Appears to be a good starter espresso maker, but would probably be irritating to someone who has experience and wants more control.
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive Mostly metal body Passed my wife's "looks good in the kitchen" test Easy to use The espresso has been good Pressure guage
Negative Product Points
You get what you pay for Manual Clearly a starter machine (lack of control) I'm not sure the espresso will ever be great
Although I've been going to Starbucks and other coffe shops for many years, this was my first venture into creating my own espresso drinks. Therefore I capped myself at $500.00, figuring I'd see how things are going in a year or two before investing in a high-end machine. I was leaning towards the Gaggia Classic, before finding the Domus Due on-line. The Classic may be marginally better, but I couldn't justify the additional $130.00, so went with the Domus Due.
I was slightly concerned that many of the Internet stores listed the Domus Due as having an aluminum filter holder, while the Briel web-site and a few of the Internet stores said it was brass. In the end, it is brass.
One negative surprise was that the filters come with the Crema creating element attached, and it doesn't seem like I can make espresso without it. This has probably helped me on my first few shots, but I had expected that I would be able to remove it as I gained experience. The other is that the beak is lower than I expected, and so can not fit anything bigger than a dermitasse underneath it. This may be common, but I didn't have anything else I could use to clean and prime the system.
As advised over and over on this site, I RTFM. It sounds like some of the manuals are pretty helpful, but this was not one of them. It was "just the facts", and even those were sparse. Most of what I know about what I'm doing, I learned from other places.
I let the machine heat-up for a good 30 minutes and then ran a couple of blank shots, to clean and prime the system, before trying my first shot with a pod from Starbucks. The lacking manual hit me here. One nice feature of the Domus Due is an auto-brew dial that you can set to put a consistent amount of water through. If it's turned all the way down, it becomes manual. I didn't see this anywhere in the documentation, and moved the switch after the priming and before the shot... so my first shot was bad.
The second shot was much better, with a nice crema. I did notice that the pressure gauge was close to 15 bar while pulling the shot. I'm not sure what this means, but suspect it was the result of the tightness of the pod in combination with the crema filter.
This morning I made my first espresso drink with steamed milk. This time I tried a double-shot using pre-espresso-ground beans. The built-in tamper was a little awkward to use the first time, but I expect that will get easier. I didn't try to tamp it too hard, based on my experience with the pod. This seemed to work since the pressure guage stayed around 10 bar. The steam wand worked well for me. Whether or not the foam attachment made it easier I can not say, but I was able to create good foam with 1% milk on my first try. My creation reminded me of the Cafe Con Leche's I had in Spain (the reason I decided I needed my own espresso maker), so I have to consider it a success.
Overall impressions? Although I would have preferred to start with a higher-end machine giving me more control, I couldn't reasonably justify the cost for something I may or may not use everyday. At this price point, I'm very happy with what I have. It looks good. It feels relatively solid (i.e., it's not plastic, but it's also only about 15 lbs). It's been easy to use so far, but I am a little disappointed that I won't be able to get rid of the crema filter and test my emerging barista skills.
Check back in 3 months and I'll let you know what I think after some time.
I spent a lot of time reading reviews and looking at prices. I thought coffemakersetc.com had some good information, and the purchasing process was easy. Shipping was free, and it took 6 days to arrive through UPS. It was not packed particularly well (packing material on top and bottom, nothing on the sides), but arrived intact. I have not contacted them since the purchase, so do not know how responsive they are, but they did send e-mails through the processing of the order up through shipping, when they included a tracking number.
I would use them again, but at this point would not go out of my way to do so.
Three Month Followup
I never got around to completing a 3-month followup.
One Year Followup
I'm actually much happier with the Domus Due than I thought I would be. While researching Espresso machines I was inspired by what I read to purchase a machine that would allow me ultimate control. As you can tell from my initial review, I didn't find something in my price range that had all of the features I wanted, and the Domus Due seemed like the best compromise. Having spent a year with an espresso machine, I realize that I would not have had the time to figure out the correct grind, water pressure and tamp pressure to create the perfect shot, and that the Domus Due provided exactly what I needed.
I spent most of the year using preground espresso and unless I did something stupid (e.g., using too much coffee) the Domus Due consistently provided espresso shots that were better than I expect from starbucks. The water heats up very quickly (under 2 minutes), and by running a blank shot through it I can bring the filter holder and cups to a good temperature soon after that. The steam wand also has good pressure and the foam attachment does a good job creating the foam I need.
A few basic gripes. The knobs on the front can fall off easily, but they are also easy to put back. Also, although the filter holder is brass, the handle and spouts are plastic. After a year of knocking out the grounds, the plastic spout broke. It was easy to replace and inexpensive, but was not listed on the spare parts order form and took an inordinate amount of time to get the new part in (so I ordered extra). Finally, one of the knobs is used to set the amount of espresso you want to brew. It is very sensitive (slight turn can drastically impact size of shot), and not tight so it's not unusual for it to be knocked out of whack by someone cleaning the machine. Along the same lines, a double espresso shot is set at just under the half-way point of the dial. Since it's a double shot machine, I'm not sure of the intended usages for the top half of that dial.
Despite the space in this followup devoted to the gripes, they are very minor and I am happy with the purchase and would buy it again (unless I decided to spend the money on one of the fully automatic options).