Any event, the Gaggia Paros is a great machine and makes a very decent espresso witout busting your bank account.
Positive Product Points
The Paros incorporates a grinder, while the Tebe is the same machine without a grinder. Having the paros with a faily good grinder incoporated remimded me in a very big way how important a good grinder is in making an espresso. The machine is very good looking. Comment about the coffee grinder being messy has some merit but I find its not of great concern. My wife found out that by putting the portafilter sideways, it holds by itself! But be carefull of the hot boiler when you retreive the portafilter...
Negative Product Points
Very little to be negative about.
Having bought many espresso machines, getting the Paros with an integrated grinder did indeed remind me of the great importance of a good grinder. I was using a Braun grinder at home with a Gaggia Tebe. I tought the coffee was not as good than with my commercial one group Elektra at work and using a better quality grinder! Was I wrong!! The grinder makes a very big difference... Gaggia has a very good looking modern looking machine here and mostly made of metal. The machine makes a very good espresso thanks to the integrated grinder. I now finally realise how important a good grinder is and that its almost impossible to properly evaluate an espresso machine without using a quality grinder. My next step would be to re-evaluate my espresso machines with a Rancilio grinder or a Mazzer Mini (or something as good)....to see if the coffee made with the various machine is even better. But for a price quality ratio I find the Gaggia Paros hard to beat. Also, the integrated grinder IS ajustable and allows to play with various settings to get the espresso extraction just so. I also tried an inexpensive plastic housed Gaggia with a quality grinder at work (it has no name) and was quite surprised at the crema,colour and taste of the coffee from such a humble looking machine.
The Gaggia Paros, as most of the Gaggia machines is very well built. True, its does not have a brass boiler like the Rancilio, but the machine works very very well. The portafilter is quite heavy and does help temperature control for the extraction. The portafilter is better than most for the price range.
The buying experience was fine but stores do not generally stress the very importance of a quality grinder! Possibly the salesperson is afraid to scare the customer from getting a proper espresso machine. It would be very interesting to see reviews that state what kind or type of grinder was used since this affects the whole outcome of the coffee espressed and the review of the espresso machine!
Three Month Followup
Long term, I found that the integrated grinder of the Paros ultimatly could not ajust fine enough. The finest ajustment still let the espresso come out too fast. I did not try to open the machine to see if further ajustments could be made. I ultimatly sold it and went back to the Gaggia TEBE I still had. The TEBE is the same machine but without the grinder! I now use the Isomac grinder (sold in Montreal under a no-brand name for $225. + 15% tax at the "Faema" store). The Isomac grinder works very well and I was able to fine tune the grind I wanted. The Isomac grinder is better than the integrated one in the Paros. As for the Gaggia espresso machine itself, I would definatly buy another in that price range. All Gaggia machines seems to have the same parts inside, so choosing a model is a matter of taste. The other advantadge of having a separate grinder from the machine is that you can change either one without difficulty.
One Year Followup
Its now october 2004 ( and I found my password!) I still have the Tebe (the Paros was sold, it had an integrated grinder) and use an Isomac grinder. The mchine does not produce the same coffee taste as the commercial Elektra I have at work. But back to the Gaggia... Before I make a coffee, I simply flush out an amount of water, so that the new water is not over heated and the coffe made bitter. I also do not bothet with the steam wand; I simply use cold 1% milk that I froth in a jar with a plunger - then put the milk in the microwave for 60 seconds (a 700 watt micro wave I use). The result is that I always have perfect frothed milk ( must use 1%) for the coffee... Its not a commercial machine, but a very good machine for the price and convenience. The company is said to be now owned by Seico....I fear the rush to plastic now...