The perfect home espresso machine for the current HX machine owner with a bad case of upgradeitis.
Positive Product Points
- Double Boiler - Quickly adjustable group temperature in 1C increments and it is accurate - Programmable volumetric dosing - Fast shot to shot recovery time - Plumb in - Rotary Pump - Great hot water and steam - Spacious warming tray which gets really toasty
Negative Product Points
- Some units have a bad case of the rattles on delivery requiring removal and/or snugging up of the covers. (Not difficult.) Detailed instructions are posted here. Rumor has it that the next shipment Chris Coffee receives will have mods to address this issue.
- Requires a dedicated 20A, 110V circuit for simultaneous double boiler usage. Alternately, a 15A circuit can be used but then both boilers cycle alternately.
I'm on my fourth espresso machine. I've been through a Krups toy, a Rancilio Silvia, an Isomac Tea, and now the La Spaziale S1. The S1 is the only one of this group with a double boiler set up - one for steam and hot water and the second which supplies the group. The La Spaziale is without a doubt my favorite - though the Silvia and the Tea are both fine machines. The moral of the story about the Krups is: don't let your spouse buy you an espresso machine unless you specify the machine!
It's Got Style The S1 is a nicely styled machine. Some folks have complained that, while other machines such as the Silvia and the Tea are completely stainless steel, the S1 has plastic side panels and a plastic drip tray. Actually, this is probably what keeps the price under $2,000 and the weight under 100lbs. In spite of this, the unit is plenty sturdy with a black painted steel interior frame. Both metal and plastic exterior components clean up much easier than the Silvia or the Tea. Unlike Silvia and Tea, magnets will stick to the chromed S1 front and rear panels.
Bodacious Steam and Hot Water If you utilize steam and/or hot water in your current espresso machine you'll love the S1. The S1 has a four hole tip and all the steam power of a commercial unit. It took practice and good technique to get great microfoam on the Tea. On the S1 it just happens! If you've been using a 12oz pitcher on your current machine, when you buy the S1, put it away. Otherwise, you will be wearing the milk. However, there is an alternative if you need to steam small amounts for those single caps. Chris Coffee carries a two hole tip that works fine on the S1. It steams very much like the same tip used on an Isomac though the pressure is still a bit higher with this tip than when used on an Isomac. The hot water is great for Americanos, tea, instant oatmeal, soup, etc. My whole family has been enjoying this feature even though I am the only coffee drinker in the house. The position of the water spigot adjacent to the group head makes it ideal for rinsing the portafilter after knocking out the puck.
Spot On Group Temperature The electronic temperature control for the group is excellent. It can be set within 1°C from well below to well above any temperature which should reasonably be used for espresso. Temperature measurements using a highly accurate thermocouple show that, after sitting for 10 minutes or more, the first shot is 3-4°C below the programmed temperature. This is likely due to the group and portafilter absorbing heat from the water. A blank shot brings it right up to the programmed temperature. Five seconds after pulling a shot the group boiler turns on. Forty seconds later it is back at target temperature ready for another shot. So after that first blank, a double espresso shot can be pulled every 45 seconds with the shot temperature spot on the programmed value ±1°C. Pretty impressive.
Easy Adjustment The E-61 group head on the Isomac Tea is impressive for its temperature stability. Its temperature can also be adjusted accurately by using a small screwdriver to tweak the pressure stat, measuring the resulting temperature, and repeating the process until the desired result is obtained. This can take a couple of hours to get right. The process takes about 10 seconds with the S1. Different coffees and different roasts of the same coffee can have different optimum brewing temperatures. The S1 makes adapting to these differences trivially easy.
And More... The programmable volumetric dosing and rotary pump round out the feature list that make the S1 an excellent choice as a high-end but still affordable home machine. There is much, much more that can be said about the S1. For an incredibly in-depth review, see the Buyer's Guide to the La Spaziale S1 by Dan Kehn.
