Great fun for the inquisitive CG with time to spare.
Positive Product Points
Stunning appliance that takes up little room, makes great espresso (with some learning involved) and has few parts to break down.
Negative Product Points
Can be messy and unstable. Not for families with small children as it gets very hot. Instructions not detailed enough for a complete beginner like I was.
Although liking a good cup of coffee, I was no further in my education than buying beans in a supermarket, grinding with a cheap blader and throwing them into a Bodum press. When I saw the La Pavoni in a "lifestyle" magazine I just had to have it, on impulse. Little did I know the lengthy journey I was about to undertake.
Setting up the machine was simplicity itself. However, with only a pathetic whirly grinder, I soon learnt that I couldn't even start to learn to use this beast without properly ground beans. So, while studying CG with ever sinking heart, I was forced to use Illy ready-ground, wondering what on earth I'd gotten myself into.
The next problem was the tamper; "13kg" CG's sages intoned, 30kg(!) I heard Paul Basset say on his tv show. But the tamper didn't fit the basket. So, with grounds flying all over the kitchen I got back onto CG and and found a supplier for a solid aluminium tamper. This was a massive improvement. Next was the grinder. After lengthy study of CG reviews, I decided upon a Macap4 without doser (if grinding staight into the basket was good enough for Paul B. it was good enough for me!) Now to business..
Thanks to the many reviews and links on CG and Paul B's tv show coincidentally showing in HK, I at least had some idea of how to start. Warm up takes 5.5 minutes with a full tank so no problems firing it up in the mornings. Unlike some other machines I've seen, the dose has to be well down the basket or it's just impossible to put onto the head. However, wiith the dose level and knifed off, even medium tamping pushes the level too low so I always need to do a two-stage dose with up to three seperate tamps. I use a pretty fine grind (around 4 on my Macap) and hold the cap on the boiler with my left hand. I allow the water into the head for ten seconds and the coffee is usually then just starting to appear from the spout. Wth the single basket one hefty pull with the right arm is enough; with the double I am trying to master the 1.75 pulls. The slightest laziness in dose/ tamp and the machine laughs its socks off and pours a thin stream the moment the lever is lifted. The pull needs to be quite hard to get good crema. I've tightened the bolts holding the group already and now have no leaks.
I have had no trouble with the steam frother used either with a small jug or in a small coffee cup. My preferred method is to froth the milk in the cup first, removing any temperature problems. Then I pull straight into the milk. So far I'm happy - the problem will come perhaps when I get to try the result of a real expert's efforts. Certainly mine are better than any coffee shop in HK, save the masters, Zambra. I haven't used the seperate capp. frothing attachment as it seems too much effort.
Saw it in a magazine on a Tuesday at 10am in HongKong. With rapidly beating heart I went to the factory web-site and ordered. Midday on the Thursday it was in my kitchen. Simply amazing service. No problems with packaging. International sanctions should be applied for the crime of supplying such an awful, wrong-sized plastic tamper though. 6/10 for the instructions. Video? What video?
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
Machine is functioning well and I have pretty much got to grips with pulling the shots I want. I ran the boiler dry a couple of times but the reset button on the the base saved the day after the circuits cut out with no damage.
I would not change much on this machine but bigger shots would be nice - I wonder if a 58mm basket would help.