What I thought might be an extravagance is now an everyday part of my life. How did I ever live without an expresso maker?
Positive Product Points
Compact, attractive, easy-to-use, makes excellent espresso and superb lattes quite easily -- better tasting than Starbucks, at any rate. Heats up quickly, easy to clean, and reliable. The auto-cappuccino device steams and foams the milk hands free. Very easy to program (but I've been content with the default).
My cat loves the foam.
Negative Product Points
The steaming hose pops out easily; the steaming attachment leaves the milk and foam lukewarm.
Before buying a machine, I asked in this forum what I need to get something better than Starbucks. The answers tended to cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Then, my b-in-law, who bought an espresso machine at a garage sale for $5, told me that his machine makes pretty good espressos. So, I decided to try a mid-price-range machine, and get the beans ground (at 3.5) at Starbucks or Petes, which are close by. The results: The latte is richer, more flavorful, and the foam superior to Starbucks. The espresso is just about as good as Starbucks'. I have had this machine for 3 months, use it to make double espressos twice a day, and it works great.
As far as the lukewarm latte, I steam the milk into a pot and warm it on the stove while I'm making the espresso, so I end up with hot lattes.
I bought from Amazon, and they did not disappoint.
Three Month Followup
Still working fine.
One Year Followup
Still using it to make between 2 and 4 lattes/day. I love it. My only complaint is that it doesn't heat the milk enough, but I simply warm the foamed milk while I'm making the espresso, and I think I end up with results that are quite respectable. I'd strongly recommend this machine for anyone but a true espresso connoisseur or snob.