First let me say that, even though I have enjoyed drinking other folks (including, horrors, Starbuck's) espresso for many years, I am a newbie with regard to making my own espresso. My infatuation began when my wife and I visited her brother and family. He had recently purchased an old Rancillio lever machine on ebay. This thing is a beast and takes up a good portion of their kitchen, but I soon got into the whole ritual of grinding, tamping, pulling shots and tasting. After coming home I could not stop thinking about espresso and the ritual it involves. After losing many hours of productive work time to surfing the web in an effort to absorb as much espresso knowledge as possible, I decided I should get a machine.
Having already done much research, I came to the conclusion that the Wega Mininova was a good deal. It is expensive, but it is competitive given its capabilities/features. These include those listed above in the Positive Product Points as well as the fact that it uses heat exchangers for both the grouphead AND the hot water dispenser. Additionally, I figure that it is a good deal since it probably eliminates upgrade fever for all but the most gung-ho coffee geek. It is a good sign that after two months, I can not think of a single good reason to upgrade.
As I noted before, I am new to espresso production, so I won't make any blanket statements about the great espresso the Mininova can produce - especially since, at least at this price level, I believe it has as much (if not more) to do with the operator than the machine. However, I will say that I have made what I believe to be good espresso and I have every confidence that the machine is capable of producing great espresso. Needless to say, given the large two-liter boiler there is more dry steam than you know what to do with!
Now, the bad stuff. This is an Italian machine. I love Italy and I love Italians, but I have to say that their reputation for lack of quality control is probably true. The quality of the materials and parts themselves are very good, but the way they are put together could be improved. Nothing serious, but, none the less annoying (Also, let me note, before going into this list, that Todd at Whole Latte Love took good care of me and worked hard to make sure I ended up happy with my purchase).
When I received my machine:
- The boiler pressure gauge was installed so that one had to tilt your head 45 degrees in order to read it. This was easy to fix, but required a call and rummaging for tools.
- The hot water knob had cracked and broken in back where it attaches to the valve. A call to Whole Latte Love and a new one was shipped.
- The wrong portafilters were sent. They still worked, but the locked position was closer to 8 o?clock than 6 o?clock. Apparently Wega knew about this and had already sent the correct ones out to those who bought machines with this problem. (this actually worked out nicely since I now have 4 portafilters, not that I actually use them:})
- The pump on the machine made noise, but was not moving water into the boiler when I first turned it on. This facilitated a call to Whole Latte Love, but dang, they had already closed for the weekend. Calling back on Monday, Todd talked me through a check and apparently the pump couldn?t prime itself for some reason, which required me to rummage for more tools to fix it. I have not had ANY further problems with the pump.
- Finally, some of the rocker switches on the front of the machine are a little loose and thus don?t fit flush. This is no big deal now, but given that these switches are heavily used, I have to wonder how much looser they will get over time.
One last thing I think anyone should know about before they buy a Mininova. It seems that they are no longer producing them with the goose-neck steam wand that you see on the picture above. Instead it comes with a kinda kinked wand. In theory this is fine with me, but it turns out to be a pain. This is because even though it swivels, it doesn?t swivel away from the drip tray very far, which makes it very difficult to steam milk since there is so little room to maneuver the milk pitcher. My solution to this was to call Todd and ask about it?he immediately said ?if you are unhappy with it we will get you different steam wand.? Sure enough, he did and it is a vast improvement. Yet another reason to buy from Whole Latte Love.
Boy, after rereading this it sounds mostly negative. THIS IS DEFINATLEY NOT THE CASE. Now that all the bugs have been worked out the Mininova is a pleasure to use and look at ? just the thing to enjoy the ritual that is espresso.