Great machine. After a little practice have been able to make lattes and cappucinos comparable to some of the better local cafe's
Positive Product Points
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Negative Product Points
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I've had the Carisma for a few months now and have been overall very happy with it. It's my first prosumer machine and first heat exchanger so there were a few caveats that took a little getting used.
I wasn't aware when I first bought the machine that it has (or seems to have) a pressure profile. In the beginning I was pre-infusing my shots by raising the lever to 45 degrees, which will let unpressurized water out into the puck. However, if you watch the pump pressure guage when you flip the lever, you can see that it hangs out at low pressure for 2-4 seconds before ramping up to the full 9-10bar - making manual preinfusion potentially unnecessary.
Another thing related to pump pressure in this machine is after pulling a shot, you'll sometimes see it remain at 9-10 bar even though the pump isn't running. If you quickly flip the lever up, not even all the way, and back down, it will return to normal. Not sure if this is necessary, but I can't imagine it's good to leave some part of the machine under that much pressure constantly. Something to watch out for.
When preparing to make steam, I find if you purge the wand and then jump right into it, the pressure in the steam tank takes a nose dive really quickly. It's best to purge, wait for the heating element to kick on and return the pressure to 1.1-1.2bar, then start your steaming while the heating element is still activated. This seems to help maintain steam pressure throughout the process and doesn't really take very long.
When I first received my machine, the "adjustments" were really strange. It didn't behave as expected in the manual when pressing the adjustment buttons. This will probably sound like nonsense to most people reading this except someone who it is happening to... Instead of giving you the screen to adjust the temperature it displays 0 and lets you change this to 1 or 0. Then after hitting OK again it changes to a second option that can be 1 or 0, then OK again same thing, OK again and you get a setting that can go from what looks like 0 to 15... etc. Turns out there is a dipswitch on the control board that can be flipped to adjust the internal settings of the machine. This lets you control things like preinfusion, LCD contrast, etc... If you flip the switch on the board it goes back to normal.
After some practice and getting my grind dialed in, my shots have been coming out amazingly and I've been very happy with that part of it.
As for milk, I've had a hard time with consistency - although that could likely be chalked up to skill. The only other machine I've used is a commercial Synesso, and of course the Synesso I found much easier to steam with and much more powerful, but the two aren't really comparable.
Buying from ChrisCoffee was great. I'm in Canada and was visiting the US for a few days, they were able to arrange a local pickup no problem. While there, was also able to arrange a demo of the machine and the basics of how to use it since it was my first one.
Working through a technical issue I had early on (as described above for those with the same) was no problem, the guys at ChrisCoffee managed to figure out what was up with the electronics in the machine and provide me a detailed guide on how to fix it (since I opted to do so myself).