Solidly built, performs well when paired with quality fresh beans and appropriate grind. Slow on the steaming, but can produce with patience. Pick one up used and it's worth a try as an entry-level machine.
Positive Product Points
- With the right beans and grind, this machine made tasty espresso. Heck, I think it even did okay with some mediocre grinds. It was fairly forgiving. - As a beginner, who initially learned by trial and error, this machine took quite a beating for 5 years or so before eventually becoming too leaky to use (leaked from the base somewhere). I place the fault on user error, however, because I had no idea how to properly maintain the machine, but it survived quite some time with 2-5 espressos per day. - Unique and interesting design. I give this company credit for coming up with a unique look. It's a bit angular, but I like it. That is a matter of taste, however, I suppose. - Machine is fairly heavy with brass boiler, features a lot of metal, and is solidly built, for the most part. I like the metal steam wand. Some of the less expensive machines have the plastic. - I was able to froth good quality foam with the steam wand and found it functional and easy to use. - All in all, considering my lack of experience, this machine performed admirably.
Negative Product Points
- The clock started falling out fairly soon. It's cheap and plastic and wouldn't remain in. Bad design. Looks and feels cheap. - If you read the specs, you'll see no 3-way solenoid. - The portafilter has a little tab in the end of it that also fell out. It didn't affect the function, but did ruin the look. It had that silly logo of the girl sticking out her tongue. Eh, maybe it was better having fallen out. - I generally had to pause and wait for the boiler to bring the temperature back up when steaming (so you had to wait from brewing temp. to get to steaming temp., steam some, and then have to pause mid-steam and wait for it to reheat again. Unless you're making very dry drinks, you'd have to pause and wait at least once to steam all of your milk (I would make 2 caps generally). - The water tank was challenging to get in and out at first, but eventually became easier with practice. Still, you have to squeeze the hose past the tank a bit and it's an awkward design. Also, the hose was challenging to clean. - For the MSRP price of $600 at the time (as I remember), this was overpriced for what it was, I think.
I know - old machine, new review... I had this machine for 5 years and then gave it away when it started leaking too much. Keep in mind, it was the only espresso machine I used, so my frame of reference is limited.
This machine is solid and reliable when it comes to the important components, but did lose some of it's aesthetic appeal with the clock always falling out and the portafilter handle stopper popping off. With some practice, I was able to produce decent espresso. Not comparable to a more refined espresso shop, but certainly a big step above the more common coffee stores around. I found a huge difference in the quality when I switched from Peet's coffee beans to Blue Bottle, Ristretto, or Water Avenue Coffee. The crema produced with those beans really improved. The machine's simplicity and design are a plus, and the buttons and lights all worked through the life of the machine. I can't speak to the temperature consistency or any of that, though.
These days, I see these on eBay in the $250-400 range. I almost bought another one in black on eBay for $250, but decided to keep looking and get a different kind of machine (still thinking). I definitely wouldn't pay more than $300 for one, but maybe it's just because I want something new. The machine did take a beating from an inexperienced user and kept going. I made all kinds of user errors such as running the pump with no water in the tank, not refilling the boiler after steaming, etc. I must have heated the boiler when it was empty quite a few times as well (I know, I know - it's sad - but I've learned since then!). So even though it eventually started leaking, I'll have to take credit (or should I call it blame?) for that!
Bought refurbished from a random seller on eBay. A good experience.