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Custom '83 Zacconi Riviera

Wow.   Our coolest Riviera yet! 


This came from the original Northern CA owner, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, was a metal artist/woodworker who lovingly took care of his baby for years, and added his own hand built wood handles, steam knob, and even machined his own tampers!   (We're going to sell one or two of these separately, and keep the rest for ourselves, ha!  They're awesome.)  


The Riviera is akin to the La Pavoni Professional, with a large boiler and temperature controlled by a pressurestat, EXCEPT the piston is spring driven (instead of your forearm!)   Which is what really makes the Riviera unique.


The build quality is best described as "heavy duty" and borderlne "commercial" quality (albeit scaled down.)   One could argue over whether they are better built than the La Pavonis, but they are certainly heavier, and have more raw materials invested.  There's a lot more brass in the group!


If you've never seen this crazy color combination (Zacconi had many) it may be because this originally had a "copper" plated boiler that matched the dome.  Zacconis are notorious for sometimes losing metal plating on certain models, and when the copper on this boiler started getting thin in spots, the metal artist owner just stripped off the remaining copper to reveal the chrome plating underneath.   (Plating over chrome was never a great idea, and Pavoni was guilty of it for a couple years in the same era, when European manufacturers found the "copper and brass look" suddenly got popular in America, and they had warehouses full of chrome boilers.)


The black base is original, and in as good a condition as we've seen.  Zacconi's painted bases can also be prone to chipping and paint bubbles, but as you can see, this one is pretty intact.


We've put new piston and steam valve seals in, even though the maintenance on this machine was impeccable, and it didn't really "need" them.  (We'll throw in the good used piston seals, because even though parts are not a big problem for these at this point, one should always assume the future of small espresso machine builders in Italy, like Zacconi, is fragile.) 


As we've noted before, Zacconi has stopped making the spring loaded Riviera model, and now only make "direct push" style machines, a la Pavoni.   So if you want a vintage "home" spring lever, finding a good used Riviera is one of the better options, and part of a small and dying breed.  (Elektra and Ponte Vecchio are the only other legacy builders with spring machines.)  


The custom tampers actually "evolved" over time, as the previous owner gained experience, and learned that grinding and tamping with Riveras was critical.  The reason for that is because the brew pressure on these is limited to the "spring rate."  You can't just "push harder" if your grind is too fine, like you can with something like a Pavoni, and still salvage a shot.  Instead the way to get good crema is to adjust your grind and tamp to "match" the piston spring pressure.  That usually means a slightly coarser grind than you might use with a Pavoni. 


The Riviera portafilter is small.  Even slightly smaller than the pre-millennium Pavonis.  The basket width clocks in around 47mm.  There's simply no way around it.  So you're gonna end up with "small" espresso shots by modern American standards.  This is partly because the portafiler couldn't be larger than the relatively small "home sized" spring and piston would allow, and partly because Italians tended to drink small, intense shots of espresso!  So it's hard to really say it's "small" in the context of the era.


It also means it's important to be mindful of the "head room" (as we've mentioned can be true with other eccentric espresso machines.)  It's not that hard to "overdose" the small basket in a Riviera trying to cram more coffee in, and inadvertantly push the coffee puck up into the screen, thus hindering brew flow (and in turn, crema production.)   So our hero's "final" tamper iteration was a "low profile" version with an adjustable (screws in and out) stainless disc and wood shoulders that "stop" the downstroke.  These features encourage not only lighter tamping, but once your grind is established, the ablility to adjust the depth, and thus to re-create the headroom "sweet spot" every tamp!   (If that doesn't make sense, it will once you start playing with a Zacconi!)   Which makes the "final" tamper we're generously including with this machine, not only "one of a kind," and super cool, but the "perfect" tamper for a Zacconi Riviera.  

After owning and selling several of these now, with the amazing backstory (the previous owner bought it from a guy who was "bootlegging" them from the Cara store in San Francisco, and reselling them new in his own boutique shop down the Peninsula, in a pre-internet era when "information arbitrage"/"knowing where to get stuff," even in the next big city, was still a way to eek out a living) the artisan woodwork, the genius hand made tamper, and the overall current condition, makes this our favorite Riviera yet. 


Safe to say you won't find another like it.  



Custom '83 Zacconi Riviera

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