After looking at machines for weeks/months I saw this unit at my local Williams-Sonoma store and fell in love with the look of the machine, the wife even liked it, which is a big plus. This is a large and heavy espresso machine. The silver/grey paint is well applied and attractive; the stainless steel accents are pleasant but not overwhelming (in a good way). It fits under my kitchen cabinets but does not leave a lot of room from the cup warmer to the bottom of my cabinets. If you have low cabinets you may want to measure to make sure it will fit where you want to put it. Based on looks alone I love the machine, but there is much more to consider when purchasing an espresso machine, like will it make a decent shot of espresso.
Out of the box you get the espresso machine, removable drip trey, stainless steel drip tray cover, frothing pitcher, single and double shot filter, tamper, brush, portafilter and one of the best manuals I have ever seen, which is very important for a newbie. The tamper is plastic and very cheap, however when you register your warranty (2 years) with KitchenAid they will send you a stainless tamper. I have not gotten my new one yet so I cannot comment as to its quality, yet.
While unpacking and setting up the machine one of the first things I noticed, aside the weight of the machine, is the weight of the portafilter. It is constructed of brass and chrome plated. Do not drop it on your kitchen floor if you have tile, it will smash your tile. It takes a while to heat up due to the mass of the portafilter but retains the heat nicely.
After hooking it up and filling the water tank, I powered on the machine and filled the boilers as specified in the manual. After it heated, I ran two tanks of water through it in the first half hour to flush out any residue/oils left in the machine from manufacture. One thing I noticed was how quickly the boilers heat. KitchenAid puts heat up time at six min. after using it for a week; I give it about 15 so the portafilter is very hot to the touch.
Then comes the moment of truth. After pulling a blank double shot to make sure everything is at temperature, I dry out the filter basket, load it with Illy fine grind espresso, tamp to 30 pounds using my bath scale and hit the go button. Out comes the elixir of the gods, it was a nice reddish brown with a rolling crema in the glass which quickly settles to a cap. Unfortunately, the pull time was only about 15 seconds for two ounces, which is to fast given the 20-25 second optimal pull. Even with the quick extraction, it developed a decent crema and was not all that bad tasting considering this is the first shot of espresso I have ever pulled. So I wiped out the portafilter, reloaded, tamped to 40 pounds, still to quick. Unfortunately, I do not get my grinder until Christmas so I am using fine grind Illy for now. I need a finer grind, even going to a 70 pound tamp resulted in to fast an extraction. On the plus side, it appears to have a strong pump.
I did get some beans ground to near Turkish at a local shop, now I am to fine so the pull time is closer to 30-35 seconds using a very light tamp but the crema is thick and rich but a hint of bitterness is working in from the extended extract time. I cannot wait until I get my grinder (yes, it will be a burr) and I can properly adjust the grind and tamp. It does appear to prefer a finer grind. The extra fine espresso/Turkish grind wanted to choke the machine if I tamped to 30 pounds. It still flowed but very slowly and you could tell the pump was working.
On to the froth, first addition to the purchase is a larger frothing pot. After a quick purge of any water in the froth line, I whipped up a quick froth using 2%. As with anything new it took a few days to get it dialed in. My initial attempts were still good although I would like a straight frothing tip option in addition to the one it comes with. I quickly learned you do not have to crank the valve wide open. This thing develops loads of pressure and steam. I can work up a nice pourable froth and get my milk to temp in just a min. The froth arm has a ball joint so you can maneuver it to whatever position fits your needs. It also has a hot water dispenser on the frothing wand, and it is very hot water. The wife uses it to make hot chocolate. Now comes one of the nice things about this machine, duel boilers. I can brew and froth at the same time, which is very nice.
The unit has a three-way solenoid so no exploding grounds when you remove the portafilter after brewing. The water reservoir is large and easy to refill. It slides out either side, but not completely. That way you can access it to refill without removing. It also prevents you from sliding it to far out and accidentally dropping it out of the machine and on your counter. To remove it you must pull the machine out from the wall and pull it out the back, which can be a pain but I have not had the need to do so since I set it up a month ago. The unit does have small boilers, which will bleed off heat if you just turn on the espresso pump and let a quad shot run out. Under normal conditions, it recovers as fast as I can clear the portafilter, refill, tamp, attach and brew again. Larger boilers would be nice. It would be nice if they increase their capacity in the future.
So in the end I am very pleased with my purchase. It is not up to par with a Rancilio Silva or some other ‘prosumer’ models, but with a couple of design tweaks from KitchenAid I believe it could give the best of them a run for their money. I personally like the design of the KitchenAid over anything else on the market. For a newbie, I love it and plan on running it until it drops, which should be quite some time. At $600, I consider it a very good deal, but at the $899 from KitchenAid or $799 from Williams-Sonoma, it is over priced. With a good grinder and time, I believe you can pull exceptional shots and make cappuccinos with the best of them. With a two year, no questions asked exchange from KitchenAid and a virtual lifetime warranty from Williams-Sonoma it is hard to beat. Bottom line, I love it.
Good machine for the price I paid, awesome manual. Nice first machine.