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Buyer's Guide to the
Vibiemme Domobar Super
By Dave Stephens
In the world of home espresso machines, few features are more
prominently recognizable than the saucer-shaped E61 grouphead. Its
expansive chrome surface certainly offers plenty of eye candy, but the
popularity of espresso machines based on this design owes as much to its
well-deserved reputation for "forgiving" minor errors in barista
technique as to good looks. Because the market has been flooded with
such a variety of machines designed around the E61 group, buyers are
frequently torn between what seems to be indistinguishable choices.
Beginning with the specifications, the standout features of the
Vibiemme Domobar Super include:
- Original E61 grouphead (more on that later),
- Stainless or black powder coat housing,
- Choice of manual, semi-automatic, and electronic (automatic) volumetric
- Three position power switch,
- 2.7 liter boiler and a huge 3.8 liter water reservoir.
Vibiemme Domobar Super
This review will look closely at the characteristics that separate
the E61-based competitors to help you decide.
The Super is larger than your average E61 clone home espresso
machine. Front to back, it measures 20 inches deep (not counting one
inch for the drip tray handle), 10-1/2 inches wide and 15-3/8 inches
tall. Height should not be an issue for standard overhead cabinets, but
do measure to confirm the extra depth will leave enough working room in
front of the Vibiemme.
The Super is outfitted with both a boiler pressure gauge and a brew
pressure gauge mounted across the top front of the machine, reminiscent
of the style of the popular Isomac Tea. There are three indicator lights:
- Next to the boiler pressure gauge illuminates amber when the heating element is energized,
- Amber on the left side of the brew pressure gauge for low reservoir water,
- Green power indicator right side of the brew pressure gauge.
On the semi automatic and automatic versions of the Super, the brew
control buttons are located across the face of the machine between the
two gauges. Our evaluation espresso machine is the manual, or lever
actuated version. The lever is mounted on the right side of the massive
The Domobar Super is a reservoir type espresso machine (often called
a "pourover" or "water tank"). Located under the cup warmer and at the
rear of the machine is a whopping 3.8 liter reservoir. Many pourover
espresso machines have a water reservoir with open top; the Super's is a
closed tank with removable refill cap. The cup warming tray extends over
the top of the machine and has two handles; you must remove the cups and try to refill the tank.
The Super includes two portafilters, one double and one single spout,
a Faema style double basket, single basket and a blank basket for
backflushing. Among the other accessories are the traditional black
plastic tamper toy suitable for tossing and an angled "burn my hand,
please" grouphead brush for cleaning the shower screen and gasket. When
ordering, be sure to select a proper 58mm tamper. Finally, Vibiemme
includes a typical, less than informative owner's manual. You still need
to read it prior to using the machine but as with most espresso
machines, it is relatively bland and poorly written.
The Super is commercial UL rated and requires a 120v outlet capable
of delivering 17.5 amps of power for the 1600W heating element and a 41W
vibratory pump. Verify your kitchen circuits have adequate power for the
Vibiemme (most modern kitchens have several 20 amp circuits, but older
kitchens may only have 15 amp circuits). The Super also has a longer
than average 7 foot electrical cord that extends from under the machine,
emerging from the center of the undercarriage.
The Domobar Super, which is "home bar super" in Italian, needs no
special hookups, just a suitable electric outlet. Note: Vibiemme
(pronounced "Vee-bee-m-may") sells two models, the Domobar and Domobar
Super. These are different models with very different specifications;
this review discusses only the Super.
Tipping the scales at 70 pounds, the Domobar Super is a heavy
espresso machine. I recommend having a helper when lifting it out of the
box. The stainless steel feet must be screwed onto the base of the
machine; they have non-skid material on the bottom so once the machine is in place, it will stay there. If you don't have an assistant, I recommend gently laying the
machine on its side on a soft pad to gain easy access to the bottom.
Once on the countertop, the remaining setup is easy:
- Remove the cup warmer protective film,
- Fill the water reservoir,
- Fill the boiler.
The last step, filling the boiler, is where you'll first appreciate
one of the Vibiemme's unique features: A three-position power switch.
This is a feature most often found on commercial equipment. In the first
(I) position, the system is powered on but the heating element is not
energized. The pump will prime and start filling the boiler. You can
also run water through the heat exchanger and group without engaging the
heating element. Once the boiler has filled and you have filled the heat
exchanger, rotate the switch to its final position (II). Once there, the
heater will kick on and the amber 'element energized' light beside the
boiler pressure gauge will illuminate.
The three position power switch is a very smart feature. Most
semi-commercial espresso machines have simple on/off power switches, so
powering the pump to fill the boiler means the heating element has power
too. During the first-time fill of the boiler, owners must pay careful
attention to avoid burning out the exposed heating element if the boiler
doesn't fill fast enough (instructions for such espresso machines
typically advise to fill the boiler for 30 seconds, turn off for five
minutes, fill for 30 seconds, turn off for five minutes, etc.). In
contrast, the Vibiemme's first boiler fill is anxiety free because the
(I) power switch position only powers the pump.