very good beginners machine, but only for pulling single short espresso shots. Just the way they should be.
Positive Product Points
Basic & simple to operate. Produces descent espresso, with mild crema. Easy to clean and maintain. Compact, light & blends well onto the kitchen counter.
Negative Product Points
Very poor steam - usable only for heating milk, not frothing it. Coffe bucket too small - "single" bucket unusable, "double" bucket should be used for single shots. Small water resevoir - should be refilled every other use.
Overall this is a very good beginners machine. With this machine you will learn proper tamping, pre-heating, the importance of uniform grind and fresh coffee.
The machine is supplied with two buckets for the portafilter. The smaller one is actually too small. It will not hold enough ground coffee to produce even a single shot of espresso. Leave it in the box and forget about it. You should use the larger bucket to pull single shots – fill the bucket up to about 5mm or ¼” from the top, and then tamp firmly. In time you will get the hang of it – tamping too hard will choke the pump and force the portafilter out of it’s place; tamping too weak will just result in a watery, quick shot. Since the larger bucket should be used for single shots, it naturally means you don’t have the proper tools here to pull two shots simultaneously. That’s a one man’s machine for you.
I usually turn on the boiler, run the pump for a second or two until water comes out from the opening (which means the boiler is full) and then let it heat up for about 5-7 minutes. I then run a blank shot (with the bucket removed so it will remain dry) into the chosen espresso cup (I’m working on a collection here – about 20 different styles so far) until full. Then remove the handle, insert the bucket, fill with coffee, tamp (search the web for different tamping techniques) return the portafilter into place (tighten it as far as you can), pour the water from the cup (careful – the cup should now be warm) and place it under the handle. Turn on the pump and note the coffee pour – you should turn the pump off when the fluid coming out turns bright.
Regarding milk and frothing – after the first week I generally gave up on that – this machine cannot produce enough steam to froth milk properly. Buy yourself a manual frothing jug.
Cleaning wise – after every shot I remove the handle and turn on the pump for 5 seconds – this will wash away coffee residue from the brewing head. Of course you should also wash the tray and the portafilter every time. I actually took apart the brewing head screen last week for the first time in a year (and after about 150-200 shots) and it was absolutely spotless.
I bought this machine on a trip to Prague, paid full price - around 120$.