Izzo Alex Duetto vs. La Spaziale Vivaldi vs. La Marzocco Strada

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
User avatar
HB
Admin

#1: Post by HB »

This past Friday our get-together was a reprise of a previous double boiler espresso shootout, but with two new contenders: Izzo Alex Duetto II and the La Spaziale Vivaldi Mini:


Izzo Alex Duetto and La Spaziale Vivaldi Mini

Chris' Coffee Service provided a loaner Duetto last week and Mike Zhu, owner of New World Cafe, supplied the Vivaldi that's part of his regular display models (see Espresso Machine Shootout at New World Cafe for more details). This time around, Ian Stewart manned the Vivaldi since that's his regular setup at home, Lem took the Strada since that's Counter Culture's regular setup, and I was in charge of the Duetto since it's similar to other E61 models I've used. We had limited ground rules, e.g., the barista was free to tweak the dose, temperature, or basket for the shootout.


Lem Butler at the controls of the La Marzocco Strada

The test coffee was Counter Culture Coffee's Aficionado. It was pulling nicely with a delicate balance of fruit and chocolates. Lem led the early rounds, thanks to the extra fruit-forward espressos from the Strada. I attempted to mimic that flavor profile by setting the grind setting finer, dosing lower, and pulling the extraction longer. I have to say, I had forgotten how easy it is to work with the the E61 group; every shot was ultra even and zero signs of channeling.

With time running out, we nominated Nathan to be the judge of the final round (if only because otherwise he's never in any of the photos! :lol:). By that time Ian had tweaked the temperature on the Vivaldi and it was clearly going to be a close call:


Nathan Brown has the last round, declares winner

The Duetto came in first, the Strada second, and the Vivaldi third. Nathan thought the first and second place finishers had similar flavor profiles emphasizing fruit, but the first place entry was slightly sweeter. It was a good friendly competition! With the straight shots comparisons out of the way, Mike and Lem tried a few cappuccinos:


Lem pours cappuccino from Duetto, Mike from the Vivaldi

A couple attendees commented that the "no burn" steam might be responsible for the Duetto's less velvety-smooth microfoam compared to the Vivaldi and Strada. No burn steam wands have a teflon tube inside the wand to slow heat transfer to the wand's exterior, but they also constrict the steam volume. That said, the Duetto is a fast steamer and undoubtedly we could have improved on the results with more practice.

Thanks to the attendees for helping with the shootout and especially Counter Culture Coffee for supplying the Aficionado (gentlemen, feel free to add your own comments!). And once again thanks to Nathan for the photos; the full album is located here.

PS: Lem contributed this nicely framed photo of Mike steaming on the Duetto:

Dan Kehn

User avatar
Viernes

#2: Post by Viernes »

Very nice! Would you please tell us if any latte art pic of the album belongs to a Strada? The latte art pics I see from La Spaz and the Duetto looks a little dull, not sharp defined and with bubbles... which is exactly what I get with my Spaz and my Duetto.

Beezer

#3: Post by Beezer »

Thanks for posting this shootout. I just received my Duetto last week and plumbed it in this weekend, so it's nice to see it held its own against heavy hitters like the Strada and Vivaldi. I nearly bought the Vivaldi rather than the Duetto, so it's interesting to see how they stack up against each other.

I was wondering if you had any issues with the fit and finish of your sample Duetto? Mine has really tight tolerances with the drip tray and internal reservoir, which make pulling them in and out a bit of a pain. The high drip tray also makes for a tight fit with some cups under the spouts of the PF, though the short spouts on the stock PF's work better than the long spout on my aftermarket La Marzocco PF.

Some minor ergonomic issues aside, I'm enjoying the Duetto quite a bit. Glad to see you liked the shots it makes as well.
Lock and load!

User avatar
TomC
Team HB

#4: Post by TomC »

It's nice to see a firsthand comparison of the Duetto vs the Spaz. I'm still happy with the well rounded functionality and aesthetics of my Duetto. The Spaz was much less counter candy in comparison.

