I'd buy it again, even if they don't fix the Manometer and Timer issues. I can fix the rest but I should not have to.
Positive Product Points
Vivaldi II --- This is a very easy to use consistent performing product. Temperature control is exact, you only need to concentrate on the grind and the tamp. I suggest this machine is well suited for beginners and I can hear the comments coming now – but read on.
Negative Product Points
I agree with most everyone else on this point - poor mounting of the manometer. I had to fix mine - as does everyone else for a proper fit in the front panel. Good thing is – it is easily done if you take your time and don’t get excited. That’s the only reason it is annoying – because it is easy to fix.
The timer is typical European – it’s like a novice trying to learn their way around Microsoft Windows. This SHOULD have been made a lot more "user freindly" and they could have found a way to incorporate it into the front panel instead of it hanging out of the machine by a cord. At least if this is going to be the provided timer that has to sit outside the machine on the counter – put it in a case that will sit on the counter and look good. I had to make a weighted holder for mine just so I could use it without holding it and cussing at it.
Well, I am new to the grind, tamp and pulling my own shots. This is the first semi-automatic I have ever owned. This is the first no fully automatic I have ever owned. I never pulled shots or ground and dosed before - but I wished for FRESHER coffee drinks. After reading reviews, and figuring it would make my life easier due to the fact everyone stated the temperature control was easy and consistent from the first to last shot pulled, I bought it. I live alone. I figured I didn’t need to worry about timing the shot, flushing the head . . . all that other good stuff that simply makes some feel they are performing magic. No disrespect meant or intended.
Well I set the Mazzer Mini (no doser) grinder for the proper gram dose, used a bottomless portifilter, and pulled my first shot – yes I timed it to see where my grind was. Guess what – I drank it. Gooood. After that I played a little and do not believe I have thrown away more than four shots out of ALL I HAVE PULLED, and I pull five minimum everyday. The ones I did throw away were due to my failure to have the correct temperature set after switching from a different bean. Yes, I have gotten better at this – but right from the first shot to now it is still better than most coffee shops – according to friends, not my ego. Microfoam – had it, got it, sometimes it depends on the freshness of the milk (I think). I found by placing about three to four teaspoons (I don’t measure) of milk in the stainless pitchers and freezing allows me to pour the rest of the milk on top of the frozen sliver in the base of the pitcher, and it appears to help to further cool the milk before frothing – also keeps me from overheating right from the get go. I have the tip that comes with the unit. Learn to use it because it works. Try the trick. Good foam. Good Lattes. Good Espresso.
Multiple shots possible one after the other - it is rated for around 90 pulls per hour by the OEM, and the steam or hot water never stops. In the morning I pull a double blank for settling the head temp - per the article I saw - and then it is off to coffee/espresso town. Blow the little bit off water out of the steam pipe and - same - go for it.
I tried using Malobar Gold – too bright for me but what a cone; Bel Etage – good if ground extremely fine and not tamped too hard else it clogs up (really good Americano); Black Cat – good good good; Big Truck – good for a change once in a while; Kid’O – nice; Chris Coffee’s Black Pearl Coffee included with the machine and still a great wakeup drink (someone told me I was on afterburner one day at the office - and I work from home); El Diablo – I like it. This paragraph is related to my own issues - not the capability of the machine. Again, I meander due to the fact it is a quality piece of kitchen equipment. The alcohol is gone from the bar and this machine has taken it's place. (I still have the alcohol - but it is less important).
I guess the point is, I may not be an expert but I am told by people who seem to find their way to my house throughout the day that they come for the coffee – not the conversation. If you like it – that’s what matters, not what everyone else thinks. Funny thing is they all think I am getting better at it and they liked the first day shots - first I ever pulled. I know it is not my ability as some type of barista (no formal training or classes) but this machine's ability to deliver consistently good shots. Funny how they keep showing up at my house. I have offered to let others try to make their own - but they always tell me to do it for them. Point is, it's the machine allowing me to excel with limited use - I may have to move and not provide a forwarding address due to the cost of these freebies.
Yes, they should fix the manometer. A machine this nice with so much quality should not be shipped with a Suzy Bake Oven manometer mount. It’s a shame – but overlooked once you fix it and simply get down to the business of making good drinks.
The timer – bad programming logic but once set it works fine even after a power outage. How about a plug for the timer oustide the machine (underneath the edge, so the cord can simply be plugged in - that would be nice. Then put the timer - as stated earlier - in a nice weighted case holder so it can be used without two hands. Then the cord could be esily routed under the counter and up through a hole to the timer - that would allow us to make it look better or wall mount it!
As for the "blow the sitting water out of the steam tube before using it" I find if you mount a small piece of thick scotchbrite below the tray (press fit works between the bottom of the tray and the wire grill) then you can blow the water out and warm the tube wihtout splashing any leftover liquid out of the tray and onto your surrounding areas. It would have been nice if the OEM would have provided such an "anti-splash" device in the tray for such purpose.
This machine is quiet - at least mine is. Very nice mechanics and low low level of sounds. It is like a watch. Everything happens when it is supposed to and the sound is of a well oiled (no - no need for any oil) machine.
Plumb this unit direct. This is sweeeeeet. Beats everything else. No matter what machine you buy - PLUMB IT DIRECT - water AND drain.
I have since bought a 30lb release tamper and that just made things even easier. Another good piece of equipment I highly recommend. Get over telling everyone how good you are at judging pressure – know it. It simply allows you to reduce the equation by one more reproducible factor whether you are tired, awake, dizzy or have the flu.
So I haven't talked about the temp control or anything else too much - because there is nothing to say - it's that good.
My price may seem high – but I bought the doserless Mazzer Mini, the Vivaldi II along with a ton of accessories including the softener and charcoal filters (protect the investment whether you have good water or not - it's cheap insurance) , bodum shot glasses and cups (they keep things warm for ages, or cold at night) bottomless portifilter, syrups, extra stuff. . . and it was worth it.
Chris Coffee reps had to call me to ask if everything was OK because I was too busy enjoying the machine to call them. Thanks and sorry for my shot-side manner. I highly recommend them.