After a detailed search and many conversations, we decided upon a La Cimbali machine. I did a pretty thorough research, and the bottom line is that many Italians love this machine - it makes a great cup of espresso. Although we bought the automatic machine, but I think if we had it to do over, I would save some money and buy the manual machine for 2/3 the price. We still haven‘t tried hard enough to make the autofrother work – it is so easy and fun to foam the milk ourselves.
That said, this is a great "little" machine. It makes truly commercial quality espresso. We actually can‘t stand to go out for espresso anymore - it never tastes as good as we make at home. With this machine and our mini-Mazer, we’ve discovered that there are subtle differences between beans that our old machine couldn’t find.
This machine makes ~50 cups an hour. Our friends love to come over for coffee, and we love to have them. At a recent dinner party, our friends from Brazil had to have three cups of espresso. He “hadn’t tasted real coffee like this” ever in the U.S.
The beauty of this machine is that it can either be plumbed in or used in a pour over manner. It has a built in water softener. We’ve got ours up on the counter, with its large set of legs. We don’t have the money to remodel our kitchen (guess we spent the $ on the machine instead) so the machine isn’t plumbed in. I place a fairly large rubbermaid container underneath the drain to catch the drippings.
Anyone interested in buying this machine, particularly for home use, should definitely shop around. I talked seriously to about ten people, and found price differences almost equal to the price of the machine.
This machine puts our old Gaggia to shame. It makes much better espresso, and it foams milk in about 1/3 the time. We use the hot water spout for oatmeal and tea - with a machine like this, no "instant hot water" tap needed for the sink. We foam milk for cocoa for any visiting children.
Our machine came with about a 1 years supply of cleaning agents, which really help. If you are looking to buy a quality machine that will last a lifetime, consider this.