La Spaziale Dream T - In Depth Review
Posted by Barrett Ellis on 6th Feb 2021
I am not going to lie, I have been wanting to get my hands on a La Spaziale espresso machine for quite some time. Years ago when I was wanting to transition from a beginner machine to a prosumer machine I had always been drawn to the classic shiny E61 machines. Something about them just holds a place in my heart. The La Spaziale is quite a bit different though, I was completely drawn to it by its design and capabilities. Its like a miniature 1 group commercial machine and draws its own appealing yet completely different sophistication, which could easily fit itself into a cafe or a home. Italians are known for their sophistocated designs, but I hope this machine functions as well as it looks!
First impressions unboxing. A cocky looking yet possibly more subtle looking machine compared to an entirely polished machine. Combining polished metal with a black body really looks sharp. Honestly it is kind of nice for a change, and definitely does not look like a less expensive big box machine. Most of us that are into espresso want a nice statement piece in our kitchen. I think for most people, this checks the box as a statement piece!
Pulled this beast out of the box and threw onto my coffee bar. It looked fantastic! Time to fill up the tank with water and plug it in. I was ready for a shot. Then I looked at the cord, I was surprised that the cord is set up for a 20A 120V receptacle standard, but also had an adapter for the more normal 15A plug. Being an engineer, I was curious why would they do this and what would I gain. I figured they must have a switch or something to allow switching between 15 and 20A. More on that next.
I began to step through some of the menus and discovered that they have a “Full Power” setting to toggle between 15 and 20 amps. I was curious, what are we really getting out of this? Did some research and La Spaziale says when on the full power setting, both boiler elements can operate simultaneously, where when on the normal 15A setting, it alternates heating each boiler one at a time. If you have a dedicated 20A receptacle, that would be great, but make sure to leave it on 15A setting if you have a standard kitchen receptacle as you might cause a fire drawing too much current. A very nice design element from La Spaziale!
Watch my video below showing the menu options and basic setup of the machine for how to change the power settings.
For me ergonomics and how intuitive the machine is to use, no matter what, a smooth workflow is important to me. First impressions playing with it La Spaziale seemed to think a lot of things through. It is not a basic machine by any means but they have tried to make it as user friendly as possible while packing some value into the purchase. I easily had water in the machine, primed, heated up, and started playing with the menu items right away. The smart features will probably be the most scary to some people but just know if you take a second you will really enjoy.
Since the machine somewhat covers the drip tray, located on either side of the group head there are small LED lights to provide some additional lighting. These can be set on/off/automatic. The steam wand and water spout are both located on the left side, and you can even use the water spout to rinse down your steam wand.
The only thing I found to not be the most ergonomic are the portafilters. The handle is football shaped and if you aren’t careful it might slide out of your hands. The portafilters were also very tall when sitting on a tamping mat. The spouts are long. Just overall felt awkward to me, but the more I used, the less I thought about it and if this was your daily use I think you'd become accustomed to the balance and feel. The portafilters themselves are quite nice!
Another interesting thing about this machine is that the the portafilters handle naturally lock into place at an angle. I know this drives a lot of people crazy with other brands, but this is normal for La Spaziale. Notice in the second pic how the spouts came angled direct from the factory. It was kind of weird for a second but now I do not think anything of it.
Notice how both spouts are at an angle. They came this way from the factory. If you would like to purchase some La Spaziale portafilter wall racks, check out PortaKeeper. They make racks for a large variety of espresso machines and tampers!
The La Spaziale Dream T is the version with the water tank. I think this will be very popular for many home users that do not want the direct plumb model. This model might have some pros or cons that I would like to discuss.
Unlike many tanked machines, the tank is removable from the front. I LOVE this. Don't have to take all the cups off the warming rack to remove the tank. Similarly if you do remove the tank on those types of machines you usually have to scoot the machine out from under the counter to get them out. The Dream T the tank simply slides out the front. To remove the tank you must remove the drip tray as well, but you should be dumping and rinsing the drip tray anyways, so dump the tray, fill the tank, and start pulling shots! One thing I noticed about the tank is it is seemingly smaller than I am used to. Even so, I dread filling my Rocket, and this is so easy to fill, so refilling more often doesn’t seem to be the end of the world to me. After using a few days, I really wish there was a larger tank for things like rinsing cups and purging the group head but I don't think this is a deal breaker.
La Spaziale Water Tank from Barrett on Vimeo.
The first issue I had was not necessarily an issue after some tweaking, but my espresso just wasn’t hot when it came out of the portafilter. It was warm, but not what we expect when I am used to a nice hot espresso. Started moving through the menus again and there is a setting for “Coffee Temperature” AKA the brew boiler temp. Mine was set on 200 deg F. I upped the temp to 209 deg F and viola! Better taste and much hotter! If you aren't happy with the first few shots make sure to start making some changes.
