Solid build Barista-friendly Steam is incredible Intelligent design
Negative Product Points
Could use a flush-mount plug. That's it.
After using an E-61 machine (Giotto) for 10 years, it was a long and hard decision to try another type of machine. The Spaz was the final contender to another E-61 purchase, but there were several form factor issues with the Spaz that prevented a purchase without much angst. Having now lived with the Spaz for 6 months (4-10 shots/day), I am delighted and there will be no hesitation with my next purchase - another Spaz.
My needless worries in the decision process, in no particular order:
It is not chrome...not Italian art...questionable WAF...perceived quality of stainless. Not only do i not miss the chrome (I still use the Giotto in another house), I now prefer the plastic. Easier to clean. Does not show spots. More of a working appliance and when I use the Giotto I now wonder why the need for so much chrome. WAF....not only did my wife not want the Spaz, she threatened to send it back - until she saw it and used it. Now she wants to replace the Giotto with a second Spaz.
Non-standard portofilter size. Non-standard turned out to be a non-issue. I find I prefer it to the E-61. No more spurting than usual (tamp dependent for both). Bottomless pf and quality tampers available. Here is the really important difference, at least for me - cleaning the group head is so easy, it would be reason enough to purchase this design. With the Giotto there is a constant build-up of gunk and it is a PITA to clean (prying, screwdriver, tearing gasket...). The Spaz has yet to have any build-up and taking the screen (more of a perforated disk) off is a hex screw - no prying). If you like a clean machine, this is the one.
Lever steam control. I really thought I needed to turn a knob to produce steam. Now I wonder why anyone would want to. Flip the lever and your milk is steamed in a few seconds. With the Giotto, I walk away and do something else until I hear the steam tone change. I used to think that was fine, but after the Spaz i would never buy such a weak steamer as on the Giotto again. I have also had the Giotto wand plug up (inattention). I can't imagine anything plugging up the Spaz - too much power for that to happen. I cannot overstate the difference in performance with steaming.
Needs 20 amp for full function. Checked my breaker and it was already a 20. took 5 minutes to change out the wall plug. Not an issue.
Vibration pump. Really thought I needed to graduate to a rotary. I didn't. The pump is much quieter than the Giotto. Again, not an issue.
Plumbed vs non-plumbed. Since I owned the Giotto, I thought that a step up would be a plumbed machine. After losing the "lets drill holes in the granite, honey" argument, it was a default decision. However....the Spaz has such a large tank and the engineers designed the pull out tray instead of the pour-over (why did it take so long to figure this one out?), I have never regretted the tank decision. The Spaz fits under a counter and I don't have to either have it pulled half-way out as with the Giotto or move it every time it is thirsty. It really is a large tank. With a filter. Pretty cool setup that does not leak. No need for a water meter. When it is low a light comes on and I fill it. Not difficult.
Thats all for the compare and contrast. Other impressions.....the machine is solid and stable. The drip tray holds twice as much as the Giotto - never in danger of overflowing. With the timed output it is easy (easier) to fine tune the grind for desired volume and time of pour.
How does it taste (the coffee, not the machine)? I can't say that it makes better coffee than the Giotto, but I can say that it consistently makes shots that are as good as the best I have been able to squeeze out of the Giotto. Much less pressure on the barista. No worries about cooling flushes and exact timing. Just hit a button. Still carrying a burn scar from the E-61; not much chance of that happening on the Spaz.
In short, I highly recommend the machine for anyone.
Chris Coffee. The best. Never issues. Have purchased from other vendors and will continue to go to Chris first.
Three Month Followup
Only problem with the Spaz is that I have become so used to this level of machine that I am now purchasing another - anyone want to buy a Giotto?