Good performance, easy clean-up, and priced far more sensibly than Jura and Saeco.
Positive Product Points
1-step cappucino easy clean up simple controls
Negative Product Points
milk pitcher a little tricky to remove. A little loud until you get used to it.
I spent way too much time on the web deciding whether or not this purchase made sense, and if so which model 'super automatic' met our family's needs. 1-step cappucino and the ability to make an Americano were primary requirements; I'm not enough of a purist to care if the froth is ideal, I just know if it isn't easy it wouldn't be used. List price from various manufacturers seemed excessive. I ruled out the Jura Capresso line when they informed me they would not honor warranty on e-bay purchases; I was also suspect of the cleaning procedure. The new Saeco Primea looked good but was not discounted anywhere. So that left Delonghi which had many eBay sellers. The EAM4500 (Rialto) is a discontinued model, replaced by the ESAM4500 which has stainless internals. The labeling on the box suggests this might have been manufactured for Starbucks. The large number on eBay suggests something must have changed and a large number of surplus units became available. Delonghi support was very helpful answering mulitple emails, so I decided it was worth taking a chance. So far, so good.
We've had no problem with any sort of bean, some have been dark roast but not the oiliest. I'm basically trying each Trader Joe variety in turn. SantaFe Pinon cofee mixed with a dark roast makes a nice drink. Initial set-up using the DVD was trivial. Programming is intuitive -- hold down button to enable programming mode, press what you want, press again to stop and the setting is memorized. One step cappucino feature is really nice. Container holds more milk than can be used for multiple refills of the machine. Three settings on container for steam, frothed nonfat, and frothed whole milk. Push button cleans mechanism when done. Trick is removing container to put back into the fridge; it's a pressure fit that goes in firmly, but removal requires a steady pull with one hand while holding machine in place with the other. If you don't pay attention it can release suddenly and possibly spill milk.
Overall cleanup is much easier than I expected. Dumping pucks and rinsing tray takes 10 seconds; rinsing the 'brew group' is equally simple, but you need to turn off machine first. A rinse button on the control panel can be used between cups to preheat the mechanism if it's been left on but not made coffee for a while (it rinses itself when you first turn it on). The default extra hot setting make a good hot cup, even if you forget to prewarm the cup. The clearance on this machine is 11cm (4+ inches), which is a little less than Saeco, but that's not proved a problem.
It has three strength settings - strong (default), regular, mild. Regular allows for a great Americano if you want something more like drip coffee. It's also trivial to do something like draw a cappucino and then just press the 1-shot button to make it a bit larger or stronger. You can froth automatically for a cappucino or manually to add as much as you want to any other setting.
Obviously, longevity is to be determined. It's all plastic, so it can't be handled roughly. But the overall design is much better that I had realized from online info.
'best offer' ebay purchase. arrived in 2 days (seller was near us).
Three Month Followup
Still extermely happy. Only 'flaw' is difficulty getting milk container on/off. Solution: simply moisten the connector; the discharge water from turning on the unit works fine. The container wil then slip on easily. We've been using various medium dark roasts from Trader Joes - Ethiopian Fair Trade is nice. Tried a dark roast a couple of times. Did not clog, but didn't think the taste was all that great. Mostly do 'regular strength cappuccino' and 'strong' Americano's. Control is trivial and easy for visitors to learn. Plastic has so far shown to be sturdy and very easy to clean. We also discovered it's no big deal to turn it on and off for a single afternoon shot. Definitely a lot of 'play value' and a satisfying cup.
One Year Followup
Hard to believe it's been a year... use it daily for 2-3 Americano's with frothed milk. Only problem was replacing an O-ring on the spigot where the milk frother attaches. I learned too late to make sure either the O-ring or the milk container needs to be wet to lubricate so that it slides on easily. Now SOP is to dip my finger into the espresso cup that holds the start-up rinse and wipe the spigot, then slide on the milk. I've descaled twice -- a trivial operation. I did purshase the magic cleaner online rather than use white vinegar. In the grand scheme of things, this is an expensive toy for the self-indulgent, but I am happy with the value and performance. It's coming on our summer vacation this year ;-)