A real commercial machine for addicts who are willing to pay for it and put in the effort to maintain it
Positive Product Points
A real commercial machine, not semi-commercial. This is a true 1-group semi-automatic, intended for use in a restaurant or other low-medium use commercial setting, although it is capable of real quantity output over the course of a day.
Negative Product Points
Requires regular maintanence demanded by a real commercial machine. It is large and heavy, not to mention it takes up lots of counter space. Not really a consumer product targeted at the home end-user, but addicted espresso fiends willing to put out some effort will be rewarded.
I bought (and have since used daily) the brass version of this semi-auto, non-plumbed/tank machine 6+ years ago, from the (now defunct) Boise Idaho branch of Bevtech, headquartered in the Portland Oregon area. Even after their departure from Idaho, Bevtech has been helpful and stood behind the product when I needed help or direction to servicing.
This is a genuine one-group machine, essentially identical functionally to what you see in business locations, and especially in Europe, in bars. Whenever I am in Europe I see these all over the place, but less so in the USA. Although only a 1 group unit, the group is identical in function to any 1 group of a multigroup machine you will see commercially. This is to say, and I apologize for being redundant, that this machine rocks. It can make cup after cup after cup, with no breaks. It can foam 18 gallons of milk at a time (possible slight exaggeration). You can have 150 of your dearest friends over to a party and make espresso drinks for all of them, if your wrist holds out from all that tamping.
As for maintenance, you are going to have to do what a well run espresso bar would do with this -- regular backflushes, brushing out around the head, replacement of seals and gaskets, filling the tank and boiler (it is semi-automatic and tank filled, not plumbed). The instructions are very lacking and unless you have support from your dealer you are going to have to figure out how to do the maintenance stuff yourself. None of it is hard but it is time consuming.
I could have bought the plumbed auto version but chose the manual, tank version. I'm glad I did -- but then I drive a stick shift.
I quoted a price of $2700 but to be honest I don't remember precisely and that was just a guess.
The salesperson (in Boise) was very helpful, but the store location no longer exists and the salesperson left to sell real estate. I've found the owner and employees of the mother ship store in Oregon to be helpful.
Three Month Followup
This is really an 8+ year followup as I have owned the machine for this period, although the original CG review was more recent.
I continue to be amazed by this machine. If you have a chance to buy one of this vintage, in good condition, with sight glass, no autofill, Sirai pressurestat, etc. etc. etc., go for it. For the home user it does not get better than this. Even when compared to my newer rotary Jr., I am hard pressed to say that the new one is better in any measurable sort of way.
One thing to do is to utilize the overpressure valve which is located at the front of the machine just behind the front panel. In the North American configuration, this valve is closed shut so the machine produces widely varying pressures. All you need is to descale this puppy (if it is scaled up), then put a 1/4" foodsafe silicone tube on the end of it, run it back to the pourover water tank, then open up the valve to restrict the pressure to about 9 bar. This will damp out the pressure and give you outstanding shots. You will need a portafilter manometer gauge in order to do this. Expect to have to re do this adjust ment several times over a week or so in order to get the spring to settle out.
I'd rather have a new one of these than a new current vintage pourover Junior complete with its useless autofill, no sightglass, and mindless electronics.
One Year Followup
Since the "3 month followup" was really an 8 year followup, I'll make this the 10 year followup:-) This machine remains in service, although I have heavily modified it by replacing the pump (with a quieter 53watt Ulka and some new internal plumbing) plus a PID for boiler and shot temperature control. This machine pulls shots every bit as good as those I get from my newer plumbed in rotary Junior. I would not hesitate to pick one of these older vintage pourover or plumbed in vibe Juniors if available at a good price. They are bulletproof and nothing can go wrong (if not aboused such as allowing the unit to FREEZE in storage) that the end user can't fix.
A machine like this can give you a lifetime of espresso enjoyment.