Taste Test: La Spaziale Brew Boiler Water

Since your coffee is over 98% water, it makes sense that the quality of the water will impact the taste. One of the subjects regularly bandied about in the home espresso world is if there is a significant impact on one’s shot if using a machine that has a separate brew boiler — especially if the machine isn’t pulling a lot of shots regularly and the water has a chance to sit for awhile in that boiler.

We have spoken with folks on both sides of the ‘divide’: Those that think the water goes stale in the brew boiler so that a heat exchange provides a cleaner, fresher taste and those that think the temperature control and performance differential you get from a double boiler outweighs any concerns of water flavor.

So we asked Gail to perform a practical test for us on the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi: We dialed in our shot and then let the machine sit for a couple of days. Then we pulled shots with the water in the reservoir and boiler and shots with fresh water in the reservoir and a completely flushed brew boiler. Watch and find out the results.

7 comments for “Taste Test: La Spaziale Brew Boiler Water

  1. Carey
    July 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I disagree with the findings here. With my Viv II I always find that after overnight I need to flush to bring it up to temp a bit so I suspect that the first shot was lower in temp than you expect leading to the sourness. The second shot was essentially prewarmed as you flushed alot of water through the group. My suspicion was somewhat confirmed by your assessment at the end that maybe you should consider varying the temp. I find that that can be a huge variable and I had assumed that your “dialing in” included temp.

    Also what exactly do people actually think happens to the water as it gets “stale”? Bacteria? Tranmogrification? Impurities appearing? I would agree that if it is very hard water and it evaporates it might get harder but this argument never really made sense to me.

    My $0.02.

    • Kat
      July 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      We did pull water through and warmed up the machine/portafilter prior to pulling the first shot and filming. The varying temp assessment is different — the temperature was the same across both shots and there was a variable flavor discerned.

      As far as what happens — I don’t know, I’m not a scientist ;) I do know that sitting water tastes different even after a matter of hours and that could be oxygenation or environmental factors. There is the equally ardent dead water argument made by some machine manufacturers — whether or not there is a testable chemical basis for this, I’m not sure.

      - Kat

  2. Bob
    July 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Kat & Gail!

    Yes, the Vivaldi (I have the Viv II) & Mini suffer from “cold nose syndrome.” I had the same thoughts as Carey when I watched your video. Thanks for clarifying…glad you pulled that warming flush.

    I’ve read that the water alkalizes as it sits, though I’ve never tested it. We usually pull three blank doubles at temperature before dosing & pulling the real shots. Doing this with each of our four “daily doubles” gives a pretty good result.

    You may know Chas Rimpo has a great La Spaz Vivaldi support group at http://s1cafe.com/

    • Kat
      July 16, 2010 at 8:09 am

      Hi Bob -

      Yeah, I don’t think that it is a huge issue but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you’re not pulling a lot of water through that boiler, it has the potential to impact the flavor. I also suspect that there is a difference in regular use vs. letting it sit unused, as you’ll be pulling a bit of fresh water into the boiler when you’re pulling a few shots a day (even if you’re not maxing it out and refilling) so that will change the flavor.

      At the end of the day, this wasn’t a video specific to the Spaziale, it was only about double boilers in general — and we don’t really have a vested interested in either being right or wrong. I know that Spaziale owners are a vocal group (so maybe we should have done the test on a Duetto!) and it wasn’t our intention to say their machine performs poorly — quite the contrary, we know this machine to be excellent. But nothing is perfect and knowing is half the battle, right? :)

  3. Bob
    July 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    You got it!

    Thanks for running this. You & Gail have done a lot to keep consumers and coffee lovers informed. Thanks, and keep the videos coming!

    Watch out for the snake bites…

    –Bob & Crys

  4. Bruce Monte
    July 24, 2010 at 9:00 am

    More important to me would be knowing whether the cause of the perceived change in taste could be affecting the insides of the machine. The TASTE must come from somewhere.

    Any thoughts?

    • Kat
      July 26, 2010 at 11:25 am

      We haven’t seen any trends around machine issues specific to DB machines versus Hx, etc. It’s possible that the mineral content in the water ‘settles’ and forms scale, then it causes an over-extraction as you’re pulling water that now has a changed mineral content.

      Again, we’re not scientists, so not really sure what the cause is. Perhaps we can try hardness testing to see if there’s any differential on it for fresh water vs. water that’s been sitting a few days.

      But as far as it contributing to functional issues, we have not seen this.

      - Kat

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