I might still lust after the GS3 but this machine puts me way closer to espresso nirvana at < half the cost.
Positive Product Points
Built in Automagic 7 day , twice a day programmable on off timer so your machine is ready to go way before you are!!! One program for the morning and one for coming home. Extremely easy to plumb in, all the fittings are included . Allows for 4 programmable profiles for different coffees or style. I really like the brushed Stainless steel on the front as it wont show " imperfections " from cleaning or channelled shots . Almost everything is programmable for pulling your shot : Programmable passive pre-infusion Adjustable and programmable hot water spigot , Two 53 mm portafilters: a single and a double Boiler manometer Nice quiet Rotary pump Volumetric dosing, adjustable through the touchpad Additional manual semi-automatic button for when you just want to wing it PID controlled adjustable to one degree Fahrenheit that displays always on the screen. Group & steam temperature adjustable through the touch pad Shot counter and timer, very cool, No more magnetic shot clock stuck on the machine Memory card reader and writer included, built in port on front of machine to upgrade your bios with new functions. ( upgrade your Espresso machine bios , how geeky cool is that ??) 5 ft braided SS water line with 3/8" John Guest fitting for dead easy install Functions in either 15 amp or 20 amp, changeable through touchpad
Negative Product Points
Steam Arm is just too short ! It doesn't extend far enough away from the machine to easily steam a large pitcher of milk without bumping it into the drip tray and making it hard to get the angle you want to steam the milk. Can't really see the manometer it's hidden up too high under the front panel ( I understand this has been rectified in latest build ) Smooth steam knob can be slippery and that can make it hard to turn. Quite a lot of play in the steam knob . I really liked the lever for steam. Did I mention steam arm too short ?
Programming my shot is was easy and precise. I wasted less time and coffee setting up this machine than my Expobar and Mini vivaldi. Navigating the onscreen menu was a bit odd at first but playing around with all the options it wasn't as hard as programming my vcr ( you remember those don't you??) All other variables into consideration I get a more consistent shot , greata crema and nice dense micro foam for a latte that even gets Art on it now !. This machine will steam forever and is very powerful that way. Making micro foam is fast and while I only pull one shot a day for me, everyone else in the house will make chai lattes and hot chocolate all day with nice dense foam that looks like whipped cream. I have mine on a 20A outlet and setup for 20A so it will heats up everything at the same time. HIghly recommended.
Plumbing it in was very easy with all the supplied bits. Even if i had to run it into the basement or to the sink , there was more than enough tubing and John Guest fittings are idiot proof, just cut and push on. If you have an icemaker fridge, you can just plumb it off of that. ( I don't use the icemaker so no worries about line pressure)
I like the wands that it came with too, nice round teardrop rubber grip and chrome handles make it easy to hold and fit well in the hands and look stylish. The baskets that come with are of good quality. I wish the VST baskets came in 53mm size but Chris does sell the La Spaz vs of these. I purchased the triple vs of these "competition" baskets. The triple basket always releases the puck no matter how long i leave it in there due to the highly polished inside. I'm not willing to say thay made my shot better but I did need a triple for the bottomless PF I also purchased from Chris'.
The La Spaz bottomless PF sports a smooth polished bottom lip and chromed inside with the same nice rounded and rubber gripped and chrome handle, Very stylish and professional . I also purchased the laser cut shower screens which helped compensate for my lousy distribution too early in the morning. I noticed increased crema and feathering up of the shot. Looks like a Guinness just poured. I don't get as much channeling with these screens which is easy to see with naked PF. I also see these are now standard issue with the machine, a nice touch from Chris' .
There has been one update to the bios that I have installed. I am not too sure how often updates will come out but I look forward to increased functionality with new updates. Honestly I love being able to say "I just upgraded the bios on my espresso machine " to my geek friends .
I have had this machine for 6 mo. already and I really really love it. I will purchase the longer steam arm that I wish came with it. Soon :-).
Chris' Coffee is the absolute gold standard in customer service when it comes to buying and maintaining your Espresso machines . Helpful, knowledgeable and a pleasure to deal with for repair or buying, Chris has always had time to talk and answer any questions I had. Emails and phone calls were always answered promptly and courteously. I wouldn't dream of buying my machines from anyone else ;-).