An excellent, simplistic, and beautiful machine capable of pulling consistent god shots that will make you glad to get out of bed in the morning.
Positive Product Points
This espresso machine makes wonderful shots of espresso with extreme ease and controllability. It has all the essential tools needed to make the perfect doppio without being mudded down by useless features or gadgets. Its simplistic and contemporary design makes it stand out in comparison to any other espresso machine I have seen.
Negative Product Points
The machine has, in my opinion, several drawbacks. The water reservoir is made of clear plastic. Although there is nothing exceedingly problematic with this, I do find that it gets a bit cloudy with age. It would have been extremely nice to have this replaced with a glass reservoir, although even this would have problems. Another simple problem is the lack of a pressure release valve. Because of this, one should connect the portafilter containing coffee only moments before pulling a shot. Doing this minimizes hot water dripping onto the grounds prior to the shot being pulled, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. A third issue is that there is a sticker on the unit directly under the drip tray. It is a paper sticker and, on my two year old machine, it has peeled off due to water dripping down during cleaning of the drip tray. I honestly couldn't even tell you what the sticker says because it has been so long since it came off. All three of these issues are minor, in my opinion. They should not deter you from this product as the espresso this machine makes is exceptional.
I purchased this espresso machine approximately two years ago while Starbucks was changing the espresso machines they were carrying. As I recall, it was what they called a 'spring' sale. The original price on the unit was around $900, a price that I could in no way afford at the time, especially for an espresso machine. During the sale, however, the price was marked down to only $300. Although this may still seem expensive for a glorified coffee maker, it is worth every penny. Honestly, I believe it would have been worth the original $900 price tag.
Once I got the machine home and ground up some freshly roasted coffee beans, I found it exceedingly simple to pull a near perfect double shot. In the two years I have owned it, I have experimented with every conceivable combination of tamping pressure and grind and I have gotten great results across the board. To this, I must add that even grinding the beans to a powder-like state and tamping them at well over the recommended 40 lb., the machine was still able to pull a double shot, even if it took well over a minute. This was done purely as an experiment by me, not only to test the capabilities of the machine, but to see how much caffeine I could extract out of some beans. =) It passed the test with flying colors. I have never had a problem getting copious amounts of crema on my espresso using this machine. It honestly puts Starbucks espresso to shame, and I am an avid fan of their coffee.
I really love how simple the machine is. It has only three buttons, all of which are extremely sturdy, and one pressure gauge. It's pretty much as simple as it gets, wonderful for people that are simplistic, like myself. I would much rather have a machine that does one thing as best as it can be done than a machine that tries to be overly versatile while losing the capability to do things well.
The machine looks wonderful sitting in my kitchen, as well. I have the polished aluminum version. It hardly ever looks dirty and responds wonderfully to a wet paper towel when it needs to be cleaned. I'm pretty sure it would look good in just about every kitchen. It has a contemporary design, while maintaining a classic look. I really consider it to be a work of art.
I had a wonderful experience buying this machine, especially because I only paid a third of the original price. It was purchased at Starbucks during their Spring Sale when they were bringing in a new line of espresso machines.