I purchased the Livia 90 after spending about 3 months reading every review on every prosumer machine available. I would have liked an E-61 brew-head but, at the time, these were well out of my price-range. The Livia 90 seemed to provide the most bang for my buck and some very respectable voices in the coffee world had good things to say about it. I ordered my unit for about $1250 on Trishops.com.
This machine has a steep learning curve. I had about 2 years experience as a barista when I bought it but my shots were running short (about 10-15 seconds) and the froth I produced was limp with huge bubbles. After lots of experimentation and reading online, I purchased a Rancilio Rocky grinder. It took me a while to fine-tune the Rocky to grind for the Livia 90 which is very finicky. I just kept adjusting the grind and making a few shots. Finally, after quite a bit of dumped espresso, I started to get decent shots. Now, my shots run a consistent 25-29 seconds.
Once you get all the grind and tamp issues ironed out, you will begin to notice the difference between the Livia 90 and less expensive units. Other units will produce a sort of light-brown crema. The shots from the Pasquini are deliciously dark brown with deep, honey colored spotting. Using fresh beans (less than 7 days old), I've been very impressed with the body, coloring, aroma and flavor I've experienced. Much of this has to do with the beans, grind and tamp used for the shot, but consistent temperature and pressure shouldn't be underestimated. The Livia 90 provides wonderfully consistent pressure due to it's large boiler. I've measured the water temperature at about 199 degrees. I've heard that 202 degrees is the magic temperature, but, from what I've read, a consistent 199 degrees is perfectly acceptable. You won't find the results I've seen with this machine at any coffee shop in my area. As a side note, don't expect amazing results using beans more than a week old. I know this sounds snobbish, but in my experience, it's absolutely true.
Many people have written about frothing issues with the Livia 90. The "problem" lies in the fact that the boiler is very large and powerful. It's simply too much for a small amount of milk. I corrected my frothing problem by purchasing an aftermarket frothing tip. The steel, four-holed tip that comes with the machine allows too much steam through to create micro-froth. Using the four-holed tip, a 16oz pitcher of milk will heat to 160 degrees in a matter of seconds. Chris' Coffee sells two aftermarket tips for less than $10 each. The two-holed tip slows the release of steam into the pitcher, allowing for more time control while frothing.
There are better machines on the market now. The E-61 brew-head is becoming more readily available. Heat exchangers are also easier to come by and we're seeing a whole new generation of machines with PID controllers attached. Even with all of these advances in technology, I am satisfied with the shots I am able to pull using the Livia 90. I get consistent brewing temperatures, enough steam to froth milk for at least 15 latte guzzlers at a time and the ability to froth and brew simultaneously. In addition to the performance, I have been very impressed with the craftsmanship Pasquini used on this machine. Take a look inside and you will be greeted by solid components and lots of brass. The whole machine is built with quality in mind and this means a lot to someone like me. I've also noticed that it is not very difficult to find local people to service the machine should you have problems. I haven't had any problems as of yet, but I like knowing where to go should they occur.
I've had my Livia for over a year now. I'm still learning how to use it to the best of it's ability, but I would buy it all over again if I had to.