Wasn't really planning to buy one of these--was thinking of a Saeco Vienna instead, but saw this for sale on Overstock.com for $254 . . .
This appears to be a Saeco Vienna in Krups clothing (with a small cupwarmer).
It's very large. This is not for the small of kitchen. Of course, you don't have to keep it in the kitchen. You don't need a sink nearby, though that would be convenient for dumping out the drip tray and cleaning the frother gadget and rinsing the brew mechanism occasionally.
It's decent looking. It comes in two colors: gray with blue plastic bean hopper and water tank, and black with smoked plastic bean hopper and water tank. I've seen both in person, and I think the black one is more attractive.
The water tank has a recess for your hand to make it easier to lift out of the machine.
The cup warmer and the drip tray are supposed to look like metal. The drip tray is fairly convincing. It has an indicator so you can tell when it's full.
The box says that the bean hopper and the water tank are 'hermetically sealed.' No way! The lids fit pretty well, but they're not airtight.
The first cup (at the default setting) tasted thin to me, though it had lots of crema. I then spent about 3/4 of a pound adjusting the grinder to my liking. I'm glad I did this while I was young--my heart nearly stopped for all the espresso I drank.
The instructions say to only adjust the grinder while it is grinding--I don't know why. Wait at least three cups after changing the grinder setting before you decide whether or not your new setting is okay. You can choke the machine with too fine of a grind. I ended up with a grinder setting of 5 (on a scale of 1-18, where 1 is finest and 18 is coarsest). The default setting is 8. Settings of 1 and 2 choked the machine with the beans I used (and 3, too, if I remember right).
Makes tasty 'cafe crema' when you dial the shot volume control to its maximum. Wasn't especially bitter, which surprised me.
This machine is less consistent than I would like. The grinder runs for varying amounts of time before every shot. I find that the strength and the shot volume (to a lesser degree) varies from shot to shot.
Shots are good--not great, not godlike. Crema is abundant. I'm used to a thicker cup of espresso than this machine delivers. Adjusting the grinder helped, and a double-shot is always possible with two presses of the brew button . . .
Shot temperature is fine, assuming you preheat your cups, which you can easily do with the steam wand. Alternatively, you can dump the first cup, which is what I do.
I don't drink cappas or lattes, so I hardly ever steam milk, but I did so for this review. One can probably steam until the water tank is empty--the pump makes a 'pup' sound every so often to replenish the water in the thermoblock or boiler or whatever this thing has. It comes with Krups's 'Perfect Froth' attachment, which works well for the frothing-impaired.
The return from steaming to espresso production is relatively rapid, but strange. The pump runs automatically, and you're expected to hold open the steam valve until the pressure drops. The strange part was that the pump started straining, I believe, before I reached for the steam valve . . . what would have happened had I not opened it? Going from espresso to steam takes longer than the other way around.
You can dispense all the hot water you want through the steam wand. This is useful for making americanos or tea, though I would probably boil water in the conventional way for tea instead of turning the machine on and waiting for it to warm up.
The machine reeks of coffee after a while. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where the machine lives in your house. I had it in my bedroom for a while (no grounded outlets elsewhere), and it got to be too much. In the kitchen, I'm sure it would be fine.
My first machine was defective--it overheated, or something, after being on for a while, and the grinder stopped working. It would start working again after being off for several hours. Sent it to Krups for repair. They sent a new machine back to me in six weeks, and it seems fine.
I'm not sure how I feel about low-end superautos. On the one hand, the espresso is decent and quick and not messy. On the other hand, I can get a cup of espresso that's as good, or nearly as good, from a conventional pump machine with high-quality, recently-manufactured espresso pods. You can, obviously, do better with a conventional pump machine and freshly-ground coffee.
The no-mess thing is something of an illusion. It's still messy--the mess is just confined to the inside of the thing. You still have unwanted liquid, which gathers in the drip tray. You still have used grounds, which collect in the dump box. You're paying for the privilege of dealing with it once a week instead of every time you pull a shot, that's all.