Rewards good barista technique Great first-time (or regular, no-nonsense) espresso maker Good value for money
Negative Product Points
Equipped with a Crema enhancer - portafilter basket needs some modification to make espresso with "real" crema
Water reservoir could have been larger
It is bizarre what you can find in community stores (such as Value Village) at times. Case in point: I found a complete, virtually brand-spanking new Brevile Cafe Roma at my local Value Village, about a year ago. My guess is that it was some shop's "shelf display model", or they lost the box and could not sell it, so it was donated it to the community store... Or perhaps it was stolen? Who knows? Anyway, I paid the princely sum of $29 for it, and I am VERY happy with it. After using it for a year now, I will pay the full selling price ($150 - $200) any time with a smile - I think that highly of it.
HOWEVER... You have to apply some barista tecniques for best results. The MOST important thing I have found is that my particular model overheats the brew head / thermoblock - I have no idea if this is an issue only on my particular example, or if all Cafe Roma models suffer from this issue.... Espresso should NEVER be made with water that is at boiling-point, so before I start the brew, I pump some water through the brew head (without the portafilter) to cool it down. I consider it sufficiently cooled down when no more steam is coming out, only water (after about 4-5 seconds). This prevents that bad, "burned coffee" taste - caused by the grounds being "flashed" momentarily with super-heated steam, which spoils the taste completely.
Additionally, I made a few mods - I driled out the small hole in the "crema enhancer" portfilter basket (described elsewhere on the Internet as an easy way to get rid of the crema enhancer - you don't need it, if you're using good beans and a good grinder), and replaced the steam wand with a different one that allows me to "hand-control" milk steaming / frothing.
I am of the opinion that this machine is a very good "First Espresso Machine", and has the potential to "grow" (up to a point) with the user's experience level. My next machine will be a Rancilio Silvia or something similar. If I somehow lost this machine, or it broke down, I will buy another one without hesitation (assuming that I don't upgrade to a more expensive machine).
As bad as buying anything at a Community store can be - horrible! Luckily the machine turned out fantastic :-)
Three Month Followup
I'm VERY SORRY to have to modify my previous glowing review... Things went seriously wrong when my original Cafe Roma broke down (one of my household members managed to physically break the rotary switch button on the front panel).
Instead of having it fixed, I opted to buy a new machine. Sadly, I have gone througn TWO NEW MACHINES in the space of 3 months - BOTH BROKE DOWN after about 5 or 6 weeks of use. In both cases it would just stop heating the water (pump still worked). I returned it to the store and got a replacement machine the first time, after that broke down as well I gave up and I asked for my money back. Both machines were bought from Best Buy Canada.
It seems to me that the older Breville Cafe Roma machines were better made than the current ones - or the company no longer does any quality control whatsoever.