La Valentina is superb and the BEST in its class- hands down winner over ECM Giotto, Exobar, Isomac (any), Pasquini Livia, and Wega MiniNova or others at this price point!
Positive Product Points
+ Great Italian design- pictures do not do it justice, better looking than Isomac or ECM
+ Well thought out design/build (steam wand pivots to any direction, BIG drip tray removes easily)
+ Shot quality is outstanding - E61 delivers superb results (provides stability and natural preinfusion that produces amazing shots)
+ Commercial quality components! (big advantage over other similar priced machines) ->Superior parts throughout - full commercial rated parts: Sirai (best in class) pressure regulator and a Gicar automatic water refill relay (again best in class), and heavy duty wiring
+ Great steam (dry), pressure and quality—lots of steam!
+ Warms up quickly and cup warmer is very efficient
+ Separate cover for water reservoir-- unlike other machines (where you have to remove the whole top, espresso cups, etc.)
+ Great steam wand and knob
+ Easy to handle drip tray – lots of capacity, easy to pull out and empty
+ La Valentina is very tolerant of grind and tamp compared to others
+ Pressure regulated Ulka vibe pump
+ Built-in water softener
+ Solid feel and construction- other machines are not build as well.
+ Large gauge on front
Negative Product Points
- Hot water tap lacks a swivel like steam want- though I assume this is intentional to keep the tap over the drip tray at all times
- Plastic tamper included—as with all machines!
Here is my first week review on the La Valentina (the fifth espresso machine I have owned, second from 1st-Line Equipment):
If you reading this you are most likely like me- researching what to buy and probably stuck in analysis paralysis! I will keep this simple. After tons of research on Coffeegeek, alt.coffee and every other site in the world, including countless emails to owners of La Valentina's, Exobar's, ECM's, Pasquini's and Isomac's (I previously owned and Millenium)-- I purchased a La Valentina-- and I am glad I did-> Read on.
Unlike other coffeegeek reviewers, I am not going to write a lengthy review going into all the details--I would just end up confusing you on your decision. At this price point there are a lot of similar machines, but the La Valentina clearly stands out among the rest. While you will find limited reviews, this machine is of superior quality- look inside a Isomac or others and you will instantly see the difference-- I am not a technical person by any means, but one look inside and one can tell that the engineers that designed and built this machine knew what they were doing—don’t take my word for it—look at the list of features, it has actual commercial parts (best in class)- not ‘commercial quality’ as the other machines have. Little things make the difference here, such as: a swivel steam wand, the ECM and Isomac just goes side to side. Or a gauge, I can't understand why Exobar didn't put a gauge on their machine-- how much does a gauge really cost? Would you buy a car without a speedometer?
It does what it is meant to do: the La Valentina makes perfect espresso and has tons of dry steam- much better steam pressure than the Isomac!
Why did I rate this machine a 10 in all categories, some say this should only be reserved for a $10K La Marzocco- I am rating the La Valentina as compared to others in its class ($700-$2000).
If you are considering an Isomac, Exobar, Pasquini or ECM, you need to look at the La Valentina, it is just as good looking (in my opinion, better) and is of superior build quality—I assume you want your $1000+ espresso machine to last a long time? The only reason you may not purchase it, is because you don't see lots of reviews-- don't fall into the popularity trap! Remember I once owned an Isomac, having owned both, I wish I purchased this machine the first time around!
You will start seeing a lot more reviews on this machine as it gets more press—it is the benchmark by which all other machines should be based.
1st-Line: Working with Jim and his team from 1st-Line Equipment brings new meaning to 'outrageous customer service!' This is my second machine that I have purchased from 1st-Line and the customer service is nothing short of superb. Jim and his team are extremely friendly and will take the time to make sure you purchase the right machine and help with any issues or questions. And their prices are extremely competitive! If you are shopping purely on price, machines in this class are not for you.