After several wonderful years with a Gaggia Coffee, I decided to stay with Gaggia when I began shopping for a super automatic. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the results, but I'm left with a better sense of appreciation for the fine folks at Whole Latte Love and their great customer service. More on all these details appear below.
I settled on the Titanium SS as I found, as have others, that the Titanium is one of the few super automatics on the market with an all metal housing. You'll read this same observation in many places: "How can anyone spend thousands of dollars on a super automatic with plastic housing?"
And, it is a thing of beauty. Externally, the SS is picture-perfect with stainless steel on all sides and most of the top. The only visible areas that are plastic are the door for the bean hopper, the drip tray and the water tank (but this is only visible from the sides). I can attest that the blue display does look very neat in a darkened room and the unit looks great with the included Gaggia Senses cups sitting on top.
My SS arrived in only 3-days after my web order. Setup was mostly painless, although the manual that Gaggia produces for this machine (and others) had only a slim English section. Frequent references are made back to diagrams in the front inside cover, which necessitated a bit of page flipping. After a couple of false starts, and my own concern that I could harm the machine with unintentional misuse, I tossed the manual aside and called WLL for a brief run-through of the setup where the manual was lacking and was up and running in minutes. So far, so good.
The crema made by this machine was by far the best that I've had after years of running my older Gaggia Coffee and was much better than $tarbucks and most of my local coffee houses. This is a key observation so let me say it again: The crema on this machine was better than my years at my semi-manual machine (but, maybe this says that I always made poor espresso manually <wink!).
Noise from the internal grinder was acceptable, although it can wake light sleepers elsewhere in the house. Frothing results were much better than I expected - lots of microfoam. However, in order to gain more lateral motion for the frothing tip, it is ncesssary to flip up a plastic door near the steam arm. I am left with a concern that this plastic door could melt after repeated contact with the hot frother arm. But, during my use of the machine I experienced no issues with producing very drinkable milk drinks from the first attempt onward. I never felt the need to break-into the included frothing aid from its plastic bag.
So, after all these praises, why the lower rating? One word: Leaks. With every coffee that I brewed, I found 7-10 tablespoons of coffee under the unit. At first, I thought that these leaks were attributable to user error. However, after a growing mess on the counter and discovering that others have had leaks with Gaggia/Saeco brew groups, I called WLL for help. My conversations with WLL Customer Care and Technical Support led to a realization that an issue was present with the delivery of coffee from the brew group. Coffee from this unit is delivered through a plastic tube that is fixed to the inside of the front door, allowing it to exit through the dispenser on the outside of the machine. Somewhere, among these parts, only a portion of the brewed coffee (and water, when rinsing) was being delivered. Some coffee was being blown, under pressure, against the inside of the door resulting in a mess with each brew, that would then find its way through knocked-out, machined gaps in the drip tray, resulting with a mess with each brew.
Other quibbles: While the machine is externally metal, it is internally plastic. Plastic brew group, plastic delivery system, a plastic door lock to hold the door closed, and plastic dispensing system (hidden behind a silver finish). Much of these plastic parts are fragile and do not strike me as hardy enough to last more than a year or so (if that).
I tried several experiments with WLL on the phone in attempt to isolate the leaking problem. But, as time wore on, I was faced with the prospect of returning the machine for warranty repair or returning it for a refund under WLL's 30-day guarantee. Sadly, I opted for a refund, due to my increasing confidence that the Titanium had a fundamental design flaw, esp. as many others have faced the same issue on many of the Gaggia/Saeco units.
WLL refunded my full purchase price (minus shipping), which I've applied toward a Jura S-7 Avantgarde. Yep, this machine is very plasticy looking, but it is a sealed unit that never requires a brew group manual rinse. It also seems much more solid and the crema matches the crema of the Titanium.