La Pavoni Club Combo, Barista, Livia 90, Mazzer Mini
Boxy but beautiful, scads of chrome and stainless, solid, professional components... for the price I paid you'd be nuts not to jump on it. Nuff said!
Positive Product Points
Makes one hell of a good cup of espresso! The large, dedicated boiler and E-61 group are simply the best for temperature stability throughout the pull.
Negative Product Points
A bit boxy and austere when you first open it up for a look but it takes only a moment for this feeling to pass as you gaze upon the beautiful and functional E-61 group. I thought my wife would not like it but her eyes glazed over when she saw it and she immediately said “I Love It!”. What a Girl! The machine is a bit “buzzy” due to the vibrating pump but it is quieter than my Livia. I like the drip tray with it’s large volume although it needs to extend further back (to avoid splash over onto the stainless when the pressure relief valve opens at the end of the shot) and further forward to avoid the huge mess created when cleaning the group. The corners of the screen which covers the tray are sharp and can scratch the stainless back panel if you are not careful. The cup warmer sits directly over the water reservoir which makes filling it a PITA as the warmer and contents must be removed to fill. (I have a work-around for this problem so for me it is not an issue but would be for others). This machine is a "steaming demon" if you are willing to put up with a lot of nonsense to go from brew to steam and back again. These seem like a lot of negative points but they are really mostly minor and with care (or some inventive work-around's) they become non-issues.
I have been using and enjoying my Livia 90 for the past two and one half years but since I almost never make milk based drinks the heat exchanger (with it's instant steam ability) was not important to me. I decided to purchase the Zaffiro because I wanted a machine with an E-61 and a boiler which is (almost exclusively) dedicated to brewing espresso. I would love to have a double boiler, E-61, rotary pump machine at some point but due to the price of such a machine I settled for the Zaffiro. This machine makes absolutely superb espresso and the shots are repeatable time after time. The large boiler (800 ml) assures that the shot temperature remains stable throughout the pull while the massive E-61 with it’s thermocouple keep the group temperature stable before, during and after the shot. I roast my own coffee and grind with a Mazzer Mini so of course I am pulling shots with only the finest, freshest coffees available. This is a must for fantastic espresso! It does not matter how great or expensive the machine... if the coffee is not fresh and properly ground the end result will suck. The Zaffiro has three stick switches which control the power, water and steam functions of the machine. I kind of like their simple, unpretentious looks. I do wish that the status lights were either brighter or were different colors so that they would be easier to see. The brew head pressure gauge is a nice touch but the drop to near 0 after the warmup cycle threw me at first. The Livia gauge shows the boiler pressure so it is constantly cycling in the green zone whereas the Zaffiro gauge shows the brew head pressure so a drop to near 0 is normal while the machine is not in use. Brewing an espresso with this machine is real joy and the end result is simply fantastic. I always thought I pulled great shots with my Livia but I must say the Zaffiro does them one better. When you hold the Zaffiro portafilter in your hand you can feel its hefty, no nonsense weight and this inspires a sense of confidence. The Zaffiro comes with two portafilters... one for a single shot and one for a double. I do not like the basket which is used for the double shot as I feel it holds too much coffee (21 grams) and is therefore wasteful not to mention that the shot quality is somehow lacking with this basket. I have found that you can pack the single filter with 14.5 grams of coffee and pull a shot using the double portafilter and the shot simple ROCKS! I believe I will purchase a couple of 12 gram baskets to see how they affect the shot quality. All in all, if you get all the basics right, wait for the machine to hit the top of it’s cycle and then pull your shot you should be rewarded with an espresso which will bring tears to your eyes and a huge smile to your lips. ENJOY!!!
I purchased my Zaffiro through Aabree Coffee and I am very happy with both the price and their service. They confirmed my order immediately via email and again by phone. The machine was double boxed for shipment and arrived in excellent condition and on time. They did leave out the free box of Illy cups but shipped them immediately when I called. They said they would put a "in the tank water softener" in the box with the cups but they did not do it. All said and done, I got the best price, a free additional year warranty and excellent service so I am very pleased with Aabree.