Detailed Review of the Giotto Espresso Machines

The Giotto Evoluzione
Adjusting the Pressurestat
Adding a Brewhead Thermometer

Giotto Premium Plus Internals and Adjustments
How is a Giotto Packed, What is Included?

In general, the fit and finish of the Giotto machines, both the Evoluzione and the Premium Plus, is superb. Every surface, fitting, badge, the coffee handles, plating, grills and gauges are really impeccable. I would have to rate it as superior to the Andreja in this regard. The angular sides of the Giotto machines are subtle, but add greatly to the appeal. In fact, the machine has a plain flat-sided twin, the Cellini, but the Giotto is so much more attractive. Side-by-side with other E-61 type machines, the Giotto gleams.

The machine is ready to go right out of the box - we have provided some details about making adjustments below mostly for folks who want to customize and maintain the machine's performance. (If you are spending this much on a machine - chances are you DO want to adjust or tune up the settings at some point.)

Giotto Details (for both models):

Wattage: 1200 W
Dimensions (based on my own measurements): 14.5 inches high
  17 inches deep
  11.75 inches wide
Weight: 49 Lbs (23 kg)

The Giotto Evoluzione

The Evoluzione is the latest edition of the Giotto espresso machine made by Rocket Espresso in Milan. Sold previously under the name "Professional," the big advantage of the Evoluzione is the ability to use both a water tank AND a plumbed in line. This is great because having a plumbed in water line is so convenient, but sometimes you may have to move the machine and operate it on the tank. So in either case, the Evoluzione is a great machine.

I had definitely grown tired of filling the reservoir in the Andreja or Silvia I use to test coffees in my lab, and even more tired of having my drip tray overflow. It's not that I use the machine so much more than one might in a home environment ... in fact the usage is quite similar. After I cup a coffee that I feel has espresso potential, I pull a few shots to check it out. But "pulling a few shots" never means just loading up the portafilter and making an espresso. With the E-61 grouphead, you want to flush water through it (around 8-10 seconds or so) if the machine has been on for a while, to bring down the group temperature a bit. That means drawing from the tank and filling the drip tray. Then I pull a shot, usually to middling results since the grinder isn't tuned to the roast level. So I knock out the filter, run water to flush residue from the basket and dispersion screen, wipe it out and load another shot. Maybe I make some mods and do a couple more. I have definitely drained my tank by this time, and have had to empty the drip tray at least once.

The summary of this experience, which I went through day in and day out, is this: some annoyance, definite inconvenience. Anyone who spends this much money on a serious espresso machine (meaning one that is actually made to be used, and not a big chromed metal lump of eye candy for your kitchen counter) is going to be refilling tanks and dumping drip trays at least as much as me.

If you are going to plunk down a significant amount of money for a good home espresso machine, don't be intimidated by the plumbed-in model. Why else would you want a plumbed-in machine? Well, the Giotto Evoluzione just has nicer features for very little extra money. Rotary pumps deliver even pressure and are soooooo much more quiet than vibe pump models (the Giotto Premium Plus or the Andreja Premium). Rotary pumps are more durable. And rotary pumps are easily adjustable, which is very important. You can adjust the Overpressure Valve (OPV) on a vibratory pump machine which does adjust pressure at the brew head, but the rotary pump on the Giotto Professional is directly adjustable, with a flat head screwdriver, while the machine is in use (just don't touch the hot parts back there...). The Giotto Evoluzione has a built in brewhead pressure gauge as well.

On any espresso machine - you don't want a pump to run dry under any circumstance. So be sure that you are in the right mode. There is a simple toggle switch in the back underside of the machine to go from the tank to a plumbed in line. If you are drawing from the tank - be sure the tank is full.

The dirty little secret about plumbed in espresso machines is that you can run the unit from a large water jug since the rotary pump, can draw water vertically up to 6 feet without any outside water line pressure to aid it. That means it can draw from any container or jug placed under or next to a machine. It does not look nearly as clean or pretty - but hey, it works and is a quick fix.

So you want to plumb in the machine....

