Worth every penny ! ! ! I would buy the same machine again from the same vendor without reservations.
Positive Product Points
The seller (Chris Coffee) is a class act from start to finish--even months or a year or more after purchase; machine is extremely easy to use, PID temperature control is quick and easy so you can quickly and easily tweak the brew temperature for different roasts; gets up to temperature in about 10 minutes; option of direct plump or refillable pour over tank; extremely quiet with rotary motor; dual boiler running in 15 amp mode at home always has basically unlimited steam and brew capability (shot after shot after latte after latte); E-61 brew group and levers are just simply fun to use (versus pushing a button which is frankly kind of boring and un-engaging); lots of shiny stainless steel which cleans easily; in my opinion this is a lot of machine for the money, and the features vs. trade offs to maintain price point are well thought out and reasonable; machine is easy to disassemble for maintenance; dual-wall construction means outside of machine is always cool to the touch. Basically everything on this machine is replaceable, serviceable, and tweakable (by us, the home consumers).
Negative Product Points
Pour over tank has narrow lid at top and difficult to fill without funnel and then it's hard to tell if it's full (problem remedied in later models with a redesigned water tank), lid with rails fits a tad tight (no big deal to me, but others had anxiety attacks about that), the E-61 brew group is not supported by its own brace/support to the interior frame (I don't know if that has been changed in later models), so the brew group is supported by basically just the front panel--this doesn't affect performance, but when you tighten the portafilter, the brew group will bend ever so slightly from side to side (I don't think that would ever cause a problem unless you were using this machine in a commercial establishment and your baristas were forcefully tightening the portafilter with every shot--then perhaps the brew group might eventually loosen from its mounts--it's still very solid--the brew group just "bends" a millimeter or two to the side when the portafilter is tightened), my machine vibrates sometimes when brewing if it's not perfectly level--vibration goes away if I move the machine slightly on the counter.
I purchased this machine from Chris Coffee Service in March or April of 2011. I'm in Oregon, and they're 3000+ miles away in New York in a different time zone. I was concerned about that distance even after reading positive reviews of their customer service on this website and on home-barista.com. I was concerned enough that I considered the Vibiemme and drove to Elmira, Oregon to try to check it out and speak with Stefano. They wouldn't see me or talk to me without an advance appointment so I drove home without seeing a machine--not to miff Stefano, because I've heard nothing but positive reviews of him, his business, and his products--but I know for certain that I can pick up the phone right now and be talking with a service or sales technician at Chris Coffee Service any day of the week within 2 minutes--and they'll spend as much time as it takes with me to address whatever concerns I may have. Within days of purchasing my machine, I knew I basically had a personal home espresso machine technician instantly available (even sometimes on weekends) over the phone and via email with detailed step by step photos. I know this is supposed to be just a "machine" review, and there's a place below to comment on my buying experience, but I don't think I'd be rating this machine as a 9.5 or a 10.0 if it weren't for Chris Coffee and their incredible and outstanding customer service. The support that goes with the purchase is most definitely part of the product rating for me. I'm no mechanic, and I'm not mechanically inclined. But after speaking with and receiving emails with photos from the guys and gals at Chris Coffee, I don't think there's anything on this machine that I couldn't confidently and quickly fix or repair on the counter in my kitchen. I give Chris Coffee Service a perfect 10.0--and I say that knowing that today I might be inclined to purchase a QuickMill dual boiler from him instead (vibratory motor but excellent build quality). But the one thing that I'm certain about is that I'd most definitely purchase a dual boiler machine from the same vendor.
Having said that, I absolutely love my Alex Duetto II dual boiler machine and would purchase another without hesitation. I make a three double-shot latte every morning, and make decaf coffee drinks in the evenings several times per week. This machine has never failed to deliver in almost 2 years of daily use. The Duetto II is also very forgiving (I'm no professional barista). The E-61 brew group and all the levers are just simply fun and a joy to operate--you can't push a button and then go brush your teeth--but I like that--I like the process and the ritual of grinding, tamping, brewing, steaming, and pulling levers. The PID temperature controller is quick and easy to adjust--if a shot is a little sour or a little bitter, you just adjust the temperature up or down a few degrees--no heat exchanger HX water dance to perform--you know exactly what your brew temperature is on every shot (the calibration on the PID is also adjustable--so if your brew temperature is really 194 when your PID says 198, you can fairly easily adjust the PID calibration to get it exact). I just go by taste--I know I'm in the ball park, and if I try a new roast and I'm not satisfied with the taste profile, I'll just quickly adjust the PID up or down and then flush some water--BAM!!! I'm now in business at a different temperature.
