Overall, I'm going to say that this machine has surpassed my expectations and I fully expect it to last at least as long as my Gaggia did. Longer because now I have access to distilled water.
Positive Product Points
Easiest machine to use ever. You can have a perfect espresso in two minutes from opening the box. Produces excellent steam, easy to control big foam or micro foam. Purges before shutting off. Infusor stack is quickly and completely removable. Steam wand is completely removable.
Negative Product Points
Steam arm could use another degree of rotation. Drip tray could be separate from puck bin.
I have owned a Gaggia Baby for 18 years. Recently it finally succumed to hard water. 18 years is pretty good life for a machine, so I was happy to go looking for a new machine. I have not been a Barista for a long time, though I was trained in Vancouver by some serious Italians. The Gaggia was able to produce workable espresso, but only with considerable knowledge and careful handling. I have used friends machines that span pretty much the entire consumer range. So, this time, I knew what I was looking for.
This Delonghi is it.
It turns on automatically at 7:00 am every morning so that once my shower is done, it is ready to make me an espresso to get started, a Cappuccino for the road and a Latte for my wife. It takes a total of 8 minutes to make all three beverages, including preheating the travel mugs with hot water and rinsing off the steam wand.
One hour later the machine turns itself off if I have forgotten to do so.
It takes up a fair amount of counter space just sitting there, but when you consider that a separate grinder is no longer needed it isn't an unreasonable amount of space. The drip tray area is also very generous and easy to use fully. The result is I don't use any extra counter space for shot glasses and such as. Because everything is automatic, the cleanup is minimal, and the mess around the machine is non-existant.
The espresso shot size is fully adjustable, and once set, completely automatic. The shot time is set by grind, which is settable in many tiny little clicks of grind wheel. I set my shot based on the crema and the taste of the shot, not on brew time as some people do. It was very easy to create what I consider a perfect shot. The weather here on the "wet" coast is incredibly variable. Never-the-less, the shot has been completely consistent.
Foaming is a dream compared to the Gaggia Baby. Despite the restrictions in the wand adjustment it is easy to get a large enough container under there and steam up the perfect foam. The supplied wand works perfectly as is. On the Baby I used it with a bare wand, but this wand design seems to be the perfect balance. I can get both huge fluffy foam and tiny little dense foam easily. It takes only a minute or so to bring the milk to the right temperature (170ish F for me). The wand components simply unlock and slide off for easy rinsing. I'm sure the O-ring seal on the inner wand might get dirty or worn with time, but it is a pretty standard looking O-ring (I never replaced the one on the Gaggia). Even without the O-ring the components would stay in place due to the twist lock on the outer sleeve.
Hot water dispenses through the steam wand as well, and it is not steam, though it certainly is fully hot. The machine can really only dispense about one tea mug worth before having to let it heat up again, but my tea mug is 12oz, so your mileage may vary. Reheating only takes 2 minutes or so anyway, so that's not really a big deal. When I have company I boil a pot anyway, so for me that is not an issue.
The infusor removes with two squeeze latches and is therefore super easy to clean. The Gaggia took an entire evening to clean. Everything that gets routinely dirty is removable in a few seconds, so maintenance is going to be a breeze. It also has an automatic descaling mode. Simply add the descaler to 32oz of water and let do its thing. Takes about 30 minutes to descale and a few minutes to rinse out.
It couldn't have been easier. Starbucks threw in a free pound of beans and a nice cuppa for the road. They even included a little brewing guide for how to mix a cappuccino, latte and a mocha.
Three Month Followup
Clean up is very easy. Even the stack comes out with a single motion. Pumps out a continuous stream of beverages without waiting. Auto-off feature is fantastic, I often forget to do it myself. Plastic body construction is super easy to clean. It is untextured so there is no scrubbing or rubbing. Heating tray is a either too large or too small. It fits 3 double demi-tasse or 4 Italian Demi-tasse with room to spare, but not room for any more and enough room that you really really want to put more there. Poor clearance on the steam wand is not really an issue, just worth mentioning. It is fixed and that seems to really annoy some people. Overall, after three months, I'm still completely happy with the machine and do not regret the purchase in any way. I have recommended that friends purchase one. The ease of use and customization of the brew make it near perfect. Enjoy if you have one, be afraid if you do not.
One Year Followup
I have only one thing to add. After one year of heavy use the body under the edge of the steam knob is beginning to show signs of wear. Everything else remains perfect. All the parts are still easily cleaned with a single wipe. There are no scars or scratches visible. It continues to solider on 100% like new.