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La Marzocco

You may not enter the La Marzocco USA Showroom as a coffee nerd, but you may very well leave as one. Since 2009 the cozy space, tucked down near the Ballard Bridge, has been the community-facing aspect of the company, the U.S. office for the storied Italian espresso machine manufacturer. One half is a gathering space, tables and chairs and a low bar, behind which sits a gleaming silver espresso machine. In an adjacent, glass-walled area—the Lab—the counters are cheek-by-jowl with different La Marzocco machines. You can find the coffee community—roasters, baristas, importers, aficionados—gathered here, to taste and learn.

“Everyone who walks through our doors here comes looking for a different experience, or not even knowing what experience they’re looking for,” says Amy Hattemer, a member of the La Marzocco marketing staff, and expert on both all things Marzocco and coffee culture in general. People sometimes come in wondering if it’s a coffee shop—it’s not, but they’re happy to make you a coffee. Roasters hold cuppings to taste or introduce new coffees, café owners bring their teams in to train, baristas come to practice for competitions (a real thing).

Espresso extraction is a complicated process with infinite variables. La Marzocco prides itself on being innovative and reliable, which is essential for both commercial customers and home users. (They launched an official home line in March of last year, with machines starting at $4,500.) “You never want to wonder, ‘Is it me or is it the machine?’ Hattemer says, “Otherwise it’s endlessly frustrating.”

La Marzocco makes five professional espresso machines and two home versions, and if you want to know anything about them, the Lab is the place to go. While there, you can also learn about the company’s history: La Marzocco was founded by brothers Giuseppe and Bruno Bambi in 1927 in Florence, and it’s named after the heraldic lion that symbolizes victory for that city.

Kent Bakke, CEO of La Marzocco International, got into the coffee game when he bought a Pioneer Square sandwich shop, complete with old espresso machine, in 1977. He started fixing up espresso machines around town, and in 1978 went to Italy to see if he could start distributing machines in America. The first Seattle office opened that same year. All La Marzocco machines are still handmade in Florence, and, except for a brief period in the 1990s when some were made in Seattle to help meet a flood of Starbucks demand, they always have been.

La Marzocco’s open attitude, which dedicates space and manpower to the larger coffee community, will also pervade the coffee space they’re spearheading inside KEXP’s new home at Seattle Center. Coffee service will be done as a partner-in-residence program—every month, one of the roasters who works with La Marzocco will select the coffees and design the menu. That way, consumers get a broad range of experience with and education about coffee from all over the world. “What we’re trying to do is elevate quality in people’s lives” says Hattemer, “in the cup in your hand, in the equipment that makes it happen and in sustaining all of that.”

La Marzocco

1553 NW Ballard Way
Seattle, WA 98107

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