Ulka pump, very compact size, 58mm portafilter with regular baskets (no crema enhancer), no vibration during use, LOW COST
Negative Product Points
Very cheap look and finish, aluminum portafilter, water tank is pretty small if you're making more than a couple back to back shots.
I found this machine at goodwill for $5.00 when I was looking for a popper to use for roasting. I already had a machine, but I had been thinking about buying another machine to instrument and use to learn more about what makes good espresso. This fit the bill and honestly, who can pass up a $5 pump machine? I think it must have been a display model in a store because it had never been used before and it was missing the portafilter, drip tray, and some other parts. $36 later and I had replacement portafilters (1 will be modified to be bottomless), baskets and a drip tray from Hamilton Beach.
I haven't had much of a chance to modify the machine so far, but I did add a thermocouple on the thermoblock so that I can have a little control over brew temperature. The one downside from the factory is that the stock thermal switches allow for a huge amount of temperature variation in the thermoblock... about a 50 or 60F range when in "brew" mode. I manually use the steam button in order to bump up the temperature to an appropriate value when I am brewing - this works well for me but it would be shooting in the dark if I wasn't using the thermocouple to monitor temperature.
As it comes from the factory, this is an amazing value, especially when it can be bought online from Walmart for about $55. It operates very well and is a great entry-level machine. I can say for sure that it outperforms my old Krups xp4000, which is a more expensive entry level machine. One big difference between the two is that the old Krups always vibrated so much during brewing that I would have to hold my cup in place - this is not the case with the Hamilton Beach.
I don't anticipate that this will be the most durable machine, but at least it has an Ulka pump. The plastic-y construction looks pretty cheap but I like the fact that it is very compact on my counter. I am looking forward to adding some more TCs, a pressure gauge, and maybe a flow meter, to build my understanding of what makes a good shot. Perhaps I will have more to add on a follow-up review.
Uh, it was a Goodwill. Not much to say about that.