Stop buying lattes and buy this machine... get a Mazer mini too.
Positive Product Points
I realize that a perfect 10 across the boards will cause some folks to discount my review... but I won't make up negatives just to make it look like I'm dispassionate evaluator ~ an expert reviewer with a highly honed critic's eye. Nope... I'm just a very happy camper and everyone who has one of my lattes says it is the best they've ever had.
The Vivaldi is Awesome! It is so easy and quick to make one (or a dozen) lattes. Plumbed in with filtered water and a double boiler it just couldn't be easier. So far I've experienced zero problems and it has surpassed my expectations.
Negative Product Points
Just the nature of a machine with this capacity... it takes 15~20 minutes to get ready from a cold start (20 amp model with dedicated circuit.)
Added August 6th,, 2008 ~ this has not been a problem at all. First one up in the morning turns it on.
8 years using a Profi Estro more than paid for purchasing the Vivaldi II (and Mazer Mini.) With the Profi I dreaded making lattes or espressos for guests.... it just took too long. However with the Vivaldi that isn't an issue... I can make them quickly and the kids get all the moo's they want too.
Steaming milk is just as easy as *pulling* shots... pulling shots, HA! You don't pull anything... all you do is push a button and two ounces of espresso end up in the cup. Anyway... steaming milk: this is so easy whether using a tiny one cup pitcher or a large quart pitcher or just steaming milk in a mug. I do all of those though usually I let the Vivaldi put espresso directly into my coffee cup while I steam a tiny bit of milk (and toasted marshmallow syrup) in a small SS pitcher. The four hole steam wand puts out gobs of steam but it is very controllable and I always get the nice even micro foam... always... every time.
A coffee aficionado friend brought over some special ~ read expensive ~ beans with a strict recipe to follow: something like xxounces grounds tamped with xx pounds and pulled @ xxdegrees for xxseconds producing xxounces of espresso. He is the kind of guy who actually *pulls* shots. He has a PID'd Olympia Cremina lever machine and eschews lattes. Well I just guessed at the grind and tamp, set the temp, pulled the shot with a stopwatch and it came out exact... and it tasted so good I drank it straight too! Maybe not a big deal to a espresso drinker but I'm one who needs milk and toasted marshmallow syrup.
I also purchased a bottom-less portafilter and use it all the time just to watch the picture perfect flow of tiger striped crema... even using frozen Costco beans.
Chris Coffee Service was great at communicating and answering questions but I can't comment on service after sale because I haven't needed any.
Added August 6th,, 2008 ~ Boiler didn't heat up this am ~ eek!!! ~ called Chris' Coffee and was immediately connected with a technician who walked me through a simple reset and wouldn't get off the phone until I had it up and running. AMAZING customer service!!!!
Three Month Followup
After 5 months of daily use, dinner guests and several well attended Christmas Parties, I'm more convinced than ever that this was the best choice for us. The Vivaldi is turned on first thing in the morning and usually stays on all day. From the first cup to the last it turns out great lattes.
The Vivaldi is perhaps a bit extravagant for just our morning lattes but when it comes to making drinks for guests... My Oh My!
In years past I've wanted to hide our Profi Estro Espresso Machine when we had company for fear someone would ask for a latte. The Profi was quickly overwhelmed at more than two. I would have to wait for it to heat up to steam and/or wait for it to cool down to brew.
This Christmas with 50 in the house I was locked and loaded! ;-) The Mazer Mini was loaded with beans and the paper cups (with built in hot sleeves) were ready to go. I only managed one latte a minute but that is faster than the rent~a~barista at the last wedding reception we just attended.
Issues to date: None. Period. Couldn't be more please.
One Year Followup
One year of owning/using the Vivaldi II and I still wouldn't change the rating I gave it. For me it is still a perfect 10! I'm enjoying a latte right now in fact. :-) What seemed like a rather high price at the time of purchase has more than paid for itself this last year. For my use there isn't anything that I would change... including the Mazer Mini we purchased from Chris Coffee at the same time as the Vivaldi. I highly recommend Chris Coffee as well. Their service is excellent. The few times I've had questions they were cheerful to help.