That got me looking through the menus again. The La Spaziale Dream T is set up to have up to 4 user profiles. Each profile saves the coffee temp, boiler temperatures, shot times, etc for different users. So if a husband, wife, kids, or another family member likes their coffee hotter and maybe their shot to run a bit longer or shorter, they can simply hold down one of the up/down arrows for a few seconds to pull up a menu allowing you to scroll to a different user and pull a shot to their liking! Again, might take a second to get set up but the end user interface is pretty simple. The video below runs through a handful of the main menu items and basic function.
La Spaziale Overview from Barrett on Vimeo.
You might be able to tell by now that this machine has quite a few bells and whistles. A lot of value! Dual boiler, lots of power, lots of customization available via how its setup. BUT I say this because I know quite a few people might be intimidated by this. It might take you a minute to get set up especially if you are new to the prosumer espresso market, but once its set up it doesn’t need many changes in my opinion.
There are 3 options for pulling shots. Single shot, double shot, and the middle button to manually run the pump without a timer. This button can also be used to purge the group head between shots. It took me a minute to figure out how to set the shot timer. Since it has a single and double shot pre timed function I wanted to figure out how to set the time. The way I did it was to go to my user settings and literally prepare a shot. Grind coffee, and put into the machine with a cup. Hit the double shot button in my case, and when the desired volume was reached I hit the button again. This stored the time.
La Spaziale Shot from Barrett on Vimeo.
I am not used to having a display with so much information on an espresso machine. The display acts as the PID controller displaying the boiler temperature, shot timer, clock, diagnostics, number of shots pulled, screen saver icons, etc. It took a second to figure out, but once you use a few times it is really easy to make changes.
Because the Dream T is a smarter machine than some, it has the capability to turn itself on and off using a built in timer. Many of us use the Wemo or switchbots. They have their advantages because if you were to go on a trip you could turn the timer off via your phone, but having this built in timer is really cool! No extra equipment, and there is a timer to turn the machine off after a duration where the machine hasn't been used. Pretty nice to make a few shots and the machine turns itself off after the time you set.
So here’s the debate. E61 machines use the extremely popular 58mm portafilter. There are many variants but in general are the same diameter and depth. La Spaziale uses a 53mm. I had heard in the past the basket can hold the same volume of grounds. In this case I found out the standard double basket is designed for 14g vs the 18g I am used to. Theoretically this deeper narrower basket helps with channeling issues. The entire time I used the La Spaziale, I had no channeling issues. For me, it seemed like I didn’t have to try as hard for a good puck. On the flip side, I think having a 58mm standard filter would open up the customer to having far more options for aftermarket baskets, tampers, and tools that we all enjoy. I don't really feel like I gained much between 53mm and 58mm.
The Dream T is a dual boiler just like the direct plumbed models. They had to put a smaller steam boiler in this machine to make room for the water tank, but that did not hinder its ability to produce a ton of steam! Overall this machine is designed for lower volume shops or home use. I don't think you will be disappointed in its steaming abilities what so ever. This machine came with a 4 hole steam tip, and a knob style steam knob.
Since this is a dual boiler, you can pull a shot and steam your milk at the same time. Better boiler recovery, and don't need to flush the grouphead as it shouldn't get overly hot like with some HX machines or single boiler machines. The video below I should have been pulling a shot and steaming at the same time, but I did separate. Lots of steam power, and easy to use!
La Spaziale Steaming from Barrett on Vimeo.
A few things that I didn’t like about the machine:
The stock portafilter baskets are too small for my preference. They do no mark how many grams they are designed to hold, but the double I am accustomed to holds 18g of coffee. Looking at La Spaziale online for basket 645, it told me that it is designed for 14g. (the 646 single holds 7g) If I run over 16g of ground in the basket, the puck hits the group head screen and left an indention from the screw in the puck. I wish instead of providing a single and double spout portafilter that they would provide a double spout and bottomless portafilter. I also think they should provide at least an 18g basket as standard. All that said, running 16-17g shots, I was content with the final result of my shot and surprisingly did not tell much of a difference.
While I am talking about the portafilters, in my opinion you will without a doubt want a bottomless portafilter because the distance between the portafilter spouts and the cup is very short. I have seen a few complaints in the past about this, but I had not experience for myself yet. I have to slightly tip the cup to fit past the spout. If you are the type to weigh your shots putting a scale under the cup makes even less room. For my home setup I always run bottomless portafilter but just know when you order this machine you might as well throw a bottomless with a VST or IMS 18g basket in your order unless you are dead set on a spouted portafilter. Below the cup to the left doesn't quite clear without tipping, to the right it barely clears. With scale I could not fit either cup with the double spout.