User avatar
floydo

#5: Post by floydo »

Sounds like a rather fun day. Just out of curiousity on the Izzo you said
I attempted to mimic that flavor profile by setting the grind setting finer, dosing lower, and pulling the extraction longer. I have to say, I had forgotten how easy it is to work with the the E61 group....
I saw a what looks like a scace temp portafilter. What did the Izzo end up being set to (or what was the water temp) for the Aficionado shots?

Good writeup!

User avatar
HB (original poster)
Admin

#6: Post by HB (original poster) »

Viernes wrote:Would you please tell us if any latte art pic of the album belongs to a Strada? The latte art pics I see from La Spaz and the Duetto looks a little dull, not sharp defined and with bubbles... which is exactly what I get with my Spaz and my Duetto.
None in that album since the focus was on the new contenders, not the regular setup. You should be able to create excellent microfoam with all three, though the technique may need finessing due to the difference in steam volume, velocity, and dispersion pattern. Since Mike Zhu uses the La Marzocco daily and demonstrated great skill with the Vivaldi, I'll defer to him for suggestions.


Photo lacks sharpness, but microfoam had chrome-like surface
Beezer wrote:I was wondering if you had any issues with the fit and finish of your sample Duetto? Mine has really tight tolerances with the drip tray and internal reservoir, which make pulling them in and out a bit of a pain.
The upper cup tray has really tight tolerances, but other than that, I noted no fit and finish issues.
floydo wrote:What did the Izzo end up being set to (or what was the water temp) for the Aficionado shots?
It's set to 199°F. I think that Lem tried a higher brew temperature like 201°F but later moved the temperature down a degree (sorry, not certain on this point).
Dan Kehn

Nuprin

#7: Post by Nuprin »

Thanks Dan for setting the get-together at your place. What a awesome sight with all 3 machines (2 Black and Stainless and one all Stainless) flanked by 3 identical black Compak K10s. It was my first time seeing a Duetto in person and I'll have to say it looks wider or "fatter" than the pics on line but still impressive and screams "I'm all chrome and all yours baby!"

I was having a little trouble getting the dose, grind and temp just right to get really good shots in the beginning so I deferred to Ian who, as a master of the Vivaldi was able to get competition worthy pulls. It's amazing how each machine pulled different and unique shots yet there were all very tasty and certainly something anyone would be happy to produce at home. Credit also goes to Counter Culture's Aficionado which allows such differences to be explored. Dan described the flavors perfectly. The Duetto did have that sweetness that gave it the edge, but they were all pretty darn close.

Having the Vivaldi in the shop for the past few weeks and also using it for catering purposes, even with a smaller steam boiler-but powerful heating element, it's more powerful than the Duetto's but the no-burn arm could be cause. With that said, if you are looking to make a single 5-6 oz cap, and like me, try not to waste too much milk, it can be quite challenging on the Mini because everything happens so fast at those quantities and tends to introduce a lot of air in small pitchers. With its slower steaming, the Duetto may be better suited for 12 oz pitchers. Unfortunately, the steam level is just "on" or "off" but if you have a turn knob for your steam control, you can open it partially on a more powerful machine to get better micro foam out of smaller sizes. I do this daily on the 3 group Linea at the shop - 3 oz of milk for Cortados. However, the Sproline Vortex Tip used does slow it down.
Viernes wrote:Would you please tell us if any latte art pic of the album belongs to a Strada? The latte art pics I see from La Spaz and the Duetto looks a little dull, not sharp defined and with bubbles... which is exactly what I get with my Spaz and my Duetto.
Try a different tip? I believe the Sproline Knife is slower than the Vortex.

Beezer

#8: Post by Beezer »

I just swapped out the steam wand on my Duetto from the stock no-burn to the Vivaldi "burn-me" wand that I had on my Anita. With the stock wand, I was getting really wet foam with some big bubbles and not much true micro foam. Once I put the burn-me wand on, it's back to the easy, velvety smooth microfoam that I used to get all the time on Anita, only it happens much faster with the greater power of the Duetto's boiler. Very nice.