Caveats and Kudos Purchasers of the initial batch of S1's from Chris Coffee had three minor concerns:
1) The shape and range of movement of the steam arm could be better. 2) When setting the fine 1°C temperature, the display worked backwards from the way it was documented and from the intuitive way it should work; i.e. should be increasing LEDs toward the right = higher temperature and increasing LEDs toward the left = lower temperature. 3) The standard double shower screens used by La Spaziale limit the coffee in the double basket to 14-15g.
Kudos to Chris Nachtrieb of Chris Coffee for jumping right on his customer's concerns and working with La Spaziale. Only two months after Chris starting selling the S1 all three of these issues have been fixed by La Spaziale, will be standard on new S1s from Chris, and have been offered to his initial purchasers of the S1.
1) Completely redesigned steam arm with new shape and swivel fitting 2) Redesigned the electronics to fix the temperature adjustment display issue 3) Redesigned a slightly thinner defuser disk that results in the shower screens not sticking down as far into the portfilter, allowing ~17g of coffee in the double basket.
If interested in more information, I have completely documented all my S1 experiences on my S1 Website
Another satisfied Chris Coffee buyer. I've had numerous live and e-mail conversations with Chris since placing my order. He's never too busy to help with any and all questions or issues that might arise. Especially note the Kudos section in my Detailed Commentary.
Three Month Followup
In the time since writing the original review things continue to be great with the S1. Chris Coffee and LaSpaziale continue to enhance the product based on customer feedback. With each new batch of machines the S1 keeps getting better and quieter. Chris has been great about ensuring that earlier customers can obtain upgrades.
New items since my last report are: - A new 3 hole tip to replace the 4 hole tip that came with the swivel steam arm upgrade. The original tip was difficult to get that perfect microfoam texture especially on smaller quantities of milk. The 3 hole tip works great. - Chris now sells a LaSpaziale portafilter pressure gauge for the S1. When I received mine, I found that my S1 was running 9.5 bar so I dropped it to the recommended range of 8.2 bar. The adjustment is very easy.
On-line Documentation Central I have continued to upgrade my personal S1 website on a regular basis using annotated pictures and text to really get "under the hood" and to document various options and adjustments. The web address noted in my original review still works but there is now a shorter variant: http://s1.rimpo.org.
One Year Followup
Actually this is a three year follow up and my last . I recently traded up to the new S1 Vivaldi II which extends the user friendliness of this great machine. I'll be adding a new review of the Vivaldi II soon. Here are my parting comments on the original S1.
Chris Coffee is a major factor in the great experience I and the others who purchased the S1 have had. There were a number of minor but nagging design issues with the original S1. Within the first year Chris had worked with LaSpaziale to correct all of them and supplied redesigned replacement parts to all previous purchasers at no cost and those upgrades became standard in all new shipping units.
Other than replacing those parts, the only maintenance required during my three years of ownership were to tightened the bolts on top of the steam boiler once after about a year and to tighten the bolt on the steam arm's swivel fitting once when it started to drip. This machine was on pretty much 24x7 except during vacations and extended business trips.
Since this machine got me started running the S1 Forum and related S1 website, previously noted in this review, I have been privy to the experiences of 100's of other S1 users. Some of them had issues with intermittent temp probes on the steam boiler and a couple had their boiler heater elements go bad. A few others had hot water issues when metal shavings left over from manufacturing lodged inside the valves. In all cases, they put in a call to Chris Coffee tech support and their excellent techs Roger and Jason walked the users through how to repair the problem without requiring a return.
I encourage any one interested in the S1 or the new S1 Vivaldi II, to check out the S1/V2 forum . There you will read the accolades from current owners as well as about the great Chris Coffee customer experiences. Even if you don't think the S1 is for you, I encourage you to check out other machines from Chris Coffee. You are most likely going to buy an Italian designed and hand built machine. Things will eventually go wrong and your best chance for piece of mind is to buy from a vendor who stands 100% behind their products.
I had no problem selling this machine and got 70% of my original purchase price. That's pretty darn good for a three year old espresso machine!