Attractive, slightly finicky and unreliable, but capable of great coffee
Positive Product Points
I've had some superb cups of coffee from this machine. It looks good and is easy to use, and makes much better coffee than the Gaggia Compact we have at work. For quality of espresso and aesthetics, it's probably the best in this price range.
Negative Product Points
Results are hard to get consistent - the machine is sensitive to small changes in grind, dose and tamp.
I bought a new portafilter basket because the ones supplied were too small. Then after only a few weeks, the rubber gasket that seals the portafilter had to be replaced, but I'm pretty sure that was my fault.
This is the first coffee machine I've owned. I bought it with an Ascaso i-mini grinder and initially, it would take half a bag of coffee beans until I got the grind right. My results are now more consistent because I use the same big dose, tamp not too hard, and don't change the grind so often.
The holy grail for me is the perfect "long black", which is the New Zealand term for basically a double shot, to almost fill an ACF tulip cup, and the Ascaso gets close to delivering that all the time now. Also the crema is always excellent.
I don't drink milk with coffee, which is fortunate because the Ascaso is not good at frothing milk, but I have had espressos as good or even better than what I can get at city cafes. I use the best beans from the same cafes.
I totally recommend this machine to first time buyers who want something affordable but good, which they can hone their skills on. More experienced buyers or people with more money to spend should probably look at more 'pro' machines.
coffeemachines.co.nz gave me a free upgrade in grinder, from a Gaggia MDF to Ascaso i-Mini, which was fantastic. They weren't helpful however when I needed a new gasket, even though the machine was under warranty - in the end I had it fixed somewhere else for $50. There aren't many good places to buy espresso machines in New Zealand... next time I would seriously consider laffare.co.nz