A worth-while simple espresso machine that meets the basic needs for producing excellent espresso. Consider re-sellers!
Positive Product Points
Price; ease of use; compact size; well-made
Negative Product Points
Milk frother (panarrelo) is not easy; milk frother arm is too close to the body of the machine; no tilt on the frother arm
This is my third espresso machine, starting with a Pavoni about thirty years ago. I eventually gave it away and the new owner refurbished it. The next one died due to my misuse. This time, I was looking for simplicity and as low a price as possible, combined with the essential elements. I am elderly and could not justify investing in a spanking new machine at full price. This machine meets those needs! After reading various reviews, I found a re-seller on E-Bay. It turns out that Saeco machines returned by stores or owners, for whatever reason, are refurbished to as-new condition and then sold by re-sellers with a six-months refurbisher warranty. In talking with the re-seller about it, he told me that there is no way of knowing what the original problem was as they are batch-processed and the reason-for-return documentation is discarded. It could be as simple as a damaged box (store return) or something not working. At $140 I thought it was a worth-while risk and have been well-pleased. The machine came factory-packed and looked new. To date I have had no problems except with the frother, which is not its strong suit. Here are some thoughts - not necessarily in line with what others are saying.
Coffee brewing: All the discussions here are about how much pressure to apply with tamping and how to learn this using a weighing machine. Yet the machine instructions say nothing about this. I do what the instructions say (Heaven forbid?), putting a level filter-full of beans into my Starbucks Barista burr grinder, set close to fine, and this turns out to be enough to fill the filter (filter full of beans = filter full of ground coffee). I do not tamp this down but do use a tamper to flatten the material with a clockwise motion. This gives me an excellent double shot with a fine crema in about 25 seconds. I am sure I do not need a finer grind (would jam the grinder) but, obviously, could use less ground coffee and more tamper pressure. That is not what the instructions say!
Frother: This is the weak part of the whole thing. First, the panarrelo is a multi-part plastic accessory that fits on the frother arm and is nothing but trouble. It is essential to understand that it only stays on the arm, under the pressure of steaming, if the compression gasket still exists inside the screw part at the top. If that is lost, the panarrelo flies off into your milk jug at the first sign of pressure (losing it into the garburretor does not help either). Taking it off is no good as the arm is then too short for useful use. As one or two others have done and after some experimentation, I now use this without the outer sleeve that has side-holes in the nozzle end. I do not find it useful and can froth milk just fine (like any other machine) with the inside of the panarrelo functioning as an extension on the metal arm.
Resold item: This sale was entirely satisfactory in its mechanics. Also, there was no tax and free S&H! I see no reason not to go this route if one is reluctant, for whatever reason, to spring for the full price of a new machine.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
The machine continues functioning well and my assessment is that it is excellent value for the money. Simple, solid, reliable. Good espresso with no frills.