Affordable now, $249, $399 then; very solid performer, extensive parts available online if needed; makes excellent, crema-filled espresso; good foam with effort and patience; drained pucks well.
Positive Product Points
Amazing Espresso when primed and tamped hard with fine espresso grind ( and clean basket / group shower plate)...15-25s double shot Lingering thick CREMA with pressurized portafilter - love it massive 128oz water tank, refillable from top very thick gauge steel body pod filter adapter can be backflushed safely( haven't needed to do that lately, hmm)
Negative Product Points
Weak Steaming wand; needs caressing and patience. Rusts under plastic trays if not wiped up eventually ( but then I abused it over many years.) Ensure reservoir tube is immersed after changing out water (otherwise nothing a double prime won't fix to expel any air pockets) plastic parts will warp slightly if not taken care of...(I used to leave it on for hours; sometimes overnight I forgot.) Not too beautiful looking - but who really cares anyway: performance/durability over looks any day.
Owned since fall 1999. Paid $100 from Starbucks store in Dallas, as a partner who discovered it neglected on the top shelf from a customer return.
I have noticed a decline in the espresso it pulls all this year, until I realized I haven't cleaned nor descaled it in years...what an idiot. I also learned from PEET's how important it is to PRIME any good pump-driven espresso machine. It used to leak everywhere, and taste awful. I feel so ...foolish. No more.
I have ALSO gained re-newed respect from this Estro Vapore's quality, despite it's rusted foot under the plastic, smoked trays and faded cream colour - no more logo....don't use a green pad to wash it, OK. A sponge will do fine.
This week, in fact today, after de-SCALING it TWICE over the course of 2 days ... good lord ... it pulls far superior espresso with thick, lingering Crema and full taste than the new Francis Francis X5 I received from Illy since this monday and I have just shipped the whole kit back to Illy this afternoon - wasting about oh, $90 in the process ! It was also slightly thinner gauge built too. It did look far more gorgeous, though.
Yes, a pressurized portafilter does do wonders, but I still tamp firm with a flat, heavy-duty, steel 53mm tamp from Peet's Coffee. Give this machine a few minutes to warm and prime and no more leaking water into my espresso. More than 8 years old. Quality. Back on my counter top ( I apologized to it yesterday..haha)
Simple techniques and a clean machine is a basic formula for any good machine to produce great espresso. I don't know if filtered water really makes much difference...
Starbucks has in my humble consumer opinion dropped in quality, ever since they went fully automatic = no skill added; and price; but not because of poor quality coffee beans, but more automation less control; Coffee Bean just has poor quality beans but well trained semi-auto machines; Peet's Coffee have very good beans and trained staff and semi-auto machines with excellent espresso too. When I went to Australia, Starbucks was still OK, but most good espresso bars were amazing - heavy Greek/ Italian influence ensures very high standards in espresso drinks anyway.