A fantastic dual-boiler, good looking rotary pump machine that puts commercial quality and convenience in your kitchen!
Positive Product Points
- Dual Boilers - Programmable shot volume - Programmable brew temperature and offset - Quiet rotary pump - Automatic boiler refill - Heavy, solid construction - Plumbed in, no reservoir to fill - Timer option so its always ready in the morning
Negative Product Points
- Poor documentation from manufacturer (but good 3rd-party documentation is available) - Timer option is expensive - Best results require dedicated 20amp circuit (but can run on 15amp)
Chris' Coffee Service had a tremedous machine with the original S1 Vivaldi, but there were some weak points. There was no brew pressure gauge, the brew temperature programming was awkward, the displayed temperature was that of the boiler (rather than the group), and quite a few users experienced failed boiler temperature sensors.
In November 2006, the redesigned S1 Vivaldi-II was introduced. Every one of the weak points mentioned above were addressed -- and more. The boiler manometer was replaced with a dual gauge showing both steam pressure and brew pressure; the temperature display was changed to 1 degree increments and the program display improved; a programmed temperature offset was added to accommodate the difference between the boiler and the group; and the boiler temp sensor was replaced with a new, more reliable and more responsive (1/2 degree C) sensor. Incredibly, all this was done without increasing the price.
I bought a redesigned S1 Vivaldi-II from the very first shipment in November, 2006. Weighing in at about 65lbs, this machine is rock solid and uses quality components throughout. I have not experienced any failures in my 5 months of moderately heavy home use. The quietness of the rotary pump is outstanding -- it literally just "hums" during a shot. And the convenience of direct plumbing is a DREAM.
The 53mm portafilters (two complete portafilters are included) may strike some as small in comparison to the more common 58mm, but they are solid brass (chromed) and are actually heavier than the 58mm portafilters I have used. The narrower / deeper design appears to significantly reduces channeling issues.
The dual-boiler design provides simultaneous shots and steaming, without any of the flushing / temp surfing / waiting associated with single-boiler and HX designs. And speaking of steam -- WOW. The 1250 watt, 2.5 liter steam boiler can bring 6oz of milk to 160 degrees in about 10 seconds! It comes standard with a 4-hole tip that makes microfoam easy, but the tip can be easily replaced with a two or three hole tip if you prefer.
Two programmable buttons (single and double) and a volumetric flow sensor provide consistent volume for each shot -- but shots can also be stopped early by simply pressing the button again. Both buttons can be easily programmed for any desired volume. Steam control is via a large, easy to control manual valve. Hot water from the steam boiler is dispensed from a separate spigot just to the left of the group; a press of the hot water button starts the flow, and another press stops it.
Another improvement over the earlier S1's is the availability of an optional 7-day programmable timer. Standard appliance timers cannot be used to turn the S1 on, since applying power to the S1's plug doesn't turn it on -- it remains in standby mode until you hold the on/off button for a few seconds. The optional ($185) timer module overcomes this by connecting directly to the machine's controller board. It can be programmed with up to (3) on and (3) off actions per day, with different schedules for each of the 7 days if desired. It works well and is a great convenience -- but at nearly 10% the cost of the machine itself, it is a costly option.
With the dual 1250watt / 800watt heating elements, the machine is at its best on a dedicated 20amp circuit. However, it also offers an "economy mode" which cycles between the heaters, giving priority to the group boiler. This prevents the two heaters from being on simultaneously and thereby allows the machine to be used on a standard 15amp circuit. While perfectly usable in 15amp mode, stepping up to 20amp operation provides super-fast steam boiler recovery.
While most machines in this class look like big stainless steel boxes that belong in an industrial warehouse, the S1 has some style. The mix of stainless steel and the curved black side panels and drip tray give it an elegance that would be at home in any kitchen. It is also available with grey or (if you really want to make a bold statement) red side panels.
The user's manual provided by LaSpaziele is adequate at best, but Chris Coffee includes an extensively rewritten manual that is very good. There is also an excellent S1 owner's web site and forum at http://www.rimpo.org that offers online copies of the user's manuals along with lots of detailed photos and other information.
Chris' Coffee was very helpful before the sale, often answering my emailed questions within minutes even on evenings and weekends. When I called to purchase, they were very patient and really wanted to make sure I got exactly the equipment I needed (plumbing, fittings, etc). The machine was shipped and arrived when promised. When I emailed with a couple of setup questions, I got an immediate response from their service department. An excellent experience from start to finish.
Three Month Followup
I have now owned the S1-V2 for over 8 months, and have no complaints. There have been two very minor issues: (1) A bolt atop the pump loosened and caused some vibration noise, this was easily fixed by simply tightening the bolt. (2) When the timer turns off the machine each night, it occassionally leaves a couple of the front panel LEDs on, this doesn't hurt anything and I usually don't even see it because it is automatically corrected when the timer turns the machine on again the next morning. The machine has been used daily and has never disappointed me.
One Year Followup
Now at the 18month mark, the S1-V2 still works like new. There have been no problems of any kind since I wrote my 8month followup, and I am very satisfied with the purchase. Chris Coffee made a slightly longer steam arm (about 1" longer than stock) available early this year, and I highly recommend that upgrade as it makes it easier when using small/tall steaming pitchers. The timer problems I mentioned in my 3mo review have not recurred, or if they have I haven't seen/noticed them. Short of going to a $7500 GS3, I can't think of any machine better than the S1-V2.