Looks great, works great, easy to use and clean, and makes great espresso. Recommended.
Positive Product Points
Looks great, construction feels solid, fast to heat up and use in the morning
Negative Product Points
A bit tricky to get used to and the user manual is *terrible*, placement of steam valve control is a bit awkward. Backflush gasket (shown in manual) was missing from my box.
This is my first "real" espresso machine, and I am not an expert by any means. I am graduating from a little Krups steam box that gave up the ghost. My goals were: Great espresso, fits in my limited counter space, looks cool (I'm fussy about appearance and build quality). I'm also a designer so want well-designed controls and ergonomics. I am not patient with badly-designed stuff.
Happily the Ascaso Dream Up v2..0 met my criteria. I considered the Rancilio Silva and some others, but the looks of the Dream won me over. It's just so cute, it makes me want to use it. It also has all the features I care about. I am mainly a cappuccino guy, so good milk steaming experience is important.
It's only been a short time, but so far the Dream has been great. It was easy to set up, and didn't take too long to figure out. No thanks to the included user manual, which is seriously the most useless document I've ever received with a product. It's generally poorly laid out and written, and even worse the English section was mostly missing! Like, just not there. The other languages were in a jumbled order. So I guess it was a printing screw up but why'd you'd put that in the box and ship it is beyond me.
Google to the rescue, Ascaso has a PDF on their site which - while just as confusing to read - is at least complete and in the right order:
So I was up and running pretty quickly, all things considered. Word of warning: The machine comes configured for pods, so the first thing I did was switch out for the "real" showerhead (requires a phillips screwdriver and 60 seconds of effort). I also switched out for the "normal" portafilter basket and steam tip. All that stuff comes in the box and is easy to do.
One minor issue is that the backflush gasket seems to be missing. I'm going to have to source one I guess.
No leaks, no weird noises, everything seems to work great. And most importantly of all the espresso I'm getting is really satisfactory. As I said, I'm not super experienced, and I have a lot to learn, but already I'm getting coffee that is really exciting me, and I'm confident that the Dream has plenty more to offer as I improve my barista skills. Just typing this is making me want to go upstairs and make my fourth cup for the day!
It's a great little machine, some small details like the cup warmer on top works great, the steam wand is easy to get to and use, the drip tray is easy to empty and clean. Just overall a well-designed and constructed home espresso machine.
I got mine from eBay. I live in Seattle, and Seattle Coffee Gear told me that Ascaso weren't shipping this model to them currently. They couldn't get it drop-shipped. Amazon lists it, but for like $1200 - $1500 and I suspect the order would fail. So I guess there's something up with Ascaso or their distribution? I bought mine from http://www.ebay.com/usr/buddhabike and had no problems.
The videos on the Seattle Coffee Gear site have been invaluable - both in researching and then learning/confirming how to use the machine.
Three Month Followup
It's been fantastic. No dramas. A bit of a learning curve for me, but the machine itself has been rock solid, and makes great espresso. Turns out the backflush gasket wasn't missing, this is a machine without the valve that permits backflushing... which means maybe this isn't a Dream 2.0? I don't know and don't care enough to research it... my coffee tastes great and that's all I want.
One Year Followup
Still going great. I did have one issue - I had to have the tap rod (in the steam valve) replaced. This was a bit of a hassle as Ascaso machines are somewhat uncommon. But it wasn't too bad - cost me $100 or so.
The issue was user error. It's really easy to overtighten the steam valve when closing it, and I gradually destroyed the rubber grommet that maintains the seal. Now I am more careful/moderate when closing the steam valve, and I'm hoping the new tap rod will last a lot longer.