I spent two visits and three hours at Pasquini in Los Angeles. I was impressed with the apparent ease of use of the unit. Originally, I had thought that I would buy the Rancilio Silvia/Rocky combination, but after reading the reviews on this site, decided to at least check out the Livia 90. The current cost from Pasquini is $1615, not including tax, which includes the Livia 90, Moka 90 grinder, and the two drawer base. It could be that this unit can be purchased for less, but after reading about other warranty hassles and directly speaking to Mr. Pasquini, I felt that I would be better off just buying the unit direct. If not bought from Pasquini, then the one year warranty does not include the cost of labor.
According to a Pasquini tech, this is not a 24/7 machine. At Pasquini the Livia 90 runs about 18 hours a day. I had to bring the Livia in for service about two months after purchase because there was water leakage from the PF. I had left the unit on for that period of time and think that the heat hardened the rubber gasket or else it may just have been a defective gasket. Both the Livia 90 and the Moka 90 grinder have three prong plugs. The Moka 90 grinder was personally adjusted by Mr. Pasquini so that I would not have to monkey too much with it - or at least it gave me a basis to start from. When it comes to espresso, I am a neophyte without any prior experience. Those who have used other units and opt to purchase a Livia 90 will probably be able to pull nearly super shots almost immediately.
The Livia 90, weighing in at 36 lbs, seems to be simplicity itself. It is always easier to operate something if one has seen someone else do it. In three hours, I had seen more than enough demonstrations on how to pull shots. The Livia 90 has two switches, one to turn the unit on (heat up the water) and the other to activate the espresso shot. This is a semi automatic unit meaning that one has to activate the shot process and then flip the same switch to stop the process. This unit should be set up near a sink because the drip tray may have to be emptied multiple times. Accessories included with the unit are: a stiff bristled cleaning brush for the group head, a long handled plastic measuring spoon, a plastic double sided tamper, a small sample of espresso machine detergent, a teflon turbo tip for frothing/steaming, the standard four hole metal frothing/steaming tip, a rubber disk for backflushing, a half liter stainless steel frothing pitcher, and a pound of roasted espresso beans. There is one portafilter with both a double and single shot basket. The single shot basket is used with the rubber disk for backflushing the unit. The overall height of the Livia 90 makes it next to impossible to place underneath a standard kitchen cabinet with 16+ inches of clearance between the counter and the bottom of the cabinet. The water reservoir is located on the top rear of the unit and has a lid that flips up. It would seem that the unit must stand alone with no standard cabinet above it. Unless one were going to create a customized space for it. I decided to put the system on top of a kitchen cart. With the stainless steel two drawer base, the unit with the lid up is 22 inches. Underneath a cabinet, it would be very difficult to fill the unit from a standard water bottle. Somehow or other the Livia 90 would have to be bodily pulled out so that one could access the tank. By the way, the unit requires the use of bottled water, and it should not be distilled water. This reduces the scaling problem.
The two drawer base is a very nice way to round out the system. One drawer is a knock box, while the other one can store whatever accessories that one desires. The knock box makes it easy and convenient to pop out the expended coffee puck as well as sweep extra grinds off of the portafilter once it is loaded. Without the base, one would probably have to position the Livia 90 so that the frothing/steaming tip was at the outer edge of a countertop.
The Moka 90 grinder, weighing 16 lbs, has an adjustable doser and a wide range of grinds. The scale on the grinder is arbitrary so that one machine's #5 may not be exactly the same as another machines #5. The reason being that there is no consistent zero point from unit to unit because the numbers on the ring are independent of the threads. The Moka 90 is set up for continous operation and one espresso blend or bean roast. If one wants to change to a different blend or bean, then the grinder will have to be reset, depending upon the extraction time. Pasquini states an 18 to 20 second shot. There is a plastic tamper on the unit and it is probably easy to manage this 18 to 20 second pour time, but if one wants Schomer type shots, then there are going to be many variables to control. The Pasquini shots that I saw pulled were nothing like one sees in Schomer's book. Still the Pasquini shots were a lot better than anything coming out of Starbucks. This grinder is easily capable of choking the Livia 90. For the Schomer type shots, one must go to either Schomer's Ergo packer, the Reg Barber tamper, or something equivalent. The dosing mechanism can only be accurate if the doser is filled up. That would preclude grinding just prior to each shot as advocated by Schomer. Overall this is probably not that much of a factor because one approximate how much to grind and then just flip the dosing latch until the PF is filled up. It is simply not practical to be changing beans during one espresso session. So that this setup would prefer that one sticks to only one kind of bean and makes it somewhat difficult for the home roaster and lots of different beans. But this can be gotten around by keeping notes on which grind number the different beans/blends prefer. Depending upon the humidity, it is entirely possible that the charges out of the doser maybe anything but consistent. The variation might only be a gram or two, but that can be significant. In a grind just prior to the shot, this doser is not all that useful. If one fills up the doser, then the grind is open to oxidation and that is going to effect the quality of the shot unless one is very quick. If one does other forms of coffee, such as French Press, then it is a bit of hassle to reset the grind. Hence, it will be a lot easier to have another grinder for that purpose. Pasquini sells a conical bur grinder for about $175 that has a chute below which one could place the portafilter. Pasquini's son said that this $175 grinder as well as the Rocky were capable of giving grinds equivalent to the Moka 90's. Unless one is in a continual use situation, the grinder will have to be cleaned out after each use. There is the matter of continually pushing out the ground up coffee that sits in the chute, just prior to going into the doser. That amount of grind is considerable and probably should be brushed into the doser, if one is using the grinder on a shot by shot basis. Even then, there are coarser grinds left in the bur assembly area and these must be routinely brushed out once one finishes the espresso session. Cleanup of the unit in preparation for the next session is not that difficult nor time consuming.
This is a first class machine that exudes luxury - think Ferrari. The two drawer stainless steel base looks great, but is, more importantly, highly functional. There will be a lot less of a mess to clean up because of it. Even though the Livia 90 is heavy, I found that I had to use two hands to lock the portafilter into place and stabilize the unit - otherwise the Livia 90 would move. It would seem that most higher end espresso units have matching grinders that are about 50% the cost of the espresso machine. It seemed questionable whether or not to buy the Moka 90 because it cost more than a Rancilio Silvia. A Rocky grinder may have been more than adequate, but I didn't wish to compromise and opted for the Moka 90 because I didn't want to have to buy it later. If you have a Rocky, I see no reason to ditch it. According to Pasquini, the Livia 90 will be the only espresso machine that I will need to buy in my life time. Hopefully, I will live a long time.