Okay ... so I have told you how you can get a plumbed in machine and just run it straight away using water jugs. Ultimately you want to plumb in the water supply I am sure. Here is exactly what I did, which is suprisingly easy. Note that I simply drain the drip tray into a jug underneath the machine. You should be able to copy this except for a few details (you want to hide your filter under a sink, or behind your "espresso cart", etc.).

Here's what you would need to copy my set up:

Giotto Professional
Either one of these connectors from Home Depot: Watts A-22 1/4" OD X 1/8" MIP Brass Connector (Compression fitting). The braided line pictured is the one that comes with the Giotto. ...or Watts PL-3004 Quick Connect 1/4" OD X 1/8" MIP (Push-in Quick Connect). This is the easiest solution to attach the 1/4 tube from the filter (in Blue in the other images) to the braided Giotto supply line. Watts Premier "WP2" 2 Stage Water Filtration System with Standard Faucet: Costco Item #316783 $59.99
(There's a more expensive model with a fancy faucet, but you are not using the faucet anyway)
That's it. The hoses included with the Giotto Professional and the Watts Premier filter will work with either of these connectors.
Looking at the underside of the machine (under the drip tray), note that the drip tray outlet comes oriented toward the side. You probably want it oriented toward the rear like I did. Just undo the nut and turn it. The vinyl tube that comes with the Giotto Professional can be hard to slip on. Heat it in boiling water. A hose clamp around it is optional. I didn't use one. Attach the braided water supply hose that comes with the Giotto Professional. This connection is at the back of the machine.
So that's it! The braided supply line attaches to the 1/4" tube output from the Watt's Premier using either of the 2 connectors pictured above. The Drip tube goes into a jug below the
You probably aren't going to want to wall-mount the filter like I did in the lab. The tubing and fittings are provided. I installed a "tee" to connect to a hot water device. Ignore that. The Watts Premier comes with a neat fitting to allow you to add the filter to most any cold water supply at the sink shutoff. I had to cap it off since I wasn't using it exactly as intended. But it's a 10 minute install on a sink shutoff, with nothing but a wrench needed.

Adjusting Brew Pressure on the Giotto Professional/Evoluzione Models

As noted above, the machine is ready to use as is: no adjustments ought to be necessary immediately! But over time and as you become accustomed to using the machine it is important that you know how to perform the following two adjustments because they allow you to fine tune the machine and produce excellent home espresso. Follow the procedures in the manual for using the machine and get to know it before you make any adjustments.

Here is an overhead view of the internals. You definitely ARE going to want to adjust with brewhead pressure as you learn to use the machine. Many cafes are running machines shy of the recommended 9 bars, like 8.5 to 8.75. Note that if you switch from running the Giotto Professional from a jug, with no water line pressure, to a true plumbed-in setup you need to adjust this, since water line pressure affects the overall pump setting. So get to know your pump and how to tune it. The rotary pump adjustment is best done with a very stubby flat head screwdriver. (Note image is rotated 90 degrees from previous). Here Josh is pointing to the adjustment point with a long screwdriver, and I outlined it in a white box. (Click on the picture for a larger image). The tank, directly in front, is hot when the machine is on, so be careful if you adjust it while it is operating. If you adjust it with a null filter in the coffeehandle, you want to set it 1 bar higher, roughly, but it's best to set it with a cake of coffee in the basket. On the Giotto Professional you can use the gauge on the front to check your adjustments, you lucky person!


Giotto Premium Plus Internals and Adjustments

We liked the 2 part top plate on the Giotto Premium, which allows you to pull out the water reservoir without moving all your cups from the top. It's a small feature, but something that bugged me about other machines, each time you needed to fill the water.

The Premium has much of the same internals of the Professional, like the really nice Sirai pressure stat. It features a Ukla vibratory pump, which is louder than the rotary pump on the Professional.

Giotto Premium Plus

Both models feature the nickel-plated tank for better longevity and thermal dynamics. Of course, the Premium Plus has the extra plumbing for the water reservoir and the OPV (Overpressure Valve), which is the round about way to adjust brewhead pressure on a vibratory pump machine.

