An "original" Zacconi Riviera in chrome.
These are getting harder to find now, and the word from Zacconi Workshop outside Milan, is that they've stopped making the "new" version of the Riviera. That probably means Zacconi's spring lever era has ended.
We love them for their "heavy duty" build quality, their classic Italian design, and (the now unusual in a home espresso machine) spring driven piston.
The "first generation" Zacconi machines often have plating issues at this point in their lifespans (peeling and/or some loss of exterior color) but this one is pretty nice. Some hazing on the boiler from heat over the years, the chrome has rubbed off the end of the steam wand, and there are scratches on the base from some overzealous clean-ups, but the rock solid mechanics of these seem to live on forever (unless you happen to burn out a heating element, and then you're in trouble.)
So overall this is a "well loved" but handsome machine, that we've completely rebuilt, with all new seals, and new sight glass. We also replaced the drip grate with a new one, and installed a new neon pilot light. So it's functionally very solid. No leaks or other mechanical issues.
Like the Pavoni Professional models, these have pressurestats to control the heating elements, and pressure gauges to monitor the temp.
Of course it's also been lubed and descaled, and we've adjusted the pressurestat to the more civilized end of the heat spectrum (than they originally came from the factory.)
These steam like beasts, and the standard three hole tips make good microfoam.
With their large boiler and the overall mass, Rivieras make dealing with heat management (and pulling multiple shots) much easier than the typical La Pavoni lever.
Those new to home levers should expect a different sort of espresso shot than the electric pump machines they may be used to.
The spring rates of home levers usually mean a lighter "push" (lower pressure.) What's cool about spring driven pistons (and one of the reasons commercial shops would use them) is that the pressure is virtually always the same. It's "set" by the spring rate. So you could be a 300 pound gorilla, or an 80 pound runway model, as long as you pull the handle all the way down, the brew pressure remains the same.
On the "direct push" pistons like the La Pavonis, your pull pressure will vary (at least slightly) with every shot. Of course the flip side is that you can "muscle up" and get more pressure that way (if your seals hold up!)
In general though, home lever espresso machines are going to brew at lower pressures than electric pump machines, and thus produce espresso shots that have different qualities. Other variables being equal, most home lever extractions could probably be described as lighter, with more "delicate" flavor, and less oil in the cup, than shots out of electric pump counterparts.
This is definitely true with home spring levers. Especially when you take into consideration the smaller portafilter baskets they normally have. You can only cram so much coffee into a tiny basket on one of these.
Of course that means you can justify making MORE espresso per day!
And it's just plain fun watching the spring loaded handles do their thing after crawling out of bed in the morning. There is something about pulling the handle down that helps raise you from the grog.
Our technique on Rivieras is to grind a little coarser than on an electric pump machine, very lightly tamp the puck, lock the filter, then pull the handle and "wait" for a few first drips to fall, before releasing the handle (and watching the spring magically lift it back up.)
We actually tend to pull it twice, for a "lazy" double shot, because we're making lattes.
But everyone will develop their own style. You just have to play around with one a while before discovering what fits your taste. Which is obviously the "raison d'etre" of making your own espresso at home with something like a vintage lever. And that hands on individual creative adventure is the essence of Voltage110.
In short, the Zacconi Riviera is a really fun machine to make espresso with, and a cool vintage machine that's becoming more scarce by the day.
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