The gauge is pretty cool, a single gauge with two dials on it. It shows the boiler pressure as well as the brew pressure. The thing I didn’t like about it is that it was difficult for me to see the gauge. Not the end of the world but I wish they could have mounted it lower. All that said your display will show your your boiler temp and if its running too slow or too fast per their preset grind setting menu, it will tell you to adjust your grind on the display if it is in need of major adjustments. So all you will really use the gauge for is to watch your brew pressure to dial in your grinder setting while getting used to the machine.
I wanted to love this machine and had high hopes, hoping it wouldn't let me down. Bottom line I am LOVING this machine. Looks stylish and commercial yet its a descent size to have in the kitchen. A statement piece that is capable of producing a pro level shot. Looking inside the internals are very well made and high end materials. Crammed with value and a ton of high end features that makes me want to wake up and use this machine every day. La Spaziale has put a lot of thought into their machines, have I mentioned tons of value? This model being a double boiler for about $2100 USD is pretty sweet. If the black or red plastic side panels are not your thing, you can upgrade to wood side panels for an even more elegant machine. Overall I think this machine far surpasses my expectations and I would not hesitate to order if it fits in your budget. Check out Espresso Outlet, or talk with Joe Klob. La Spaziale Dream T
- Dual boiler for about $2000USD. Similarly they designed it to work with 15A circuits if that is all that is available, but get the boost from a 20A circuit if that is an option. Very cool.
- Being a dual boiler, you get plenty of steam and quick recovery on brewing.
- Lots of thought put into the machine. Lights to help you see, feels very natural to use, lots of added features to use the machine manually or use the tech features to have multiple user profiles and a few smart features. Bonus on/off timer.
- A lot of smart features, but not difficult to use with a little bit of playing around. These features really make this machine great.
- Semi redundant to above, but the temperature control really makes a quite amazing shot of espresso. I enjoyed every second of using this machine. Many its like meh this is cool I guess, but this one was really nice to use.
- Water tank is removable from the front instead of the top. Makes refilling much easier.
- Large drip tray and lights to illuminate your work area.
- The standard portafilter isn't a game changer but the extremely popular 58mm portafilter accessories might not be available for this machine. The deeper 53mm performs well but is not what is popular for after market accessories and tools. I saw little difference in performance between 53mm and 58mm.
- The clearance between the standard spouts and a cup is almost not enough... it fits but is a tight fit. Don't plan on using a scale with standard spouted portafilters. The steam wand is kind of stubby as well but I had no issues with it.
- The OEM baskets are 7g for a single shot and 14g for a double. Added cost from day 1 to buy an 18g basket with bottomless portafilter.
- I wish the water tank was bigger. Its easy to fill but hey, if it held more that would make less refills.
Parting thoughts, if you have been considering an extremely capable machine within this price range, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this machine! The majority of machines with similar capabilities are at least $1000 more. I know that I threw out some cons that might seem like a big deal, but after using many different espresso machines I would say that I could easily look past all the cons and be extremely happy as long as I could get myself a bottomless portafilter and my preference of a VST basket. I wouldn't have a second thought!
Make sure to accessorize with a nice tamping mat, a tamper, maybe a scale, and some PortaKeepers. If you are looking for a grinder check out some of my grinder reviews on the Espresso Outlet blog or reach out to Joe Klob.
Bonus - Under the hood:
You know me, I love checking out the technologies in these machines. Most of you won't ever open your machine and if you do, it doesn't happen very often. Lets take a look at a few things.
Picture Below: This is a picture of the back side of the machine with the body removed.
- The right side shows the steam boiler and the open void is where the water tank slides into place
- The center top is the brew boiler. Center bottom has the pump.
- Left side has the control board.
Picture Below: This is a picture of the top of the machine with the body removed.
- The right side shows the top of the steam boiler and the connections for the steam and hot water wand. Being the water tank version the steam boiler is smaller than the standard version. I learned that with this model the heating element is not removable for the steam boiler. Luckily it is very reliable and you shouldn't have an issue with it.
- In the center is the main brew boiler.
Picture Below: This is an angled picture of the machine with the body panels removed. A very efficient layout with a lot of parts crammed into a small machine!
Picture Below: This is a picture of the right side of the machine with the body panels removed. Not much to see. La Spaziale comes in Black or Red plastic side panels. They also have a few options for wood side panels. The panels remove via 2 screws on top, and two screws on the bottom of the panel. There is also a small thumb screw to the side of the drip tray. It only took me about 2 minutes to remove a side panel. It took a bit longer to put them back on.
Picture below: a top view of the brew boiler. It isn't a very large boiler, but this is not a heat exchange machine. It has 2 boilers! Why heat a huge boiler of water. The heating element is plenty large to keep up with demand and has very quick recovery.
Picture below: a closer picture of the pump. It would be nice to have a rotary pump, but I really have never had any issues with these vibratory pumps. They can be loud but perform well. I just replaced the pump in my personal machine after about 6 years of use. This one is extremely easy to service when the day comes, and the pump itself is inexpensive.