The Italians, who are passionate about their coffee refer to the four M's when making espresso. One M is "macchine", or machine. Consider this one seriously when making your purchase.
Positive Product Points
I have the full-auto version of the La Valentina. This machine is a real performer. It is extremely well built and performance is very consistent. Steaming is excellent. With the full-auto version I save a little time during preparation.
Negative Product Points
There is very little I would describe as negative. Would have liked machine depth to be a little less, and would have prefered that the finish be consistent throughout. No biggies.
Until I purchased the La Valentina I really had no idea what espresso is supposed to be like. Aside from the espresso education you receive at CoffeeGeek you don't know what it is until you can appreciate the pour, the taste, etc. This doesn't happen simply because a machine costs more then another...some are costly but may not afford you the ability to produce great espresso. When La Valentina came out of the box the quality craftsmenship is obvious. It is an extremely well made machine. Much of it's components are industrial grade which afford it the ability to produce many shots, cappuccinos or lattes without let up. The machine doesn't let you down - with each use your confidence grows. The E61 brew group is superb - heed the label's warning - it gets hot and remains that way for a considerable amount of time after use. When pulling the first shot of the day/evening I usually draw a blank shot through the brew group and let off a little steam. As far as steaming and frothing are concerned the La Val responds very well. With the HX you can do both simultaneously - she always seems ready to go. If she needs to reheat the time it takes isn't noticeable. As far as looks go everyone who sees it marvels - they're usually not coffeegeeks and are used to what Mr. Coffee's looks like. One thing is certain; all who try the espresso, cappuccino or latte agree it's the best they've had. The programmable buttons make life a little easier and are easy enough to program. Single shot, double shot, small cup, large cup - I have a long day so these little time savers are beneficial to me. There is another button you can press to pull manually if you prefer. I am a geek to the extent that I love coffee and appreciate having the ability to make it with this machine. I can't talk to you in terms of bars of pressure, the temperature required, etc. I can talk to you in terms of satisfaction and I am very pleased with this machine.
I purchased the La Valentina from 1st-line, this being the third significant purchase I made through them. Diane is incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, and never forces an opinion on you. Jim has been very responsive to even my most simply of questions - he also has a wealth of information to share with you relative to use of your equipment. 1st-line is one company you can truly say is customer oriented.
Three Month Followup
This machine continues to produce excellent espresso. It displays great consistency throughout...steaming, brewing, etc. It works as well as the day I brought it home, flawlessly.
I would highly recommend this well made machine to anyone.
One Year Followup
La Valentina continues to produce excellent espresso without a glich. Steam production remains as strong as the day I bought it. You find out that even with a machine like La Val you continue to learn how to produce a better shot even a year after purchase. This came with advice from Dan K. I use about 17.5g of coffee per double ground at about 13 on my Rocky Doserless. My ratings for La Val remain the same as originally noted. My only score less then a ten came in aesthetics - this machine is made so well and looks so well but what keeps me from giving it a ten is the yellow touch pad - full auto version. It remains a highly recommended machine from my perspective.