Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. The best shots I've ever made from a solid, well-designed machine.
Positive Product Points
Built in PID Absolute temperature stability, due to fair sized brew boiler Sturdy, industrial looking Quiet, powerful rotary pump 2 boilers with stong, dry steam if you drink the milky stuff Good support network from S1 Cafe forums All parts you could possibly need available from Chris's Coffee
Negative Product Points
Doesn't look as nice as some all-metal E61 machines Needed some modification.. more on this in detailed section Programming brew temperature and shot volume is anything but intuitive. You'll need to keep the user's manual on top of the machine for a few weeks Fittings are BSPP, not standard American
This is a great machine! It has been reviewed so many times at this point, there isn't much I can add that hasn't already been said. What I can contribute, however, is a perspective from someone purchasing a used machine, and comparing to the plethora of machines I've used.
I got this machine used on Craigslist for the staggering sum of $800. According to the seller it was in great condition and working. Ok, so that wasn't true. The machine was missing the steam knob, drip tray and the original defuser and screens. The buttons had stopped working due to non-use and the copper lines were full of scale. Plus it didn't come with any hoses to plumb in.
After cleaning out the inside of the control panel, taking the plumbing apart and soaking it in ascorbic acid, and figuring out how to make American standard pipe thread play nice with British Standard Pipe Thread (tons of teflon tape, then adapt from pipe thread to compression for the hose), the machine started working! The first few shots were decent, but something didn't seem right.. the puck had channeling out the wazoo and the rotary pump was louder than any of the vibe pump machines I had used (the cup I used to pour the shots would move away from the portafilter due to the heavy shaking). After going on the Chris's Coffee website, I fortuitously looked at the POD addition for the machine and realized that my machine had that instead of the defuser and screens for ground coffee. Daing! What else was wrong with this thing?! So, I went ahead and ordered the defuser, screens, pre-infusion chamber, newly designed steam wand, triple basket and the new-style motor mounts (This is a 2004 model machine. You can have newer machines re-programmed for pre-infusion, but these models are too old for that). Oh, and I chopped off the bottom of one of the portafilters with a hand-held grinder. Nice.
Let me point out here that, when picking a machine in this price range, it is important to get something which will have support and (very affordable) parts available for a long time! I had a kitchenaid proline machine previously, and it was impossible to find parts for this machine from kitchenaid. Everything I got for it had to be ordered from a Gaggia parts site. For the S1 Vivaldi, Chris's Coffee is the MECCA!
After installing everything, WOW! When the machine was turned on and started filling up the boiler, it was so quiet that I thought it was broken. Not the slightest bit of vibration anywhere. Those new motor mounts made a big difference in dampening ability. My first shot of espresso was quite different from the previous channel-ridden shots the machine was making with the POD defuser and shower screens. Every shot, now, is a god shot (they come from home roasted coffee using a gene cafe and grinding with a Mazzer Super Jolly). Also, for some reason, when I got the machine, it was in 20-amp mode, even though the plug is for 15-amps. When it was dis-assembled to install those parts, it switched itself over to 15-amp mode. I know there is a switch, but it was not tampered with at any point.. so this is kinda strange to me.
Finally, a comparison to all the other machines I've owned. In ease of use and stability.. just about every way, this machine is superior. But nothing gives you the story like comparing the same coffee, at the same grind (same extraction time per machine) on different machines. Here are my ratings, on a scale of 1 to 10. The discrepancies may be due to my (lack of ) skill, as the Vivaldi is very easy to use, or perhaps to the quality of the machines (my hope).
I'd like to add, if you are purchasing a used Vivaldi and need help, feel free to contact me through this review. The wonderful people at the S1 forum are also friendly and very helpful.
I purchased this baby on Craigslist. It was a no-pressure transaction, and I managed to negotiate the price down to $800 from $1000. But, after factoring all the stuff that had to be purchased, the overall cost was $1100. I did buy all of the extras from Chris's Coffee, and had a good experience with them. They are very helpful and have everything you might need for this machine.