If you're a beginner, try this machine before diving into a more expensive model.
Positive Product Points
This machine is an excellent buy at $30.00 (factory refurbished). It has a stainless steel boiler as opposed to a thermoblock. After getting the proper tamp, my espresso compares well with Starbucks.
Negative Product Points
The manual says use a light tamp for some reason. I did, and had a double shot pour out in 6 seconds! This is a factory refurb and the housing was cracked. For the price, I don't care, as long as it works.
I think this is a well-made product except for the housing. The plastic housing is a little thin. It has an aluminum drip tray grid and removable plastic drip tray. The reservoir is removable and disappears neatly into the housing, when in place for brewing. Ready lights make it easy to use and the switches have a good feel to them. I had to use two scoops of coffee in the one scoop filter basket and a 50 pound tamp to get a 20 second extraction time for 2.5 ounces (it sounds like I know what I'm talking about!). I got about 2mm of crema. There is no crema enhancer, so you know this is the real thing, not false crema.
The portafilter appears to be aluminum, so if you are concerned about the dangers of aluminum (causes Alzheimer's) then this may not be the machine for you. At least the boiler is stainless steel, and since the water is only in the portafilter for 20-25 seconds, I'm thinking that is no big deal. I am by no means an expert on this subject though.
The steam nozzle swivels and after a few seconds of water (the manual says this is normal) I made a creamy froth on my first try. I then noticed the "perfect froth attachment" was clogged, so was of no use. After a fight, I finally got the attachment off. I could unclog it, I suppose, and use it, but this seems like too much trouble. I'll just leave it off.
After borrowing a steam powered Krups and reading up on machines, I decided a pump system is the only way to go. Machines at this price are far and few between. I've been searching the Internet for weeks now and haven't found any. The more I read about machines in my price range ($100.00), the more discouraged I got because the experts don't rank them very highly. I must say though, that as a beginner espresso drinker/maker, I am very satisfied with the quality of the product produced by this machine. Had I known this before, I would pay have paid $100 for this machine, although I am much happier I waited and "stole" it for $30 (no buyer's remorse).
Three Month Followup
I ended up returning my unit to Krups for repair of the cracked housing and dripping from the housing near the brew head. After five weeks, I received what appeared to be a new unit that works better (no drips). I asked to be reimbursed for shipping as it was still under the three month warranty (only three months because it was a factory refubished machine). They said send in your receipt for shipping. It's been about two weeks since I got the unit back and I haven't seen a check for the shipping yet.
My only real complaint with this machine is the low brew temperature. Turning on the steam for 50 seconds before brewing makes for a hotter drink, but I can't say it's really any better. So I just brew normally, then heat it in the microwave for a bit.
All in all, I'd buy it again. The real test will be durability.