La Spaziale Vivaldi II
Ideally you are on good terms with your UPS delivery person because this machine comes in a large and heavy box (over 70 pounds and oversized). Plan to enlist a volunteer to help you lift it out of the box and place it on the countertop.
I've opened a number of manufacturer shipping boxes from Italy. With few exceptions, they use cardboard cutouts to protect the contents. This works acceptably for off the shelf delivery but falls short of protecting the contents if shipped cross-country. There will be no worries for the VII since not only is it snuggled in custom foam packaging, Chris' Coffee Service puts the original box inside a larger box with thick foam corners and fill foam to help support its weight. Chris Coffee Service works with Customer Solutions, a package design and test lab that did certification testing for UPS shipping for the Vivaldi II packaging. It's cheaper to buy an extra box and some packing foam than replace a damaged machine!
The VII is 16.5 inches wide so figure on about 24 inches of space for the machine and a grinder. The VII is about as wide as a compact microwave (0.6 cubic feet) and slightly taller. Including space for a grinder, you should plan on approximately twenty-four inches of countertop to allow ample elbowroom. The VII is short enough that the cups on the warming tray have good clearance when the unit is located under kitchen cabinets. I could even stack two espresso cups-a relative rarity among prosumer machines. The necessary side clearance is minimal since all the action takes place directly in front across its wide drip tray.
There will be a number of labels on the front of the VII when you receive it. The VII achieved ETL Sanitation and Electrical Certification for both the US and Canada. This is a noteworty accomplishment for smaller machines like the VII and makes it usable in a small commercial environment such as a restaurant or catering business.
The VII can be configured to run in either 20amp or 15amp mode. Setting the mode was a pain in the earlier vintage but the new VII has a simple switch to change between 15amp and 20amp modes. In 15 amp mode one heater or the other will be on at any given time and that the group boiler gets precedence over the steam boiler. In 20 amp mode both heaters can be on at the same time without exceeding amperage draw on your your 20 amp circuit.
For most home users there is no noticeable difference in performance between 15 amp and 20 amp. However, if one is trying to use this machine in a restaurant, the 20amp mode is recommended. You can order the machine configured with a 15amp or 20amp plug. The five-foot long cord for the 20 amp version is beefy with a large plug that has one prong turned ninety degrees. This indicates that the machine requires a 20 amp circuit. You can switch the 20 amp model to "economy" mode by pressing and holding the BOILER button for 10 seconds until the ECON light illuminates or switch the internal switch to 15amp mode. For fitting purposes, note that the plug itself extends about three inches from the outlet. If the outlet is located directly behind where you want to place the VII, keep in mind that the machine won't fit flush against the wall. That was my situation, however because the VII isn't very deep, it wasn't an issue. If you want to recover those few inches, ask your electrician about a flush-mount plug similar to the ones used for electric ovens. You can also order a conversion plug from Chris Coffee Service that will convert the stock 20 amp version into a 15amp plug run it in 15amp mode and turn it to 20amp if you ever get a 20amp plug installed.
You will also need to plan for the VII's water hookup. With this unit,
the days of filling a reservoir are gone, gone, gone! The VII's water
hookup is a standard 1/8" inner diameter NPT fitting that Chris'
Coffee Service technicians can adapt to whatever plumbing fixture you have available
under the sink or from the icemaker hookup (3/8" outer diameter tubing
is also available). They recommend John Guest push-in fittings and 230 PSI flexible
water tubing. Your local hardware store may not stock these fittings under the
John Guest brand. If this is the case, look for the equivalent Watts brand.
Note that my local store stocked every imaginable Watts fitting but only the
lower-pressure 120 PSI tubing so it's worth ordering everything you need
to plumb the VII from Chris' to avoid delays. It is worth noting here
that adding a water filter and softener is a good idea if you're plumbing
in a new machine. The water softener is a must for areas hard water locals and
will reduce the descaling intervals across the board.
