Possibly the best value for money domestic machine on the market.
Positive Product Points
Side by side with a decent grinder the machine pulls shots equivalent and better to most of what I am served in Melbourne's cafes (which are fairly well regarded). It fills from the top and the side. You can see the water level easily. Styling is excellent. 58mm brass commercial quality portfilter. From cold start to drinking excellent espresso shot in less than 2 mins. Exceptional.
Negative Product Points
Drip tray is very shallow. Not quite enough clearance to place a standard latte glass under the portafilter without removing the drip tray. Steam wand could be an inch longer. Steam volume and quality is... domestic. Usually takes a couple of goes to steam milk for 2 people. Steam, allow to come back to pressure, finish steaming.
The Gaggia Carezza is probably becoming quite well known for it's exceptional value for money. It arrives very well packaged, the instructions are easy enough to follow for set up and first run. The finish is plastic but does a fair job of fitting into the look of our stainless/metallic looking kitchen finishes.
I wanted to find the best machine under the AUD$300 mark that I could. Having been involved in a couple of publications involving coffee I have attracted an undeserved perception as an expert. Not an expert. However from a sense of duty, I spent a fair time reading everything I could find and once you figure out who knows what online, the well written critics are giving this a fair leg up. I was not disappointed.
After 6 months of use 4-6 shots daily, the machine stills looks brand new but is beginning to leak a little little water into the espresso if I turbo-pack it. Thumping a good fine grind gets a great result but no doubt puts incremental wear and tear into the pump and seals. So I probably just need to replace the seals - but if that's not it then it's aging quicker than you'd hope...
So many of the machines around this price are so bad it's amazing. This has a small boiler. not thermoblock and that's essential to me. The Gaggia system for the boiler means you can't boil it dry and it heats up so fast it's great. You can be almost running late and still have time for a quick shot...
The first shot can be dodgy. If I'm in a hurry I'll drink it and be happy. If I have time to run water through the PF and let it re-heat it seems to fare better. When it's totally fired up and the grind is just right (and the Supreme is <4 days since roasting?) it just seeps the sweetest, chocolately, caramel foam. Even people who won't drink espresso suck on that and the surprise is priceless! "Wow, that tastes alright. Can I have a little sugar?" (and that is progress, trust me).
If you don't want to spend a fortune and you're prepared to play around a bit this will do you proud. I should add I could never get the best out of it until I got the Rocky Rancilio doserless grinder. Get a grinder. So I spent AUD $420 on the grinder but saved a bit getting this one off eBay new. Everyone will tell you that a grinder makes all the difference. They're so right.
Just fine - online auctioneer - dealsdirect.com.au - first machine was DOA. They send me a return docket and paid for the return shipping and re-shipping and kept me informed all the way through. Perfect in an unfortunate situation.