 

The Premium Plus has a neat hose-free water reservoir design. Usually there are annoying hoses you need to move and re-position each time you pull the tank to fill it. With this cup and gasket design, you simply lift the tank straight up, and push the filled tank straight down after filling it. No tubes!


Image of the "cup" at the bottom of the reservoir, and the OPV valve. To access the OPV you have to remove the top, tank, and rear panels.

 

Adjusting the boiler pressure on the Giotto Professional/Evoluzione and Giotto Premium Plus

Both the Giotto Professional and Premium Plus machines feature a top notch Sirai pressure stat (or p-stat) that many other E-61 style machines do not have (and it can be one of the weak links in the system as well!) It's right on the top, easy to access..

To access the p-stat, undo the 2.5mm Allen bolts (3/32nds will do if you don't have metric Allen wrenches) that hold the top cup warmer panel on, and put them aside safely. I would run the machine with the top unbolted for a couple weeks, in case you want to make any tweaks.

Pop the little yellow cap off the Sirai pressure stat and turn the screw inside the housing. You can use the dial gauge on the front (the gauge on the left, on the Professional) to check your adjustments. I think the factory setting is plenty fine. If you use a lot of steam for milk drinks, you may want to have this set higher so you can create volumes of steam; if you drink mainly espresso, you want it set lower so you don't have to flush as much water to lower the group head temperature. Use the machine for a while and see how hot the brewhead is, and how much steam you are using, and adjust accordingly.


And when you have it tuned, this should be your result!

 


 

Adding a Brewhead Thermometer to the Giotto

There's a very easy way to add a brewhead thermometer to a Giotto by simply replacing the existing nut in the E-61 with a kit available from Eric Svendson. It's a neat little kit, but can require a little adjustment to make sure the thermometer tip is positioned correctly. And I personally don't love the look of the digital thermometer on the Giotto. But it answers the one missing question remaining about your shot, since you have control of tank and brewhead pressure. Having one of these, you basically find that once the machine has sat for 15+ minutes at temperature, you need to flush water through the brewhead for 8-10 seconds to bring it down a bit, but this depends on where you have set your boiler pressure. As far as brew temperature preference, this varies greatly with the coffee and taste. I like Single Origin (SO) with an initial reading of 204, dropping to 200 during the shot (and some coffees are nice even a bit lower temp. than that.

 


How is a Giotto Packed, What is Included?


The packaging on the Giotto is very secure and professionally done.

On the Professional model, a braided stainless steel water supply line is provided, and a clear drip tray line. On the Premium Plus, you don't have any hoses included, but, of course, you don't need any!

The fittings, including a brass connector that is not needed with the plumb in method I specify above. If you use a jug as a water supply, the SS hose should not really dip into the water in the long term. We ran it that way for a few days, removing it from the jug at night. Attach a vinyl tube to the SS hose where it contacts the water if you will run it non-plumbed for a while.

Manual and certificate with serial number. Sweet Maria's is directly providing technical support for the machine.

The manual is surprisingly good! Do take time to read it...

The drip trays are really nice, and we love the grate, which is designed to avoid water pearling on the surface, which can happen on other machines.

The complete accessory package from Rocket Espresso/Giotto. It includes a null filter, a useless tamper, a scoop and a nice group head cleaning brush.


The coffee handles are some of the nicest we have seen. It includes a single spout and double spout.
 

Probably the only fault we could find is that the dial gauge was tilted slightly off angle, and we asked Rocket Espresso to be mindful of this with future assemblies for us. We are checking the machines we ship to ensure they are sent with nice, straight dials.

The top of the E-61 has a warning sticker about hot surface, which peels off easier when the machine is at temperature, and a little "Goo Gone" will get rid of any further residue. The little fence that goes around the cups on top is a smoked Lexan material. I don't love it, and actually just ended up not using it. On the Premium Plus, Josh thinks the drip tray is a little small, and it does have less capacity than the Andreja. That's about the extent of our nit-picking.

Gauges on our test Giotto Professional were slightly askew. To the right, the Premium dial, dead-on straight. Rocket will pay attention to this detail in the future.