Maintained by Michal Young. Please send corrections, additional information, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. While I attempt to keep this information as accurate as possible, it is unlikely to be perfect; I ask your patience and help in improving it.
This page is for information regarding the Pasquini Livia 90 home espresso machine. The maintainer of this page owns a Livia 90 machine, but has no other relation to Pasquini or to any company that sells Pasquini or competing products. This page is maintained as a service to coffee enthusiasts who may be considering purchase of a semi-commercial espresso machine and current owners of the Livia 90 who may wish to share information about this machine.
The Livia 90 belongs to a class of espresso machines that is sometimes called "semi-commercial" or "semi-professional." Another page discusses this class of machines in general, and contains links to information on some other semi-commercial machines.
The main characteristics of the Livia 90 are:
The main difference between the Livia 90 and a typical home machine (e.g., Baby Gaggia, Rancilio Audrey, ...) is the independence of coffee brewing and steaming.
The main differences between the Livia 90 and a true commercial espresso machine are size, capacity, and of course price.
I bought the Livia 90 on the advice of an espresso machine repair person (from Home Espresso Repair in Seattle, WA; they do excellent work at reasonable prices) and people who responded to my query on coffee newsgroups. One of the newsgroup respondents pointed out a special price on the Livia 90 from Zabars, a specialty cooking store in New York City, and with some trepidation I ordered it sight unseen. I am quite happy with the machine (but see notes below regarding warrantee service.)
My first impression of the Livia 90 was its size and weight. If you are used to typical home espresso machines (my previous machine was a Baby Gaggia, which is no midget among home machines), this is about twice as bulky and heavy. It's (nearly) all steel, most painted but some stainless. It's a handsome machine, but it does take some space on the counter.
The steam wand for the Livia 90 is located on the left. It swivels left and right, but not up and down. It is too low to easily fit a pitcher beneath; you must either place the machine on a platform, or (what I did) place it just to the right of the kitchen sink. Placing beside the kitchen sink also makes cleanup a little easier.
The steam wand of my machine was fit with a "turbo tip" steam diffuser when it arrived. Like some other frothing gadgets, it is basically a steam nozzle with a side hole through which air and milk can enter together and be mixed. It is made of nylon (?), and appears to be a reasonable design. However, I did not try it --- I immediately removed the "turbo tip" and replaced it with a standard tip (metal with three angled holes), which fortunately was also supplied.
The Livia 90 produces ample steam on demand. I was quite adept at producing a good, thick foam using whole milk with my previous espresso machine, and I have achieved good results with several other machines, so I was a little surprised when my first efforts at steaming milk resulted in overheated milk with large, fragile bubbles. Initially I thought the machine might not be producing sufficient steam pressure, but now I think my problem was exactly the opposite: The steam is hotter and the pressure is greater than I was used to. I have occasionally used commercial machines in espresso bars, and in retrospect I realize that the same phenomenon occurs --- what takes 15-30 seconds with my old home machine takes about 10 seconds with a commercial machine, and 10-15 seconds with the Livia 90. It is a little more challenging to get really good foam in this accelerated process. Other users of the Livia 90 report that they got the feel for it after a while (one suggests chilling the milk and pitcher in the freezer) and that now they easily get very good steamed milk; my experience has been similar.
Readers of this page, including some who purchased the Moka 90 grinder with the Livia 90 espresso machine, have reported much more difficulty consistently achieving really first-rate espresso shots than producing excellent steamed milk. Getting just the right grind and tamping is not easy. I use a Gaggia MDF burr grinder at it's finest setting, and when I measure out two spoons of grounds and tamp very firmly, I usually get a very good shot. When the coffee is within a couple days of roasting, and when I slightly adjust the amount and tamping based on observation of earlier shots, the result sometimes approaches excellence. When I am a little less careful (e.g., using the doser of the grinder rather than measuring out the coffee), my shots tend to be under-extracted --- hardly noticeable in a latte or cappuccino, but disappointing in a straight shot or machiatto. To put this in perspective, even my so-so shots are better than a shot in an average local espresso shop, and the average espresso shop in Eugene is better than in a lot of places. But if you aim for the very best, a sweet and viscous little bit of heaven as may be obtained in the best espresso bars of San Francisco, Seattle, and Milan, it may be easier to achieve with a manual piston-operated espresso machine than with this pump machine.
Like commercial machines, the Livia 90 has a second wand (spout?) that produces hot water for tea. Did I say hot? I meant HOT. Boiling. Mixed with steam. Presumably this is taken directly from the boiler, just like the steam wand but bleed off the bottom of the tank rather than the top. I thought at first that this was cute but not very important, but now I am really growing fond of making a cup of tea at a moment's notice.
