Superb prosumer espresso machine at a great price. Excellent service.
Positive Product Points
LCD for boiler pressure allows for rapid setting changes. Small footprint. Healthy steaming. Easy fill and cleaning. Excellent quality of espresso.
Negative Product Points
Boiler temperature drops rapidly. But it reclaims quickly. This may be more a result of having a digital display to see what's actually going on. Somewhat noisy pump when filling but nothing abnormal for a vibrating pump. Design is more functional than aesthetically pleasing but it looks like the workhorse it is.
Let me preface this with my experience having been a coffeehouse owner and manager for many years. But that was a few years back now. I have owned an ECM Giotto and Mazzer Mini in the past for home use. I was in the market to get an ECM Teknika IV but no one had them in stock at the time. While searching online, I saw the Faema Carisma. I had originally learned on a 2 group Faema manual machine. My own coffeehouse used a 3 group la Cimballi in the late '80s. I checked reviews online for the Carisma, checked the Faema website for the manual, and checked prices. Chris' Coffee had the best price. I had done business with them a number of years ago when I purchased my Mazzer Mini which was a returned unit but in excellent condition.
The Carisma arrived in less than a week after ordering. Much faster than I expected it to get to Albuquerque. It was certified as tested at the vendor. The short manual from Faema was a quick read and I was up and starting to work with it very quickly. The Compak K3 grinder I ordered through Chris' Coffee had already arrived directly shipped from the distributor. It took longer than I expected to get the settings between the grinder and the Carisma just right. Once set correctly, the coffee is exquisite. I get a full bodied, rich espresso with an excellent, dense crema. My personal favorite is Lavazza Gold. Even though, after all these years, I still like to try out new blends and roasters.
One of the draws for purchasing the Carisma was the digital display. I'm a bit of a gadget freak anyway so I thought this might just be a fun, new gadget for me to fiddle with. As it turns out, it is very precise. It allows me to change the temperature of the boiler nearly instantaneously with just a click of a button or two on the front of the machine. This is so much better than unscrewing the lid and fiddling with a knob as I did on my ECM Giotto. There is a pressure gauge on the front panel as well that allows me to see the pressure variance when brewing. My old Giotto only had a pressure gauge for the boiler. It is very easy to check the pressure to note if there needs to be a change in the tamp pressure or the fineness of the grind or the volume of coffee dispensed.
The aesthetics of the Carisma are very good. The bold FAEMA name on the front of the spill tray has impressed more than a few who have visited. No one has asked why I bought this brand. Everyone seems to know it. The tall, squared-off shape allows for a relatively small footprint. It is very easy to fill the water tank which is readily accessible by lifting a piece off the top. The water tank has its own lid as well so nothing sloshes about when filling it at the sink and carrying the water back to the machine. There is a water filter built into the intake from the water tank. I already use water filtered through an Aquasana filter but there cannot be too much filtration as the water in Albuquerque is very hard.
The spill tray has two elements that are winners. One is a rather silly tab that reads "Empty Me" when it nears getting full. I might have preferred a simple red line or something less intrusive than that command. But the concept works very well. It lets me know if the tray is getting full without having keep pulling up the top and looking. It's grown on me. The second is the design of the tray itself. It slides on rails and feels very solid. Because of the rails, it steadies the tray when removing it so the water in it doesn't slosh about. It is plastic lined and cleans easily with a bit of soap and water.
The Carisma has an E61 group head. Like the rest of the machine, it is made by Faema who originated it. The action is smooth, consistent, and steady. This is a heat exchange unit so it is important to cool the group head by running some water through it if left alone for too long. This helps to stabilize the temperature. My Giotto was the same. The steam wand produces plenty of steam to make a cappuccino or latte. If entertaining a number of people, it is very easy to use the digital display and raise the temperature of the boiler to it will recover faster. I haven't had to wait more than a few seconds before being able to steam a large amount of milk. Of course, since it is a heat exchange unit, one can steam and brew at the same time without any problems. The hot water dispenser produces with a healthy flow. I usually use my espresso machine for one or two doubles every day when it is just me at home. I always run a bit of water through the dispenser each day to ensure there is fresh water in the boiler.
The Carisma comes with a lightweight and useless plastic tamper, a measuring scoop, a single portafilter and double portafilter, as well as a rubber-like insert to create a blank filter. I purchased a bottomless portafilter as well which has a triple basket.
I am very happy with my purchase.
Chris' Coffee processed my order and followed up on it with me. Chris Nachtrieb personally followed up with me by e-mail and provided some excellent pointers for me in working with the Carisma. The packing by Faema as well as it being double packed by Chris' Coffee gave me full assurance when it arrived that no damaged had taking place in transport.
I cannot recommend Chris' Coffee highly enough. The follow-through and service is very personal and knowledgeable. It is not the sort of company one is used to finding any longer. As impersonal as the internet and e-mail can be, they have found a way to ensure their customers (at least this customer) are satisfied with their purchase.