A beautiful, well designed and built machine that should satisfy most serious home enthusiasts
Positive Product Points
E-61 Grouphead - temperature stability and 3-way valve Professional quality portafilters Beautiful addition to the kitchen
Negative Product Points
Amount of counterspace required Difficult access to the water reservoir when machine is placed under cupboards No HE for hot water tap
The alt.coffee crew had me convinced that I needed to upgrade my machinery in the quest for better coffee. I had already become hooked on home roasting, a vac pot, etc. but my Delonghi espresso machine was clearly an impediment in the quest for better shots.
I had the opportunity to pick up a new Giotto (all stainless)and Rocky grinder for ~$800 USD. Although it still hurt, I knew that I couldn‘t pass up this deal.
The Giotto was in great shape right out of the box, all the panels were tight and all was in order. Presumably I got this deal because of shipping damage, the cheesy plastic "wrap around" that fits on the top of the machine was broken in transport from the manufacturer. I probably wouldn‘t have mounted it anyway.
It took a few shots to get Rocky and my tamping dialed in. But soon I was pulling 27 second doubles that were consistently on par with the best shots I got on occasion with the Delonghi. My experience trying to cheat the temperature on the Delonghi and get a decent tamp with my modified Solis 166‘s ouput actually prepared me well for the Giotto/Rocky. It was all suddenly so easy - the machine and portafilter warm up beautifully and the Rocky gave me great material to work with. The brew temperature is right on without resorting to tricks. And the absence of a steam button and the wait for the steam temp to be reached is great.
I am new to having a 3-way valve but I love it already. No more exploding, soupy pucks plus the ability to backflush!
Without other similar price range machines to compare with, I can‘t provide great insight into the steaming power. I can say, compared with the previous toy that I was using, that the Giotto is a serious step up in steam power. It is by all accounts less than what the average commercial machine will give but I think that this is probably a plus for most home users. Giotto provides enough power to generate the type of volume and foam that you desire without scalding the milk in seconds if your technique is slightly off.
My partner is still unsure about the counterspace that Giotto takes up and the draw it places on our small electrical service box, but I think that a few great coffees will smooth those concerns. Giotto is a stunner to look at and fits in well in our decidely unmodern looking kitchen.
I am glad that I bit the bullet and made the jump from Delonghi to Giotto, neglecting the stop at the Silvia/Classic level. I think I would be saying the same thing if I had paid ~$1200 USD for the same set up.
I felt like I was getting a great deal, so I was prepared to receive no after sales support. I have since had the machine in the shop twice, requiring the replacement of two different parts (one that was broken because of my stupidity). Everything has been done under warranty, no charge, without any hassle. I also received a good deal on an in-tank water softener and replacement gasket.
Three Month Followup
Things are working great, 12 months later. Although I had to replace the preasurestat and get the autofill sensor cleaned over the past year, I received good service from my vendor (no charge for either) and I realize how easy it is to fix anything that does wear out.
I got hold of a four hole tip to try on the steaming wand, but it was too much for the size of the boiler. A three hole tip I made from a brass end cap didn't do much more for me than the two hole stock tip. I can get good "whirlpool" action with the two hole tip.
Having a single spout portafilter is in my mind a must for a home user, I never use the double spout portafilter for coffee as I always pull doubles. As Dr. John of Josuma Coffee says, you shouldn't pull your shot into one glass and then decant into another before drinking as you lose valuable flavour components in the process. I have my double spout portafilter permanently set up with a back flush disk, which is very convenient.
I have the machine on a timer to heat up for a couple of hours in the morning before first use. I have found that the more pre-heating time, the better. I like the way the machine performs best when it's been on for 10-12 hours and I'm using it mid-afternoon. On a typical morning, I can stumble out of bed and make my wife a coffee right away, rather than having to turn on the machine, bleed off the false preasure manually, and wait 20 minutes for warm-up. Having an anti-suction valve, as the Giotto has, permits full pre-heating on a timer. I would consider that a key feature for a machine in this price category.
Another nice feature I have discovered is the ability to adjust the setting on the preasurestat without taking the cover off the machine. A small flathead screwdriover fits easily through the grill holes in the cup warming area, allowing for quick and easy temperature adjustment for different blends of beans and degrees of roast. Very handy and something that may not be possible on the NS Oscar or the Pasquini Livia. I still think that the E-61 grouphead delivers some extra measure of temperature stability through the shot, following a purge of the heat exchanger immediately beforehand. The LM ridged double basket is not worth getting for this machine (need to overfill the basket in order to tamp without bottoming out, and then you touch the screen), but the LM ridgeless double is fantastic!
I still haven't figured out why people get so excited about being able to steam milk and brew at the same time on an HE machine. Pulling steam drops the boiler preasure, which affects the brew temperature during the shot. Steaming takes seconds and you have enough to attend to during the pull. The advantage of the HE system is the instant steam that is available before or after you pull a shot (or any other time, like to make hot chocolate). Also, the ability to adjust brew temperature on the fly with the preasurestat, albeit without the precision of a PID setup, offers a great advantage over a set thermostat, single boiler machine.