Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
99
One Year With Sr. D. S. Vibiemme

      It has actually been a few months more than a year since Silvia's replacement showed up here. Hard to believe, time goes by so quickly when you are having great coffee. The Vibiemme has been quite a workhorse, and for the most part has given me excellent service and dependability. Day after day it churns out cup after cup of great espresso.

      One change has been that we drink more coffee now. It is quite common for a request to be made to leave the machine on during the day on weekends and for us to have a second, and occasionally a third beverage during the dayŚ usually a latte or a cappuccino. Sitting in front of the computer paying bills is less an annoyance when there is a fresh, delicious cappuccino sitting next to you.

      The only real problems in regards to performance have been:

  • The OPV spring was replaced very early on (within the first few weeks). This was an issue with a run of machines early last year as the valves were supplied with an undersized spring which caused erratic pressure behavior. Since the replacement of the spring the problem has not occurred even once.
  • While not unique to the VBM espresso machines, I have seen the machine's heat exchanger go into a state of thermal equilibrium where the various parts get to about the same temperature and the thermosyphon ceases to function. This causes the brew temperature and brewgroup to cool off quite a bit (down into the range of 165-175 F) and stay there until a number of water flushes re-establishes the flow once again to warm the brewhead. While this has only happed when the machine has been left on for extended periods of time, it has only happened two or three times.

      The other problems that come to mind are unrelated to making good coffee:

  • The case still rattles when pulling shots. I have put some tape on it to quiet the drip tray, and that helps until the heat causes the adhesive to fail. But the cup tray is not the only culprit. The drip tray will rattle about and make noise when there is no water in it, the panel gauges will buzz against the face at times, and the internal divider also rattles a bit. It all adds up.
  • The quality control varies as reports have popped up to indicate that some machines exhibit sharp micro-serrated edges on various stainless parts while other owners state that their machines have no such sharp edges.
  • The complaint I had about water being able to run along the front face of the machine, run down behind the drip tray, and ten under the tray where it can accumulate has been somewhat address by an angle being bent into the bottom edge of the face of the machine to direct the water into the drip tray more effectively. These machines have been showing up in Australia as of this writing.
  • The portafilter bodies are very flat inside and hold a good amount of coffee after a pull, and will dribble across your counter (or floors, or feet) if you are not careful. I solved that by putting the drill press and hole saw to work and removing the bottom of one of the two that came with the machine.
  • There is no sight window to see the water reservoir. There is a safety switch that shuts off the heating element and the pump if the tank runs low, but that is quite annoying when it happens during a pull. To check the level one needs to remove the drip tray and peer over the top of the machine, down into the reservoir.

      Reading that you may think that I would not recommend this machine, and if that is what you think you are wrong. All the rest of this machine is built like a tank, well designed, easy to work on, and makes great coffee day after day.

  • The E-61 design brewhead offers excellent temperature stability and repeatability. Teamed with Eric's thermometer set up it gives performance that rivals most any machine with a PID.
  • The pressurestat is very easily accessed under the cup tray and has a very fine adjustment if one ever feels the need to do so. I adjusted mine once after the machine arrive and just once since.
  • Every time I have had a run of poor coffee (and poor is a relative term), it has been because of the grind, the dose, or the distribution; in other words, it was my fault and not the fault of the Vibiemme Domobar Super.

      Comparing it to Silvia is not really fair. This machine is in an entirely different level of performance as the price would indicate. You might as well compare a shovel to a Cat D-8. One thing that any single-boiler owner will easily gt use to in a short time is the ability to stretch milk at the same time that a shot is pouring from the spouts. I do not at all miss the pull, heat, bleed, steam, refill procedure that is necessary with most smaller home machines.

      Coupled with my Mazzer grinder, the morning procedure has become smoother as well. Since the grinder exhibits virtually no clumping it is an easy matter to be consistent with the dose and distribution without having to weigh the coffee or stir the coffee. I just overfill the PF by flicking the dosing lever as I grind, give a light tap on the side of the portafilter to settle the coffee and fill any possible voids, level off across the top,then use a slightly bent finger to swipe a bit of coffee off the top. Then it's just tamp and go. If there is a problem with the taste of the espresso it is almost always caused by the wrong grind. It has been so consistent that I can taste the difference in my coffee as it ages through it useful life.

      So, besides the little annoyances I mentioned earlier, the only way to make this machine better would be to have it plumbed in so that I didn't have to refill the reservoir nor empty the drip tray. They make a model like that now....

      So sure, there are some small problems, but the quality of the coffee, the dependable service, and ease of use all outweigh them by many times. We are loving our Vibiemme!


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