Owing to its mixture of black side panels and chrome, the look of the VII is more subdued than its chromed, exposed group, cousins. If you are looking for a machine that doesn't take over the kitchen then the VII is a good fit. Like most commercial machines, it offers an interesting back and profile view for its customers-it would look sharp situated across your own home espresso bar. Prosumer E61 espresso machines, in contrast, reserve their gorgeously sculpted group and lever for the front as delicious eye candy and generally present simplier-looking backs and sides. La Spaziale's retro appeal and convenience features show it's designed to get down to business. Indeed, whether it is dust, splashes, fingerprints, or a mixture of water and grinds in the drip tray-little shows on this machine. Keeping it looking spiffy is a snap. Should you prefer something other than black, you can order the accent panels in red or light gray instead. There are chromed steel panels over the backsplash area, front, and across the top and back of the VII. There is good attention to detail and fitting, such as the vents for the cup warming tray that form a pattern of small squares with quarter-circle cutout corners. Arguably few will notice but it shows that somebody was thinking about style even in small details. The frame is sturdy black-painted angle iron and the interior component layout is logical and neat, demonstrating that the designers were considering ease of service details too.
The painted pin striping and oversized "S1" emblem is a little garish compared to the rest of the machine. I find this is a good place to put my magnetic shot timer. The VII comes with a dual brew pressure and steam pressure gauge mounted in the front panel. Lastly, the drip tray holds a whopping forty ounces of liquid and empties easily. Like the side panels, it is made of plastic, and a snap to remove and empty.
The VII has a lot of programmability built in. Volumetric dosing, programmable temperature offset, programmable preinfusion and of course programmable group temperature. The display panel for all this functionality is surprisingly clean. It does have a number of LEDs which correspond to the temperature printed below them.
Now back to the business end of the machine. I really like a nice, hefty portafilter. This is the little wonder that you handle most frequently and it has the responsibility of retaining heat as well as conveying a good feeling of quality. In fact the VII's portafilters are the heaviest of all that I have worked with, including Rancilio and La Marzocco. In addition to good heft, the La Spaziale portafilters have a rubber end grip that helps when locking them in and cushions when you place them down. Two portafilters are included, one for singles and another for doubles. The spouts are open channel types; the double spout is without flow adjustment vanes. I also picked up a bottomless portafilter. I find the bottomless one of my best diagnostic tools when it comes to dialing in my shot routine.
Having owned some lighter machines in the past – locking in the VII portafilter was a dream! The VII has enough weight and breadth that it didn't slide at all despite tightening the portafilter down very snuggly. I also noticed that the exposed grouphead has a neat feature that other manufacturers should consider emulating: A cutaway that corresponds to the opening of the lock-in. You won't have to guess where the portafilter tabs align with the channel in the grouphead since you can see it easily from above.
This machine has reasonable clearance underneath. Some VII owners have purchased longer legs to make cleaning a little easier. I myself find the longer legs take away from the machines balanced looks. Mechanically the VII is pretty much a carbon copy of the VI with a few exceptions. There is good attention to detail and fitting the frame is sturdy black-painted angle iron and the interior component layout is logical and neat. Access to the machine is straightforward. You can get to the pump and expansion valve pressure settings from the front. A couple of screws hold the front panel in place and you can easily reach the steam boiler probe and vacuum breaker from the top. One screw gets the cup tray off.
Welcome changes to the VII included the addition of a dual manometer showing the pressure in both the steam boiler and group pump. The steam boiler temperature probe is also a little different on the VII. Instead of a dry sleeve the probe actually sits in the boiler water on the VII. The steam boiler fan has also been quieted down with a little padding added to the frame mount for the fan. Also the controller board is now encased in a plastic box versus the plastic shield that sat in front of it on the earlier version. Side panels are removable if you need to get further into the machine. The panels on the VI were a pain to get back together. The VII seems to be better and the last time I spoke with Chris he had mentioned a possible upgrade coming in the future.
Enough looking around—it's time to hook it up to the water supply,
plug it in, and power up! There is a lot of programmability in this machine
I'm interested in checking out.