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La Valentina
Steaming Performance


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Contents

Introduction
Getting Started
Espresso Performance
Steaming Performance
Conclusion
Dimensions
  

La Valentina is reputed to be a powerful steamer and my measurements bear that out. Initially the steam wand spittles water for a couple seconds, but then emits only very dry steam. The biggest difference in comparison to my previous espresso machine, the Rancilio Silvia, is that the steam pressure is nearly constant—that is, no hills and valleys. With Silvia’s stock one-hole tip and in its “perfect steam” zone, Silvia’s velocity is greater than Valentina’s. However, Valentina has greater steam volume. As shown below, it steams at a brisk pace using the stock tip:

8 ounces

10 ounces

12 ounces

La Valentina

31

42

47

Giotto Premium

28

38

43

Rancilio Silvia

46

66

74

Seconds to heat water from 40 to 160°F with stock tip (boiler pressure of 1.1 bar)

Silvia is a very competent steamer but requires a fair amount of finesse and attention to the boiler cycle. While it’s true that La Valentina will produce slightly stronger steam pressure when the boiler element is on, it isn’t as critical as it is for Silvia.

Frothing Small Amounts of Milk

The stock tip works best with larger amounts of milk (e.g., nine ounces in a 20 ounce pitcher). The stock tip is certainly too fast for anything less than six ounces. For smaller one-serving amounts, I prefer a twelve ounce pitcher and the narrower Gold Pro two-hole steam wand tip (available at an additional cost). After a few days of practice, I produced better and more consistent results with no waiting, validating one of the major reasons I upgraded from Silvia.

Stock and Gold Pro steam tips

Stock (l) and Gold Pro (r)
steam wand tips

After I had a chance to measure La Valentina’s steaming performance as delivered, I retook the statistics above after changing two variables, namely:

These factors slowed the steaming times to 45, 58, and 65 seconds for 8, 10, and 12 ounces of water, respectively. It is noteworthy that the boiler pressure “equalization point” during steaming was much higher for the Gold Pro two-hole steam tip. It didn’t drop below 0.8 bar. With the stock tip, the boiler pressure dropped as low as 0.6 bar at the end of a run. The increased steam velocity of the Gold Pro two-hole steam tip makes it great for creating microfoam, especially for small amounts of milk. In effect, it transforms La Valentina into more of a “long-distance runner” than sprinter steaming-wise; I recommend the Gold Pro steam tip as an inexpensive must-have accessory for Valentina.

Maximizing Steam Output

While not absolutely required, having the heating element on while frothing on is a good thing. The 1300W heating element in La Valentina will give an extra “oomph!” to the steam pressure if it engages from the get-go instead of mid-session, especially with the stock steam tip. In fact, this hint applies to just about all semi-commercial espresso machines.

To force the heating element on, begin by opening the steam valve wide open to drop the boiler pressure until the green heating element indicator illuminates, and then close it for a moment in order to put the wand into the pitcher. Now let ’er rip. This will get the steam going flat-out in just a few seconds since the heating element will remain on until the valve is closed. The boiler gauge gives a leading indication of when the heating element is about to go on or off. That period lasts only 5-7 seconds, so watching the gauge helps judge when to start steaming (since I want the heat on throughout, I start just before it clicks off so the pressure is maxed). Timing is less important if the boiler pressure is cranked up to 1.2 bar, but I prefer the extra rebound time a lower setting like 0.95-1.1 bar gives me.

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