- Created: Monday, 09 August 2010 21:17
- Written by colin newell
The Life and Times of the La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi – by James Jennings & Colin Newell
Our ancient espresso machine was leaking from its joints when the pump was turned on and the pump was sounding more like a rock crusher. Necessity became the motivator and I began the process of acquiring a new espresso machine.
After sampling numerous coffees at coffee shops, reading way too many reviews and surfing to find real prices I felt I had generated enough knowledge to be truly dangerous …. I had developed opinions based mostly on theoretical knowledge.
I learned that there are a several very highly rated pro-consumer machines out there. The best ones all had copper boilers, commercial brew heads, held consistent water temperature when performing more than one pull and had adjustable and consistent pump pressures.
In reading between the lines I came to the conclusion that once a machine is capable of meeting those parameters creating a great espresso is probably more about the ability of the barista, the coffee chosen and the grind.
There were several machines that met my needs however given my wife’s deal breakers included automatic dosing and water supply connection - the Spaziale S1 was the affordable option.
We went with the Euro/Canadian model rather than the tweaked US model because we came to the conclusion that, for us, the higher cost wasn’t warranted. I know myself well enough to know that once it was set for the few coffees we chose, I wouldn’t tinker with it again.
This machine became our Christmas present and with coffee loving friends arriving from Switzerland the decision was made just in time. We were fortunate in being able to pick up a machine from Oughtred Coffee here in Victoria as any warranty issues that might arise could be resolved locally. They had a technician who set the pump pressure and water temperature right on the workbench.
I thought I could make a decent cup of coffee on our old machine and no one had ever been unkind or rude enough to tell me that I had made a bad cup. However, like the driver who can handle his sports car pretty well learns that he has much to learn when dropped in the seat of a racing car! I found out that when the standards of the machine take a quantum leap it shows up all the weak points in one’s skill set.
Back to coffee kindergarten for this barista wannabe! After quickly determining that the plastic tamper that came with the machine was beyond my ability to get a decent tamp, it was out to Reg Barber’s shop to pick up a real tamper. I then found out that not only are there lots of different handles and colors but different profiles of the tamper.
Using highly developed SWAG (sophisticated wild assed guess) techniques developed over the years, I made my choice of a very slightly rounded tamp face with a handle suitable for a big hand.
After that it was practice, practice, practice, and more practice. One thing about automatic dosing machines is one gets quick feedback on whether one has it right or not.
It took a few months however and now that I have the feel for it, my pulls are pretty consistent between 25-35 seconds for a long pull.
After trying a number of different coffees from the very expensive Blue Horse Kona to several merely expensive offerings from a number of high-end retailers such as Discovery Coffee, given the amount of coffee this family consumes a month we settled on Oughtred Coffee’s Reserva de Patron Colombian.
If you consume lots of coffee it is possible to buy 5lb bags directly from Oughted as they get a fresh roast in every Tuesday. They can direct you to retailers who sell amounts for more normal families or individuals. We found that this delightful and not too expensive coffee makes an excellent Americano (my wife’s preferred “but not too much water dear” concoction), latte (my breakfast), espresso (no male who has been to Italy will ever be seen to be drinking anything but after 11:30 ☺) and my son’s occasional mocha.
Splendor without having to change coffee! It was a lazy man’s dream.
After nearly a year of operation there have been no problems at all with the machine. It continues to make a great cup of coffee with no fuss and no muss. We run it on the 20Amp service setting and even with large dinner parties have never had to wait for the water to warm up. Daily cleanup is simple. The machine looks great sitting on the counter even with the odd collection of espresso cups on the top.
Those familiar with the Coffee Crew site will be able to find lots of links to much more technical reviews of this machine. You can certainly count us as thoroughly satisfied customers.
James Jennings is a Victoria area resident and self-taught coffee expert. He is a regular reader of the coffeecrew.com website – and a good neighbor! Oughtred coffee is a locally established, Earth friendly roaster of coffee and supplier of great coffee machines!