If you want to buy your last machine, make it the La Spaziale S1...it's upgrade proof. And make sure you "Got MILK..."
Positive Product Points
An almost perfect machine in every way possible. It's the ultimate "party animal". Dual boiler and plumbed in what else do you need?
Negative Product Points
Leaking expansion valve. Drip tray doesn't have a drain option, yet... We're still waiting for that one. Did I mention the leaking expansion valve?? I really hate listening to that "drip, drip, drip" while downing my shots.
OK, the honeymoon's over. I've had the Spaz for 3 months, now I can give an un-biased review.
I love this machine, it's actually my first real machine. I bought the QuickMill Anita after the La Spaziale if you want to believe that. To make a long story short, I needed 2 espresso machines so I opted for the Anita as a 2nd unit. One of the best features of the S1 is the "plumb-in", I cannot stress how important this is to me since I pull an average of 12-16 shots a day. I've become the most popular guy in the neighborhood since the Spaz showed up at my door. This thing can deliver an unstoppable amount of coffee to anybody who visits you including their mother and extended family. I had about a dozen friends drop by one evening last week and I had to empty the knock box a couple of times, I pulled at least 35 shots in a row for these caffeine "fiends" and everyone went home happy.
The steaming power is awesome. You can feel the turbulance of a 747 in your steaming pitcher when you crank the valve open. I was quite amazed with the sheer speed of scalding my milk, I couldn't believe how fast I burned it. I then popped a thermometer in the pitcher just to see how fast that needle shot up, it was like watching a speedometer on a Ferrari. It's quite easy to harness its power after a couple of sessions and the tip is just right also. Mine shipped with a 3-hole tip so I can't speak for the 4-hole version. So far I've used 12, 17, 20, 24 and 25.5 oz pitchers. I find that the Alessi 17 and 25.5 oz's work best with the S1 because of their shape and thickness (great heat retention), they have this perfect body shape that no other pitcher has and I've tried them all before settling on nothing else but the Alessi's.
The 53mm portafilter is a little unusual but I got used to it fast. I also want to make note that it's the heaviest portafilter I've ever held! They're no lightweights and the quality seems top-notch but that is to be expected on any commercial machine. The drip tray is nice, large and easy to empty out and clean. As a matter of fact the whole machine is very easy to clean and maintain. The group gasket is very accessible unlike other machines where you need tools to pick them out. The gasket pops right out and both shower screens and brass diffuser pop right out when using the included wrench. Backflushing is simple with the provided rubber disc that Chris' Coffee Service included, La Spaziale doesn't recommend backflushing but many people have discovered otherwise and I agree.
The only negative things I can think of on the S1 is the lack of of a drain option for the drip tray. I don't really need one but it would be nice if the option were there. I also HATE the fact that the S1's expansion valve leaks when the unit is on. I almost wanted to rate the machine a "0" in the aesthetics department but I though that would be cruel since it's such a fantastic machine otherwise. But if you're reading this La Spaziale, "your machine annoys me to no end sometimes!" I hate sitting at my table, enjoying my occasional God Shot while listening to that incessant dripping sound of that cursed valve.
In comparison to my QuickMill, I'd say it's like the old cliche "comparing apples to oranges" and so on. The La Spaziale S1 doesn't make better espresso or froth better milk than the QuickMill and that goes the same vice versa (or however that goes). The end product is the same for both machines, I believe it's the hand of the operator. Buying an S1 is only going to speed things up and deliver to the masses that frequent your home. The Spaziale looks great, it doesn't have the beautiful super shiny super-model look that the QuickMill's have, but rather it has its own exotic sports car sex appeal.
Bought it from Chris, who else? I wouldn't buy from anyone else. Chris fielded every email night and day, weekday and weekends! Wow, what service. The unit showed up well packed but the box looked like it was dragged behind the UPS truck for about a half mile. The contents were thankfully perfect thanks to the superior packaging job.
Three Month Followup
Update: After owning the S1 for about six months, I decided to add the Vivaldi II to my coffee arsenal. All I can say is "Wow", I noticed the improvements right away from the moment I powered up. The 1st thing I noticed was the sound level, the fan that cools the triac is much quieter (maybe it's an isolated incident?) but among other things the motor sounded a little smoother than my older S1. The steaming really has improved by a HUGE margin, not only by changing the tip but the unit is really neurotic about temperature - the elements constantly cycle on/off now to keep everything nice and tight within the programmed settings. The control panel is much more user friendly now if you like to temperature surf frequently. The dual manometer can be very useful to the fellow geek who wants to adjust the brew pressure without having to purchase a seperate brew pressure gauge. One more thing I'd like to add because this one is HUGE to me, it was my biggest gripe with the orginal S1. It's that cursed leaking valve, I'm not sure how or why but this new unit does not leak at all...OK, I had 1 droplet fall in the 3 hours that the machine was in operation. No matter what I did with the old unit, it just didn't want to stop leaking and finally I got it to stop just recently but it didn't last longer than 2 weeks.