Published by MarkApril 22, 2011 8:43 pm
I have to be honest with you. I was skeptical at first. When I heard that we would be carrying the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II, I wasn’t entirely sure why. Compared with the machines with the E-61 group head, I thought it looked a little less elegant, more commercial by appearance. I’d heard great things about its performance, but wasn’t impressed with how it looked in photographs and videos online.
The day after we received the first unit in our shop, my co-worker pointed it out to me as it sat on our workbench. When I turned around and saw the machine in person for the first time, I immediately did a double take.
“That is the Mini Vivaldi!?” One look at the machine and my mind was changed. It looked bigger and much prettier in person, definitely a more substantial presence than the impression given in any photo I’d seen. Later that day, when I first tested the Mini Vivaldi by pulling shots and steaming milk, then I was really impressed.
From when I first laid my hands on the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II, it began surprising me with how easy it is to use and the level of quality you find at every step.
First, I wanted to learn my way around the push-button controls. The Mini Vivaldi features programmable water temperature and volumetric dosing. With so few buttons, I wasn’t sure how to program those variables. After about two minutes with the manual, I learned my way around the programming mode and taught my colleague how to change the dosing and temperature in about thirty seconds. Here’s the procedure in a nutshell…
Press and hold the On/Off button for three seconds to enter programming mode. When you’re in programming mode, change the desired boiler temperature by pressing the hot water dispenser button. You can adjust the volume of water dosed by the single-shot and double-shot buttons simply by pressing each once to start the flow of water and again to stop the flow at the desired level. This sets the volume of water that will be dispensed for each shot before the Vivaldi automatically stops the flow. Press the On/Off button again to exit programming mode. Voila. You’re done.
The single-cup and double-cup buttons can be set however you’d like. One can be set for a quick flush and the other can be set to dispense far more water than you’d ever need for a shot, essentially making it a semi-automatic machine where you control the length and volume of the shot (you can always stop the flow of espresso or water by pressing the brew button again.) Or if you prefer, you can set them precisely for single- and double- shots, or any other combination of volume settings you might desire.
Another standout feature of the Mini Vivaldi is the quality and volume of the steam. The 1250-watt heating element in the 1.2-liter steam boiler heats quickly and efficiently and produces some of the nicest, super-dry steam at high pressure and high volume. I haven’t steamed milk for lattes and cappuccinos this quickly and easily since working on a commercial machine with an 11-liter steam boiler. The lever controlled steam valve is the same type used on La Spaziale’s larger machines designed for the high-volume café setting. It’s incredibly easy to control the intensity of the steam. My only wish about the Mini Vivaldi is that the steam lever stay in place in any position so you can take your hand off it without losing steam pressure. As it’s designed, you can feather it on, but until the lever is at its highest and most powerful point, it will return to the off position if you let go.
Aside from these examples of how well the Mini Vivaldi performs, the proof is in the cup. Any espresso machine is only as good as the espresso that it can brew. By this standard of measure, the Mini Vivaldi outdoes itself once again. At the push of a button the quiet vibratory pump kicks into action and in seconds, beautiful burgundy-amber colored droplets form into thin streams of sweet, balanced, luscious espresso coffee. As home espresso machines go, this is one of the best you’ll find for under $2,000. Consider pairing this with the Baratza Vario grinder for the ultimate combination of total control and programability.