I also spread apart the sides of the frame where the drip tray slides in to reduce the resistance when the tray is sliding in and out. The sides were a bit too close together, and they were causing a lot of friction on the tray and making it difficult to slide it out without spilling. Now it slides much better, though still not quite as smooth as Anita's tray, which is buttery smooth.

I'm really liking the ability to set the temp on the PID and get consistent results. I just got in a new shipment of Redbird espresso, and setting the PID to 202 got me one of the best pulls I've ever had this morning. Just really sweet and delicious, with no bitter aftertaste. I could get used to this.
Lock and load!

User avatar
Peppersass
Supporter ❤

#9: Post by Peppersass »

What strikes me about this thread is how well it illustrates that as long as temperature and pressure are reasonably stable and predictable, and you use good technique, you don't need a top-of-the-line commercial machine to make great espresso. And I say that as an owner of one of the better machines on the market :D .

That said, preinfusion pressure may be a factor on these particular machines, as they all have the ability to more gently saturate the puck (though it wasn't stated whether that feature was used on the Mini Vivaldi.)

To me, above a certain price level it's mostly about features and ergonomics. I would guess that the biggest difference between the machines in this bake-off are probably durability, capacity and maybe ease of use. Surely the LM build quality is more likely to stand up to the rigors of daily use in a cafe for years and years, and the boiler capacities, recovery time, steam power, etc. are more suited to that type of use. But for a home user, the Duetto and Vivaldi will be just fine.

As is oft said here, it's all about the coffee and the grinder. The machine just pushes water though the puck.

One note: I had a similar experience switching from the no-burn wand to the burn-me wand on the GS/3. Decent microfoam can be produced with the no-burn wand, but the quality is definitely better with the burn-me wand. I wonder if manufacturers are going to ditch the no-burn concept or will be forced to go to it for stock models by their liability lawyers.

Beezer

#10: Post by Beezer »

I had a similar experience switching from the no-burn wand to the burn-me wand on the GS/3. Decent microfoam can be produced with the no-burn wand, but the quality is definitely better with the burn-me wand. I wonder if manufacturers are going to ditch the no-burn concept or will be forced to go to it for stock models by their liability lawyers.
I suppose liability might be one reason these types of wands are popular, but you don't see them on any of the cheaper machines, which are the machines which are most likely to be used by inexperienced people who are the ones who are more likely to burn themselves on a steam wand. So I doubt that's really the motivation. I think it's more like a "value added" feature that manufacturers and sellers can tout, regardless of whether it's actually better or easier to use.

For example, the base model Anita now comes with a burn-me four hole wand, but the upgraded Andreja and Vetrano come with no-burn wands, which are seen as an upgrade. Some people may like them better, but personally I find no-burn wands harder to get good microfoam with. On the other hand, the no compression valves on the Andreja and Vetrano are definitely nicer than the Anita's compression valves, if only because they are less likely to leak and easier to repair if they do leak.
To me, above a certain price level it's mostly about features and ergonomics. I would guess that the biggest difference between the machines in this bake-off are probably durability, capacity and maybe ease of use. Surely the LM build quality is more likely to stand up to the rigors of daily use in a cafe for years and years, and the boiler capacities, recovery time, steam power, etc. are more suited to that type of use. But for a home user, the Duetto and Vivaldi will be just fine.

As is oft said here, it's all about the coffee and the grinder. The machine just pushes water though the puck.
I'm sure this is true. Of course, even the price of the Duetto or Vivaldi is hardly trivial, and most people would think we're nuts to spend so much on a machine that makes tiny cups of coffee. But as we all know, below a certain price level (around $1,000) it's hard to find a machine that delivers consistent temperature and pressure that's needed for good espresso.

I've had a lot of people recently ask me for recommendations about getting an espresso machine, especially after they've tasted the coffee I've made for them. It's hard to explain to them that they really need to spend a fair bit of money on a machine and then several hundred more on a grinder in order to make decent espresso, not to mention getting good beans and spending the time to learn how to use the gear. Most people would rather just get a cheap machine, even if it means getting mediocre results.
Lock and load!