Good machine with it's quirks but overall quite pleasant to use and look at.
Positive Product Points
Architecturally Lovely Solid & well constructed Hot water feature Very good espresso
Negative Product Points
Can't regulate the temperature Water reservoir difficult to get to b/c the power cord is in the way Steam wand a bit too short Tapered filter basket
I have had this machine for one year and it is about to go in for service. About 2 months ago I started noticing that my shots were sometimes sour - this has continued and increased in frequency. I had been using Illy pre-ground, so I went out and bought a Rocky grinder...still sour. I changed beans a couple times from Vivace to Cafe Lusso (much nicer) but still often sour. Eventually I realized that the temp regulator was going bad b/c if I pre-heated the steamer for about 20 seconds and then immediately pulled the shot, it was excellent. So, F!F! is repairing it for free even though I am outside my offical wanrranty period. Very good customer service. I don't consider this a major defect in the machine product wide. Likely just a localized mechanical problem and so long as F!F! is going to fix it i've got no problem.
Overall I am very pleased w/ the machine. Much better espresso than I can get anywhere other than Cafe Lusso in Redmond.
My general operating procedure is as follows: preheat for 20 min Pull blank shot Grind w/ the Rocky at about 9/10 Tamp once at about 10lbs to get grounds level, tap, tamp again at 40-50lbs and twist while releasing pressure. Preheat steamer for 15 seconds Pull shot for 25-30 seconds. Steam milk by surfing the stupid little hole, not the bottom of the wand. Pour and enjoy.
I don't like that the filter basket is tapered...i'm convinced that this reduces tamping effectiveness...i'm currently trying to locate a straight stided basket that will work in my X5.
I find that the grouphead is a little difficult to clean.
It does drip which is annoying but just having a couple towels nearby is the solution.
The parts are solid and stable.
The clock is fine and handy for timing the shots.
I wish they would relocate the power cord to be out of the way of the water reservoir.
I am, overall, pleased with the machine. It gets 2 doubles pulled every morning, so it's seen decent use over the last year.
FOLLOWUP 11/3/04 I recieved the F!F! back from the repair place (Proactive Repair) and it turns out I was right - the coffee was sour b/c the temp regulator was bad. The replaced it along w/ a couple seals and sent it back w/in 3 weeks (I used the moka pot in the interim). The F!F! again makes a lovely espresso and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm currently using Cafe Lusso (Redmond, WA) espresso blend - the best i've found anywhere. A note of caution for X5 users - though the manual doesn't mention it, after steaming you are supposed to immediately run a blank shot or two through the grouphead to refill the boiler. You'll know you've run enough when the steam stops pouring out of the grouphead. The reasoning is that when you steam you superheat that boiler and after the boiler is pretty much empty. If you just turn off the machine or even leave it on, you've got a superheated boiler w/ no water to cool it off and it will eventually fail. That's what happened to mine. So F!F! recommends this fix.
Purchased through Illy. Very good experience. I would recommend it to anyone.