Worthwhile for those after a quiet, elegant machine requiring a touch of creativity.
Positive Product Points
The machine has an elegant look about it, is a quiet operator, challenge to use (especially for a newbie). No need to wait between pulling a shot and steaming. Easy to clean.
Negative Product Points
Ther lightweight base results in a lack of stability which is a pity because a fair bit of energy is required when pulling a shot. The plastic tamper included with the machine is a throw away item.
I had been toying with the idea of buying an espresso machine for about 6 months. A friend of mine told me that there were a number of new and refurbished Gaggia machines selling on ebay. I immediately liked the look of the Gaggia Factory. I wanted a machine that looked good and would last. The idea of a manual machine was appealing. I also read that one of the negative points was the heat factor and that it would suit a person who just wanted a cup or two of espresso in the morning and then turn it off rather than lingering for a long time. That suited me fine.
Researching this machine proved difficult. Greg Sherwin's review on this website was a useful start. I also found a few reviews on the "Whole Latte Love" website. But apart from that it was difficult to find much information about this machine. Given the apparrent similarity to the La Pavoni lever machines I spent some time reading the relevant reviews (there are quite a few on this site). It does seem in fact to be almost a copy of the La Pavoni Professional.
I bought the machine for 660.00 Australian dollars (about 430.00 US) and that seemed like a bargain compared to the recommended retail price which was about double.
After reading many reviews on the La Pavoni I pretty much new what to expect but it has still been a steep learning curve.
The machine looks very elegant and does not take up much space. I like the look of polished crome as opposed to the many machines which seem to have an abundance of plastic. The operation itself is quite simple but perfecting pulling a shot takes a bit of practice. The machine heats up very quickly and steaming can be done immediately after pulling a shot. No need to wait. I like the fact that there is no noise.
The only realy negative aspect of the machine as far as I am concerned it the lack of weight in the base which means that it moves around a bit when pulling a shot. Unfortunately as with the La Pavoni you get a useless plastic tamper with the machine. One end is too big and the other too small. Can someone explain why they bother putting it in?
During my first week with this machine I did not have a grinder and therefor bought ground coffee from a specialty shop. I could not get a crema. I would tamp hard and insert the portafiler and lift the lever. Coffee would imediately drip rapidly from the portafiler and there was little resisitance when pulling the lever back down. I asked the shop to grind finer but this made little if any difference.
I thought that maybe tamping was the problem. The plastic tamper was only useable at the smaller end but it was impossible to get even pressure and an even result. After searching the discussion board on this site I found that there was a person advertising coffee tampers in the Reg Barber style in my home city. I had one made to fit the small baskets (52 mm). Tamping became much easier and I could achieve a nice polished surface). I tamped till my face went red (at least 30+ pounds of pressure) but still no crema (even though there were a couple of occassions when I choked the machine and couldn't depress the lever).
At about the time my grinder arrived (Iberital Burr Grinder) I was again rescued by a post on this website from someone with the same machine and same problem. Replies to that post insisted that the machine is extremely grind sensitive. This machine really does need a fine grind, perhaps finer that other machines. Once I got the grind right it was just a matter of finding the right balance of grind and tamp to pull a good shot with adequate crema.
I am still experimenting but it appears that you need to create a fair bit of resistance to get good results from this machine. It is more a matter of feel than following a manual or instructions. This will not appeal to everyone. How it compares to other machines, I am not in a position to judge as this is my first. So far I am happy with the results but hope to further improve.
I doubt whether I would have paid the full recommended retail price which seems a bit steep. There was a problem with the boiler cap but the machine was new and under warrantee and the dealer replaced it quickly and at no cost to me.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
After a steep initial learning curve I got the hang of using this machine. It is really crucial to get the grind right which is in my view finer than required for other domestic machines. The machine does get very hot but that is no problem for me as I tend to make one or two coffees and then turn it off. The steaming ability is surprisingly good and has the advantage over other domestic machines in that there is no waiting time between extraction and steaming. However it is not ideal for guests due to the overheating and time factors. Overall I am very happy with the purchase although at full retail price (approx $1,000.00) I would definitely go the extra yards and buy a heat x-change machine. The machine has less moving parts and electronics compared to the standard domestic machine and no doubt this contributes to its reliability. It is small and leaves plenty of spare bench space for a good grinder.