The rotary motor on this dual boiler is extremely quiet. I do get a little vibration noise if my machine is not perfectly level--but I think I can remedy even that with a little insulating shim under the brew boiler. While I have a hunch that the new QuickMill dual boiler in the same basic price range may have a little nicer fit and finish (just because I've seen the Vetrano and Andreja Premium and they both have nicer fit and finish than my Duetto), I also believe it has a vibratory motor. I'll take my rotary motor over "slightly prettier and smoother" any day of the week. It's whisper quiet. And I'm not trashing the Duetto II's fit and finish or build quality, because they are first rate. I just know it is a little rougher than the QuickMills--but everything's a price point trade off--if somebody made a perfect E-61 dual boiler rotary motor PID controlled machine with velvety smooth rounded stainless and full X or box interior stainless frame--it would undoubtedly cost $3,500+. Not many of us would buy one--as it is, I assume most of us stretch our budgets farther than we can really afford already. So far this machine has been worth every penny. I love the hum of the rotary motor a lot more than I might dislike the slight roughness of the top or bottom of the side panels. I'm so glad I pulled the trigger and nervously agreed to buy a machine a little over $2,000. Again, it's been worth every penny, and I haven't even had it two full years.
The machine is big (wider than most but not as deep as other dual boilers such as the Vibiemme), but it does fit under standard cabinets. I bought some cheap plastic coasters to put under the legs, so sliding the machine out from under the cabinet to refill the tank or wipe the counter is effortless. It is wider than most machines of this type. However, the wideness comes from the dual-wall construction. This machine never gets hot to the touch. The drip tray is easily removable for daily cleaning and it does hold a lot of water. Given the fact that this is a dual boiler machine not requiring the flushing of an HX water dance, I bet they could reduce the height of the drip tray. This would give a little more room between the brew group and the drip tray. As it is, you can't slide shot glasses under the portafilter without tilting them slightly. I have a hunch they just used the same design as the Alex HX machine. I don't think it needs such a voluminous drip tray. Having said that, the drip tray is easily removable and replaceable for cleaning.
The low water sensor works and beeps if your water level gets too low in the tank. They've now redesigned the pour over tank so it has a lid and can be filled with a pitcher as opposed to a funnel--nice improvement. Steam power is more than adequate. It doesn't push out steam like a big commercial La Marzocco, but it's more than adequate. The steam wand end has four small holes which can be periodically cleaned and reamed with a thumb tack every couple of weeks. I've also got it set up on a timer, so it turns itself on at 5 AM every morning.
In conclusion, I'm very pleased with my purchase and have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. Other than my pick up truck, this is the only machine I've ever owned to which I have a strong emotional attachment. I used to struggle to get out of bed every morning. Now I honestly leap out just so I can go down stairs and brew some espresso.
Chris Coffee Service is a class act from start to finish. They get a perfect 10.0 rating from me. I've had good to great customer service from Seattle Coffee Gear and Wholelattelove, but Chris Coffee Service is on a whole different plane of customer service excellence. See 1st Paragraph in detailed commentary above. I once called on a Sunday afternoon during half time of a football game, thinking I'd be leaving a message for Monday. Chris himself answered the phone and addressed every single one of my concerns. These guys stand by their products, and if you need a repair or a service, chances are they'll be able to walk you through it step by step in your own kitchen over the phone and via email instructions with photographs. And I am a self-professed knucklehead when it comes to mechanics--with Chris Coffee techs on the phone, there's nothing I couldn't fix, replace, or repair on this machine--and they're available 5 days a week--perhaps even occasionally 7 days a week.