Oh my gosh, I have hit the jackpot with this. After reading all the information in coffeegeek, it sparked my imagination to try some new things with it. When I first got it (second hand, hardly used), I thought the tamper really was a joke because it is attached to the machine and you cannot apply any firm or even pressure. So, I purchased a rimu handled, stainless steel tamper for $25 (The next best investment ever). The filter basket is large enough to pull a double ristretto with plently of strength. Everyone I have served coffee for has absolutely loved the taste, and it's only getting better!
I had mega amounts of trouble with the steaming of this machine. Not only did it take 3 minutes to heat up a 6oz of milk, it was only able to heat up 6 oz of milk, otherwise you will take forever trying to heat it up. The froth was so inconsistent and resulted in half a teaspoon of pure creamy froth. However, after plenty of research on other coffee machines, for example the Francis X's, they all said the crema frother attachment is a joke etc.. So I tried without the white frother attachment. You wouldn't believe it... the masses amounts of steam that blasted out of that pipe was absoluteley phenomenal. I tried 8 oz of milk straight from the fridge for a hot chocolate, and guess what? What came out of that tiny hole blasted my milk and created the turbulence in the milk, and really blasted the milk and only took less than a minute to heat!!! Oh my gosh... I am stunned beyond belief. Not only does taking the frother attachment off decrease the amount of time to heat up the milk to only 1 minute(!!!), but I seriously (no kidding folks) produced 5 heaped teaspoons of NANOfroth (The quality for latte art). I am not kidding, the froth is as good as the 4-group faema commercial machine at the cafe I go to. It may take 3 times longer to heat, and less amounts of that quality stuff, but my gosh.. for a $20,000 machine compared to this $60 machine? It's a no-brainer.
So that's it.. the secret of this machine is to remove the frothing attachment. I have no problems with the frother too.. it's not too badly placed especially if I can fit my 1 litre stainless steel frother jug ($15 - the next best investment) and only fill it 20% and still get that thing to the bottom of the jug.
The shot is wonderful too. I use pre-ground coffee that's superior to Illy and it produces very nice coffee shots. Not as good as the commercial machines, but nevertheless, very good. I find that using the steaming temperature is much better, together with hard tamping of the beans will make your shot much more thicker and creamier. You have to use quality beans too don't forget.
If I were to have written this review some time ago without being able to froth, I would still have given it a good rating, because you just cannot find good 15 bar, thermoblock pump machines for under$60. I was planning on purchasing the La Pavoni lever machine, but I see no reason now. This machine is absolutely fantastic. It has been very well used (3 cups a day for the last 2 years = 2000 cups) and there is no sign of anything going wrong whatsoever. This I have to say is THE best investment. You may have to purchase the additional accessories, but you can use them for any machines you purchase next anyway. These accessories don't deteriorate and don't need maintenance whatsoever.
I really don't mind if this machine cracks up to a million pieces tomorrow, because it has far surpassed the amount of money saved already. For a $60 machine, lasting 2000 cups of great coffee, without the slightest hiccup, I have to say the components must be of really high quality. My overall rating is based on the price of the darn awesome machine. If I were to pay any more than $200, I would have to lower them slightly.