I thought it would be interesting to compare these three espresso machines that are in varying forms of (almost and)trade machines and how they compare. Value for money, skill levels, and of course the plusses and minuses of owning them. I will be honest, it’s one of my down-sides. I can’t just say it’s great when it clearly isn’t.
The reason this has come about is that we have a customer who needed what a La Spaziale S1 Mini Vivaldi does. I got it in, set it up, and found myself wondering where it sat amongst the other machines in the line-up. For the record, we have more, but sometimes comparing between 3 machines is better than 6 or even worse 1. The whole “a choice of one…is a choice of none” as one previous boss of mine used to say. It is actually the only phrase of his I do remember!
Starting at a List price of £1600 including VAT is the Sage Oracle. two boilers. Very repeatable coffee making…but:
Right, unfair start. The Oracle is (almost) my favourite Sage Espresso machine. No screens, and pictures with pre-made recipes and the most repeatable steam lance I have used on an auto machine. If you bought the parts of this machine separately, like a grinder and an auto-built-in- tamper and a PID temperature-controlled brew boiler and a separate steam boiler you wouldn’t have change from the price tag. It is great now B U T … To make the thing work optimally you need to use 22g of coffee in a dose. Also, the grinder is noisy and slow. You could argue that’s in the price tag. Whilst I am being honest, I must add that it feels plasticky too. It works. It can make great coffee, really easily and it is fun.
The La Spaziale S1 Vivaldi Mini.
This machine has been around for some years now. It is made in Italy and has a similar head to that of the famous S5, or in other words, the same head that is in almost every La Spaziale commercial machine on the planet. This is great. 53mm baskets use less coffee and can taste sweeter, with the right brewing skills. At a mere £1450+VAT This is decent. The machine is easy to set up and you are brewing before you know it. On the plus side, this is a little beauty. Separate brew boiler to steam and plenty of steam pressure. So why are we not blushing and posting hearts everywhere? It all started SO damn well and what really frustrates me are the little details. Repeatable shots are questionable. Dosing the same amount of coffee, tamping in the same manor gave big differences in liquid delivered. I turned the machine off, drove it 21 miles down the road, plugged it in, and…? Can you guess? A previous 45g shot had now bounced to 89g. This is a result of the type of pump and flow meters used. This makes a big difference in the cup.
Overall; This could be fab value for money if it delivered consistently.
La Marzocco Linea Mini
I have a little love affair with my Linea Mini. It does cost more than the two above but it also brews in a way that competes with its big brothers and sisters of the tribe. The Linea Mini has a professional pump. That distinctive La Marzocco tone, that just sounds beefy (or substantial if you prefer a vegan option). The Linea mini requires some skill, as there are no volumetrics or pre-set buttons. If you are getting into coffee (or already into it) this is an advantage, because you can play with the variables. Now there is an app where you can do all sorts of things with your machine, including looking at how many cups of coffee you have made and how often you have flushed the head. If you want to you can have your machine heat up so it is ready for you before you go out in the morning, it can do that. I have (apparently got an obsession about) pre-infusion, as I really like playing with that. On a manual machine, that is almost unheard of. The steam is off the chart incredible for a home machine, in fact, it is better than many so-called professional machines out there.
The downsides are that, like the Spaziale, you still need to buy a decent grinder. Being the person I am, I see this as an advantage. As an example, Oracle uses the same grinder as the Sage base model (as far as I can see). Yes, it is more money, but it is going to make better coffee.
In conclusion, these machines can all make great coffee. I would buy the Linea Mini, then the S1, and then the Sage, because I like what traditional machines are and I also know how long they can last if looked after.