For everyday espresso at home, you really can't beat it.
Positive Product Points
Excellent espresso from the Ristretto and Perfect 1-touch milk, both hot and cold Fast to warm up, can put out 10 espressos in a row without pause or temperature drop Narrow width and only 1 plug for espresso machine and frother
Negative Product Points
First coffee could be hotter but succeeding shots are perfect Capsules a bit expensive but this can change Because of it's compact design, dead capsule bay somewhat small (hold 8-10 caps before being full)
I know this will possibly elicit howls of contempt from some elitists, but you really need to give Nespresso a try.
Having had a FrancisFrancis X3 whose gaskets have given up the ghost, and a Jura E3 which lasted a less than year and had 2 repairs for a broken grinding system, I was getting desperate to replace the home coffee machine. While I have also have a grinder and have lovingly fussed over the grind, tamping, microbubbles frothing and all that, ultimately I want a good cup of espresso as soon as possible.
I saw the new Citiz line, a narrow-width machine - great for apartment living - at Amsterdam's Bijenkorf (posh department store) Nespresso boutique and was given an Arpeggio cappuccino out of the machine - it was perfect. The ristretto was also wonderful (perhaps it's the state of Dutch coffee, but this stuff rocks). Being reasonably cheap, I went online and found it for €70 less than at the store - instant win.
Before I'd find myself frothing milk for a dozen guests and missing the party - now it's a one-two (no step 3!) and the coffees are out and ready in record time. Plus, I can give everyone exactly what they want without having to fuss. I have an crushed ice maker in the fridge, so it's really 2 minutes to an iced cappuccino - the Citiz even helps by frothing the milk perfectly without heating it.
You can adjust the shots of the espresso by holding the espresso or lungo buttons down until it flows to the volume you want - the machine will remember it even while powered off. The unit also smartly goes into a low-power mode after 15-20 minutes and an even LOWER power mode if you forget to turn it off.
Could it be better? Sure - the dead capsule bay is small and has to be emptied in 8-10 shots or so (man, I'm lazy). The capsules are sold online or through boutiques, and they could be cheaper. That said, they're currently getting 40-50% of their bean through free-trade farming (via the Rainbow Coalition, perhaps the oldest FT organization) and are on the march for 75% by 2010. I feel I'm getting what I pay for.
Value - sure, the coffee is more expensive, but it's not too expensive, and when you consider the additional €550 euros I spent on the Jura (it was €700 - I ended up selling it) that's a lot of capsules. When you consider the offset between a .25-.30 espresso by bean or a .35 espresso by capsule, I'll be saving money for years to come.
So why buy a Nespresso over an Illy Capsule system? (I was partial to them anyway, from the FF days) I did a lot of research on this. The answer was easy - it's the capsules. Transparent plastic sucks, sorry - it's a stupid idea. The aluminum of the Nespresso caps requires only 5% of manufacturing energy to recycle and is infinitely recyclable. And yes, I do recycle - you have to walk the walk. Also, the caps are ground and then sealed in an opaque vacuum-packed container, never to see light or air until you use them.
I've read reviews that say units jam - I've had one jam because I failed to empty the dead capsule bay and the old one didn't drop down to let a new one in. That's the extent of nearly 6 months use - perfect coffee, milk, everything in less than 2 minutes without any fuss. The Citiz line has been around for less than a year so I can't comment on reliability, but my father still has my college Krups espresso machine, the very basic one, and that still works 20 years later. I'm pretty confident.
And no - I don't work for them, or know anyone who does. I wish I did - I'd like to buy my capsules discount. I'm just a very, very happy customer.
I'm in europe so the store prices are terribly uniform, all running this model around €250, so buying online is the way to go. I bought mine through Redcoon.nl for €178 with tax and shipping. Was shipped fast and received it in 3 days without a ding. If you've ever bought an Apple product, the degree of attention to design and packaging will seem familiar. The machine was packed tightly with a nice surprise inside - a hot and cold glass set and 16 trial capsules of coffee.
Three Month Followup
At 3 months it was still fab - not a gram of trouble and still the fastest espresso in town.
One Year Followup
Now over 1.2 years old, the espresso machine has worked flawlessly. Nespresso noticed my usage pattern about 7 months in and gave me a free cleaning kit for descaling the unit (2 applications, just used the second one). It's perhaps *just* a tiny bit noisier but nothing like a bigger espresso machine...it stills amazes everyone who comes by.
The frothing unit did occasionally develop a small issue - it'd turn itself off thinking, it's overheating. I called Nespresso and they sent out a new frother, which I received two days later. The 2 year warranty is excellent. The original was left with me so (ahem) I'm still using it now 4 months later and it's rarely shut itself off prematurely, but if it does give up the ghost I've got spare waiting.
Otherwise, it's the best damn espresso machine I've ever owned. Sorry Francis Francis and Jura...
Update: Now over 2 years - out of warranty but still as solid, fast and reliable as when new (whatever the little extra noise was it disappeared soon after that last report, but I kept the detail in for completeness). The frother is still perfect - it hasn't been overcooking coffee in one spot like the original had, so I expect it not to overheat and to last a good, long time. The only thing that's changed has been my buying habits - I tend to have boxes of Arpeggio, Fortissomo Lungo and the dark Decaf mailed to me..they're my go-to coffees.