begins at 94C and drops gradually to 92C by the end of the shot (much more in line with general espresso theory and what is expected to taste good).

The end result is two machines remarkably similar to look at while vastly different in the cup. Luigi’s s’pro is rich, complex and wildly body dominant while Mario produces a fresh cup, with increased sweetness.

Both machines are gathering a stern following with coffee lovers divided in naming their favourite.