electracraft of NJ. Less than $1300 for base, Moka Grinder and Livia...and fast shipping thrown in. Nice people to deal with, a real plus.
Just a half-hour, with previous experience only with an Estro-Vapore, had me pulling shots better than I ever had in a shoppe. I may have to tweak the temperature since I usually must run the steam wand for a second to get to 1.2 to 1.4 bars maximum. I never can get the porto-filter over even to exact center because it would be impossible! Perhaps Pasquini torqued it "wrong" but nonetheless, the portofilter sits a little left of center, big deal. The espresso is phenomenal! (I was thinking that after breaking in awhile the portofilter may center.) This is so much better looking in the kitchen than a Giotto, which is just a little too demonstrative with that large E61 head/assembly. I have it on the matching base and unlike my friend‘s Silvia or my previous Starbucks/Estro, one doesn‘t need to situate the Livia near a sink for constant cleaning and rinsing of their portofilter or baskets, which tend to fall out creating a mess. Clean operation is a great plus. But please, don‘t forget a great grinder. I used my friend‘s Rocky and I previously utilized the Saeco 2002, but the Moka grinder just slays them. Clean, efficient, QUIET, beautiful and simple learning to for dialing in a perfect grind. Took me less than a third of a pound of beans to get it spot on. The character of the espresso is now not burnt like Silvia/Vapore; smooth, not bitter; tangy with delicious aftertaste; with an almost chewy texture. Even decaf tastes fabulous. The frothing is easy and for those now using a Silvia or Vapore,a revelation. (But take off the plastic tip and use the second stainless one supplied.) Instead of the interminable wait, it now takes just a few seconds and is so consistent that you don‘t even need a gauge. Everbody in the family is suddenly enjoying milk and cream based drinks, something we had to give up with the Starbucks/Estro. A couple of tries and you have it down pat. After that, you simply can go by the look and texture of foam, the "feel" of the steaming pitcher and you have it right. That "feel" is what I most appreciate about the machine...what is called the "feedback." It is an ergonomic dream, the feedback you get from the right fill and tamp of the filter, the controls, the grind, the pour, all are pleasurable and very, very consistent. I am actually shocked at how easy it is to use and the quality shot after shot. Now, that being said, I think they play it conservative (e.g.the slight left of center portofilter which will allow the pf assembly to be dead on when the gasket breaks in) in the temperature as well. It probably ships a little on the cautious side and I must say, I‘ve noticed it getting up there to higher bar setting lately...after almost two weeks. Similarly, one must always open the portofilter valve--that‘s good, it heats the pf very nicely in a second--and perhaps let a little steam out to encourage a higher bar setting. But that being said, this is a tiny amount of water from each. The tray is small and doesn‘t hold much liquid, but this is fine. Not much waste accumulates through daily operation of 10-12 shots minimum. Most days I just empty it once. (You should have seen the mess from my Starbucks/vapore! ) The best thing might be how unobtrusive the sounds are, this is amazingly quiet. Just a nice mechanical sound once in a while from the pump. Even the Moka grinder is so quiet you have to pay attention to note the grinding cycle is over, especially if you are busy with pulling shots. Dumping used grounds is a dream, one hit in the knock box (a fantastic accessory in my opinion) and its pretty darn clean--clean enough to fill again without wiping or rinsing. Moka doser completely does away with the need for a scoop--it is that nicely machined and precise. Plus, the inside "sweep" is so well-machined that it completely dumps the grind, cleanly. No mess, no fuss. And no cleanup. The built-in tamper is pretty nifty, there is a wierd protruding"grip" attached that one can hold while tamping, and then you realize this oddly shaped beak is actually a modeled "pistol" grip shaped perfectly to take three fingers on one hand while holding portofilter and tamping! And it works! It gives nice leverage so you get a real effective tamp That‘s another "feedback" quality built-in. Also, the shape of the "puck" when knocked out will tell you if your tamp is right. I love the ergonomics of this combo. I was hesitant to spend that much on a grinder, but the price differential between the Moka and the Rocky, for example, is minor compared the quality--both grind and workmanship--you receive for the upgrade. I must say that C‘Kid has provided great inspiration, if that doesn‘t sound gratuitous or overblown, but it‘s true. Reading on this site and alt.coffee from folks like him made me both jealous and motivated, though I definitely didn‘t want this as my newest hobby! (Audio has already eaten up my toy money for many years, and now widescreen video, and jeez, now coffee...!) But as true as it is in any hobby you need the right tools, and for me it is the Livia/Moka. Nothing else, and trust me, I am a fanatical researcher in both real life and hobbies, came close to either in my extensive seach for the perfect home machine.