Great espresso if you can figure out and live with the simple ideosyncracies, doesn't meet quality for price.
Positive Product Points
Makes great espresso, easy to use, easy to live with.
Negative Product Points
Very sensitive to grind, hard to use (useless?) steamer wand, too light weight.
I love this machine!!!
Of course almost anything would be an improvement over the dead Krups I had previously (see comments elsewhere).
I purchased this machine from Whole Latte Love in September 2003 as a second/return and it looks and works flawlessly. From reading the reviews on this site for the Gaggia Baby it seems that Gaggia has made some consistent upgrades to the product to meet consumers needs. For instance, there is now a steam control knob and the drip tray is reasonably easy to remove.
Apparently this is a newer generation of the machine than most of the reviews I've read here already. I only hope it lives up to the expectations compared to it's older Gaggia Baby brothers as this is the reason I purchased it!
Ahh but for the things that only Italians could do...
That steam control knob is nice, but it's placed ackwardly on the top of the machine and rotates opposite to what one would expect (counterclockwise) to increase steam pressure.
The lighting on the machine is also opposite of what one would expect - for instance, while the heater is warming the water there is a light that turns on, my American brain seems to think the opposite should be true - that it should act as a "ready" light. In other words I would expect the heater lamp to be off while the water is heating and for it to turn "on" when the machine is ready to brew.
I also have a problem with the steam nozzle. Specifically it's not far enough off of the countertop to fit a 20 OZ steamer pitcher with 16 OZ of milk in it without spilling some onto your counter. It *does* rotate but it would seem to me that (especially for their MSRP) they would or could use a ball-jointed steam nozzle like even quite a few of the entry level (dare I say cheap) espresso makers. Fortunately my previous el-cheapo espresso machines steamer gave up the ghost years ago and I'm already in the habit of microwaving my milk and frothing it in a small coffee press.
The only other negative I have for the product is the cheap feeling buttons. Specifically they don't really feel reassuring when you press them and there is no feedback in their action so you don't really know if the button you pressed actually got pressed until you let go.
Cheap feeling buttons aside (you only press one or two a day and quickly get used to looking for lights to make sure everythings running right) the build quality of the machine is the highest one could expect from injection molded plastic. All of the metal bits are hell-for-stout, cast and or machined where appropriate and feel good where appropriate. You could knock out a bear with the Porta Filter
I would also like to see it weigh a little more because you to need to hold onto the machine with one hand as you seat the porta filter with the other, otherwise the entire machine rotates while you try to seat the PF. Others mentioned feeling the machine tweak while they seat the PF, but I haven't had that problem. To the contrary actually, I've found the all plastic housing to be remarkably resilent and creack/squeak free.
Pulling a good shot can be a challenge, especially if you're like me and rely on store bought beans through store grinders. I've had one good pound of coffee go through this machine and come out as good espresso. All the others have been hit or miss - too fine and the mahcine takes minutes to pull a single shot, to coarse and you have a watery brown mess in 10 seconds or less. Like amateur golfers who occasionally make a 300 yard drive down the middle of the fairway, that one good pound I had is what keeps me coming back every morning yearning for yet again that perfect espress0. Though technically in my case it doesn't matter too much as my espresso winds up mixed with milk and sugar in a latte.
As mentioned I bought the machine from Whole Latte Love in September as an eBay auction. The machine was a buyers remorse return (and I may understand why when compared to prior reviews). I recieved it with nary a scratch and only the slightest of dings on the steak drip tray cover.
The level of customer service I recieved over the phone and via email was surprising to say the least especialy for a discount eBay sale with little (or no) profit margin. I will definitely be doing business with WLL in the future!