The Livia 90 has a full-size portafilter, as you would expect. It comes with two filter baskets, one for single shots and one for doubles. I haven't had much luck with the single basket, and always use the double. The filter holder spring is very tight; you have to pry strongly to swap baskets. (This also means that the filter basket is unlikely to fall out accidentally when you are emptying it of used grounds.)
The portafilter fit to the group (brewing unit) felt quite tight at first. The instructions say to turn it right until "snug" and warn loudly that it should not be over-tightened, but I found it difficult to judge where "snug" ends and "over-tightened" begins. This is in contrast to my Baby Gaggia, which also has a full size portafilter, and to the handful of commercial machines that I have had an opportunity to use. In these other machines, I can feel quite easily the point at which the lip of the filter basket engages a gasket. It is getting easier to feel this point in the Livia 90 after a few months of use.
When I first set up the machine, I looked for the rubber gasket in the unit. I could not see it. Nor can I find it in the list of replacement parts, unless it is what the manual calls an "under cup seal." A gasket can be felt when the group is dissassembled for periodic cleaning.
After brewing (i.e., when the brewing switch is turned to the "off" position after making a cup of espresso), pressure is released and drains through a pipe that leads to the drip tray. This means that the portafilter can be removed immediately to prepare another shot, and there is no residual pressure to blow wet grounds all over you and your kitchen. (Some good home machines like the Baby Gaggia also have this pressure release feature, but others like the Pavoni Europiccolo do not.) The drip tray is the only component on the machine that seemed a little flimsy to me --- it is a light piece of plastic, although the drip tray grill is a hefty piece of shiny stainless steel.
The reservoir tank is in the back, and unlike some smaller machines the reservoir is not removable. It is accessible by lifting a hinged steel lid, which is its only covering; I worry a little about splashing or sloshing water onto nearby parts. A reader of this page reported that the next shipment of Livia 90 would have a removable reservoir.
The Livia 90 is self-priming: Just turn it on, and in a few seconds the pump will engage and bring water to the boiler. The pump will engage again whenever more water is needed. It startled me a bit the first time this happened while I was steaming, but it is wonderfully convenient. It also has a sensor for the water level in the reservoir, and will refuse to brew coffee when the water level is too low. In this regard it is much more idiot-proof than other machines I have owned.
I use bottled water in the Livia 90. The machine does not have its own water softener, and I believe it would risk harm to the machine to use tap water. A reader of this page reports being told by a Pasquini technician that one should use spring water, not distilled water; among other things, the water level sensor may not work properly with distilled water. I have not confirmed this, but have switched to bottled spring water. My espresso is also getting better, but it's hard to tell whether that's from the change of water or from practice.
There are two rocker switches, each with a round indicator light, and two additional indicator lights.
The on/off switch for the machine is on the left. The small round light on the on/off switch itself just indicates that the machine is switched on.
Immediately to the right of the on/off switch is a rectangular heating element indicator light, which is lit (yellow) when the heating element is on. The heating element light comes on immediately when the machine is turned on, then goes out when the boiler has reached the proper temperature for steaming milk; it will go on again occasionally when the boiler temperature drops, as when you make steam.
On the right of side of the machine is another rectangular indicator light, this one green. It indicates a sufficient water level in the reservoir, so it should remain lit while the machine is on. If it goes off, the heating element and pump will not operate.
On the far right (immediately right of the water level indicator) is the rocker switch that controls brewing. Push it on to start water flowing through the unit, and off to stop water flow. The small round light on the rocker switch indicates that the pump is running.
The top of the machine can serve as a warming tray. There is a removable stainless steel grill, and under this a smooth sheet of stainless steel. The grill allows wet cups to dry while being warmed by the boiler, although it probably also slows the warming somewhat. (However, you can always warm a cup in a hurry by using the hot water dispenser or steam nozzle.)
As mentioned previously, the Livia 90 is self-priming, so there is no elaborate ritual to be performed when the machine is switched on in the morning. Just flip the switch and wait --- perhaps 10 to 15 minutes for the machine to be fully warmed up. After that, brew espresso and make steam in any order, even simultaneously. (Hot water for tea takes a lot from the boiler, and may require more recovery time before making steam again.)
The Livia 90 can be left on all day. Although home users may choose to leave it off most of the time, the flexibility of being able to leave it on for long periods is very convenient --- the machine can be on whenever you might want coffee or tea (or hot chocolate for the kids), without any worry about leaving it on too long.
There is an interesting "back flushing" process to be performed when shutting the machine down (or at the end of a day, if the machine may be turned on and off a few times in the course of a day). One places a rubber disk in the empty filter basket, engages the portafilter, and then runs the pump for a few seconds. Upon turning off the pump, water trapped in the portafilter escapes through the pressure release valve, thus flushing some residual grounds from the group. This takes just a few seconds.
