The bottom line is that I love this machine... but it's not for everyone.
Positive Product Points
This really is a beautiful machine, both visually and mechanically. Looks great on the counter when not in use. A piece of art.
Negative Product Points
The boiler gets very hot and if there are kids around you have to make sure they don't touch it when it is in use (or cooling down).
It has been about a year since I bought this machine. I was hesitant at first to spend so much money on a espresso machine but I had already experienced the demise of 2 machines (Krups) that were the plastic pump driven varieties.
This machine is built to last a lifetime.
I would not recomment this machine to most people because you really have to be "into" making the espresso and not just drinking it. In my experience most people want to just plug it in and push a button.
That said, I think for myself it is an awesome machine. I would never buy one of the automatic machines again.
These are the things you must know if you get this machine.
You need a good burr grinder to go along with it. The grind setting is extremely important to get right and be consistent. You can only determine this through experimentation. I have a rancillio rocky machine as a grinder and it works great.
The coffee should be fresh. Because you are a true Barista with this machine you can actually feel the back pressure on the lever when you pull your shots. I noticed that if the coffee beans are more than 1 week old the resistance on the lever decreases. You can try to compensate by tamping the grounds harder but it really is pointless. Old beans are bad beans.. and my guess is that this is true no matter what espresso machine you use.
You should get extra filter baskets and load them and tamp them all if you are making espresso for more than just 1 person. That way, you just pop it out of the handle and put in another one that is filled and ready to go.
If the tamp is right and the grounds are fresh then when you lift the lever and wait while the grouphead fills with water almost no espresso will drip out.
If you are making more than 3 double shots have some ice cubes nearby to press on the grouphead to cool it down. It's not a big deal but that is why I say you really have to be into the process of making the espresso. If the machine gets too hot the pressure required to pull the lever down really increases and the espresso starts to get bitter. Running this machine is a bit of an art and gettting good at it takes patience.
The video that comes with the machine is useless and it appears like the espresso they are making would be terrible. I think the lever goes down in about 1 second in the video. I found it weird that they would make such a useless video.
Don't bother with the automated milk frother. Just get used to using the wand that is built into the machine. It takes time but you can make all the foam you want.
I bought this machine on ebay. It was a display model.