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Thread: La Valentina Review

  1. #1
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    Jun 2004
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    138

    La Valentina Review

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    This was written as some of you know that I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a La Valentina machine.

    I shall not review this machine in the technical detail that Dan Kenh has reviewed in the coffeegeeks review. What I shall attempt to do is to share with you my experience in using this machine for the last 3 months.

    I had never used a “prosumer” machine before. My last machine prior to this was the Gaggia Classic. I purchased the La Valentina second hand, and I was mainly swayed by the used price vs. the new price, the coffeegeek review, and the fact that the supplier was selling this to smaller coffeeshops which have a low coffee turnover. What I perceived this to mean was that the machine is reliable and sturdy enough to be used in a home environment, and should last me a long time.

    This machine is beautiful to look at, but all the chrome does need some maintenance, and the first few hrs of bringing it home, was dedicated to polishing the exterior.

    As you know with E-61 groupheads, there is no screw fixing the dispersion screen. The dispersion screen is held in place by the rubber gasket. I had a really hard time trying to pry that out without damaging the gasket. After 1 hr of delicate prying I managed to get them out, and its not something which can be done on a regular basis, as all that prying will damage the gasket eventually. The next time I do it, I will order a new gasket and change it at the same time.

    After all the cleaning, it is time to finally make some coffee. The machine requires at least 30 mins to warm up, so an electronic timer would help a lot here. I felt that the portafilters were a bit on the light side. They were lighter than the Gaggia Classic portafilters. I was surprised at this as I thought that “prosumer” machines like this would have heftier portafilters.

    The water reservoir is located behind the machine, and is covered by a stainless steel lid. After using the Classic, topping up of this machine was relatively more troublesome. I had to open the lid, pop the small cover of the plastic container, and use a funnel to pour the water in. My version of the machine does not have a water level window, however, this machine does have a low water level cut off, which stops the boiler from heating up should there be insufficient water in the reservoir.

    I read a lot about E61 heads needing a cool down flush prior to pulling the shot, however, in my excitement, I did not bother to do that. The shot that I got had golden brown crema, and tasted great! However, I felt that I could do better as I had not really tweaked the grind, amount and temperature.

    Comparing the shot quality with the Classic, I must say that I did manage to produce similar shots with the classic, but the La Valentina machine was simply just consistent with producing good shots. There is always a nice golden brown crema in my espressos.

    I tweaked the boiler pressure as I saw that the boiler pressure scale was maxing out at 1.2 bar. As per Dan Kehn’s article, I should bring this down to 0.9-1.0. Using that as an excuse to take apart the casing of the La Valentina and expose its innards. I was quite surprised to see that it was relatively easy to take this machine apart. The whole machine is nicely laid out. The boiler pressure adjustment screw was a breeze to locate and adjust.

    After tweaking everything, including 500g of beans to get the grind right, I was making excellent espresso shots. The machine has large heavy duty chunky rocker switches, and are marked with easily understood symbols. (I read the manual by the way, and after 3 reads of it, I gave up. I just could not make sense of the poor translation.)

    With the steaming capbilities, I have to say that since I drink my espressos straight most of the time, this has not got much use. And I am still a beginner in steaming. Having said that I gave it a go anyway, my technique and know-how did not produce a good nicely textured milk. However, the steam wand is fixed on a ball joint, which allows the wand to be angled in a wide range of positions. Further experimentation and learning is required for me in this area.

    I enjoy the presence of the hot water tap in this machine. It excellent to give the portafilter a quick rinse, and for Americanos. However the use of this tap has the potential to drain the boiler very quickly, so use small spurts of water, and allow the pump to fill the boiler. This will avoid emptying the boiler faster than the pump can fill it.

    The drip try of this machine is sufficiently large and deep. It is also made of chrome which can be easily scratched. Its large enough to be emptied once a day, or once every two days if you are lazy like me.

    Conclusions:
    I think such a machine would really benefit from being plumbed in. The filling up of the reservoir is starting to irritate me. This machine produces consistant shots, so far, the missed shots I have had were due me not getting the right grind. The machine does take up a bit of benchtop space.

    I am still coming to terms with the long warm up time for this machine, there is no chance of a sudden urge for coffee. Leaving it on for the whole day, just does not sound like a solution for me. I have just set the timer to cover the essential times of the day, in the morning.

    This machine should last me for a long time to come. This is a very pretty machine and will make a good addition to your kitchen. I am a very happy owner of this machine.

    To anyone considering purchasing this machine, I would say you will not regret getting it. However, this machine does not have pre-infusion like the Isomac lever machines, so you might want to consider that point. My ideal choice was to get the lever version of this machine.

    Thank you for reading, and I shall be happy to try and answer any questions anyone might have of the machine. Would also welcome any suggestions of a heftier portafilter.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    125

    Re: La Valentina Review

    Theyre a nice looking machine Thomas. One Day, one day :P

    If anybody is looking for a detailed review with some real nice pics of a La Valentina, check this out;

    http://my.execpc.com/~n9zes/LaValentina/LaValentina_Review.html

    Drool on ::)

    Warren -

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    42

    Re: La Valentina Review

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Hi Thomas, Great review, appreciate it, now that I have seen the first-look, I am looking forward to the detailed review;D

    From the sound of it, yours is the semi-auto version, how different is it from the manual version, do you know? Is the machine fussy with grind? What grinder do you pair this machine with? Any thought about what sort of grinder would go well with this baby?

    slow










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