One can buy directly from the importer,
Pasquini 1501 West Olympic Boulevard Los Angeles, California 90015 Voice: (213) 739-0480 Fax: (213) 385-8774 Email: Pasquini@pacificnet.net http://www.pasquini.com
However, the direct price from Pasquini's is generally much higher than from resellers. They may be selling at the high list price to avoid undercutting their resellers; I'm not sure.
One used to be able to buy the Livia 90 from Zabars in New York. The machines sold by Zabars were labeled as having come from the importer in Los Angeles. It seems ridiculous that my machine was trucked from Los Angeles to New York, and then back to Oregon, but the price I got from Zabars was $400 less than the importer wanted for a direct purchase ... rather like the everyday absurdity of getting a better airfare by taking a longer, less convenient route.
Zabars no longer carries the Pasquini machines, and therein lies a tale.
A number of retailers of the Livia 90 are listed in Pasquini's web pages. Among these (at last check) was Peet's coffee, and I have been told of very attractive prices on Pasquini machines purchased through Peet's. Given the experience with Zabar's, it might be worthwhile to verify with Pasquini that they intend to honor the warranty on machines purchased through Peet's or any other particular retailer.
The Livia 90 comes with a one-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. [Text of Warranty] A notable feature of the warranty is that the owner must pay shipping charges in both directions; since the Livia 90 is a heavy machine, this can be a significant cost.
Those who purchased Pasquini machines from Zabar's have experienced a more troubling aspect of warranty service. I first heard from a reader of this page that Zabar's and Pasquini disputed the warranty arrangements for the machine, and that this was a reason for Zabar's discontinuation of Pasquini sales. Later, I experienced the dispute first-hand, when my machine began leaking steam.
My machine began making a loud hissing noise a few months after I purchased it. I read the warranty card and checked with Pasquini by phone to determine whether any pre-authorization was needed. I was instructed simply to box the machine up and ship it to them, which I did. I enclosed the warranty certificate and my dated purchase receipt.
A week or two later, I received a call from Pasquini. They explained that the cost of the repair was $106. I explained that the machine was under waranty, and reminded them that a copy of the warranty card as well as the dated purchase receipt was included in the box with the machine. Yes, they said, the part was covered, but since the machine was purchased from Zabar's, the labor was not covered. They asked me to call Zabar's and explain the situation, and to ask Zabar's to call them. This request seemed very unusual, but I complied. I spoke to someone at Zabar's who agreed to call Pasquini to resolve the matter.
Several days later I again had a round of telephone calls with Pasquini, which had not yet shipped the machine back to me. They requested that I again call Zabar's to resolve payment for the labor. This time I refused, asserting that this was a matter between Pasquini and Zabar's; I did not (and do not) see why a customer should be involved in their contract negotiations. Pasquini agreed to ship my repaired machine back to me, requiring payment only for the return shipping.
I like my Pasquini Livia 90 a lot. I got it for an excellent price ($800 + $80 shipping), but I think I would be happy with it even if I had paid a good deal more. It makes very good espresso and has ample steam power. I have made more than 20 cafe lattes (each with a double shot of espresso) in a period of one hour at a school function, which is a sustained pace of less than 3 minutes per drink (and that includes grinding coffee, pouring milk, and idle periods); although I have achieved equal quality with my Baby Gaggia, I could never have kept up with demand in such a situation.
I'd like to establish an exchange of information among both current and prospective owners of Pasquini home espresso machines. This page is a first cut. If you have a Pasquini home espresso machine (Livia 90 or roughly comparable), I solicit any corrections, additions, or refinements of the information above, as well as any questions or problems you have encountered. (I probably don't have answers, but by including questions and problems on this web page I can increase the likelihood that someone with answers will respond.) If you are considering a home espresso machine of roughly the caliber of the Pasquini Livia 90, please let me know what information on this page you found useful, what you found useless or misleading, and what other information you would like to see provided. For both new and prospective owners, please let me know whether you wish your contribution to be attributed or anonymous.
Please send comments, questions, etc. to email@example.com.
Possibly of interest:
Semi-commercial espresso machines for home use
For links to information on other semi-commercial espresso machines (direct competitors to the Pasquini Livia 90)
David Bogie's Home Espresso FAQ
An excellent reference on home pump machines, aimed primarily at the novice but with plenty of useful information for the serious espresso drinker.
Dave Bayer makes the case for manual piston espresso machines
He also like hand-powered woodworking tools. I don't happen to share his priorities, but it is probably true that the holy grail of perfect espresso is more likely to be attained by a machine in which the operator has absolute control of brewing pressure.
TC Lavazza Espresso Machine Troubleshooting
This trouble-shooting guide is aimed at true professional machines, not semi-pro machines like the Livia 90. Some of the adjustments it recommends are just not possible with even a high-end home machine, but nonetheless it is a useful reference.
H.E.R. Home Espresso Repair
Nice people who do good work at fair prices. I've used them only for repairs to my Baby Gaggia, but they do Pasquini Livia 90 repairs as well.