The reason I chose my machine is that it has all the same components as the more expensive Gaggias, some of the main features I like:
-huge wattage- this translates into more steam power and quicker recovery. -commercial style portafilter, it is heavy chrome and brass. This provides better control of the extraction process and holds heat better. -I like how it looks. -large heavy duty buttons that are easy to use.
Negative Product Points
Some of the features that I don't like about my machine
- The silver is a paint that can be scuffed pretty easily, in fact it came from the factory scuffed, WholeLatteLove.com were pretty fair and knocked off 50.00 from the price. So I cannot complain to much -it has a smallish water tank, we have to fill it up every other day. not a big deal since you normally have a steam pitcher handy and you are not to far from water. (I would recommend using filtered water if you have it, if not tap is fine) -pannello steam wand- these are the plastic ends on the steam wands, they produce pretty fail safe foam. However the texture is more like dish soap rather than the fine microfoam you want. I found a workaround for this is that you just slide the o-ring down a notch and it works fine. Some have swapped out seam wands from a rancilio silvia. I would not worry to much about it -Smallish drip tray-you just have to be careful not to overfill it. Some of the reviews were pretty hard on this machine for that reason. It is workable and for the price I choose to live with it.
I have grown to really like my machine. When I got it I was able to make some pretty great espresso right out of the box. I did have a couple of problems with my machine when I bought it.
There were scratches on the top of the machine. They were pretty small. I talked with WholeLatteLove and they were really nice. They knocked off 50.00 from the 199.00 regular price. I can live with the scratches for $50. I really like the way the silver looks however it is just paint. It is a totally workable surface however you will need to be careful with it.
My steam knob melted. I spoke with WholeLatteLove and they said that it was a problem that Gaggia is aware of and would send me out a new one that was redesigned to not melt. They said their current stock had the same problem but would be getting more soon with the updated knob. WholeLatteLove was really nice and gave suggestions for using the machine without the knob. I ended up using a wrench to turn the steam knob. It was really obnoxious and I kept burning myself. It took over 3 months to get a new knob not a customer service shining moment. They also charged me for shipping. Given my other experiences with WholeLatteLove I would buy from them again but I was pretty frustrated. WholeLatteLove offered to return my machine but I chose not to because I got a pretty good deal. So I guess it worked out.
The other thing is the steam wand. Right out of the box you can make foam using the steam wand but the foam it creates is more like dish soap. I did some research and was thinking of swapping out the steam wand but I found a trick listed on Click Here (www.home-barista.com) forums and just move the o-ring down a notch. It made a huge difference and works great. You may want to try that out before tearing into your machine and replacing the steam wand.
When I started I had 2 lb of Lavazza in Blu that WholeLatteLove sent with the machine. It worked great. I started out with buying Starbucks coffee and found it was really old and nasty. I would pull the shot and would get no crema. It was bitter and gross. I tried Peet's and they were much better. Then I found Stumptown Coffee. That is what I use for my daily coffee. I live on the westside of town and Stumptown stores are more on the eastside of town. So I was very lucky to find a local specialty grocery store that sells it bulk really inexpensively. Stumptown makes some truly beautifully delicious coffee.
There have been some reports of lack of steam. I have not seen this to be much of a problem. I did run into some issues but ran some urnex through it and they went away.
I have been using my machine for some time how, had a great experience and really happy with it.