Any time you save with the full auto functions, you will lose to rinse cycles, emptying and cleaning the internal reservoir and bean basket. For morning coffee situations, you will get faster and better coffee from ANY other normal espresso machine.
Positive Product Points
It does everything for you so your guests can squeeze out coffees on their own. It reminds you when it's time to clean it. It does a good job of having the instructions and labels for the functions actually printed on the machine. You can use the labels as a quick reference after you read the manual once and know what the functions actually do. I do have to say, the milk frother system CAN be good for a party situation. You can dunk a tube into a big old vat of milk, and people will be able to make cappuccinos all night without having to know how to steam milk.
Negative Product Points
Coffee builds up in the machine's spout area. If I pull the spout down and soak it after a few weeks of use, the water turns tea brown.
There is definitely a flavor cycle between cleanings. It gets noticeably better when it's just been cleaned, then goes back to dissolving old coffee residue as it brews.
The cleaning cycle takes 20 minutes and requires both a magic cleaning pellet and user interaction halfway through the process. So, no setting it to clean and running on a grocery trip or anything.
The quality of the coffee is just not really there. I got better results with a $40 steam powered machine AND with the Capresso Ultima semi-auto ($300). The Capresso Ultima actually was user accessible, faster to clean, could be cleaned without pellets, made espresso shots faster, made them better, wasted less water, and was less prone to user-induced damage as long as you didn't try to muscle the turntable backwards. Hmmm...
I don't steam milk much, but the milk steamer isn't really one. It's a milk "frother". Capresso took their auto-frothing device and included it on this machine. So, instead of inserting a wand into a pitcher, you insert a tube into a cold milk source. The machine sucks the milk up the hard-to-clean tube and jets it out through a hard-to-clean attachment nozzle, blows a bunch of steam and air into it, and sprays it into your cup. The process can be messy. It splatters big time if the milk runs out, and it burps and splatters if the steam slows down gradually instead of just being on and off.
WASTED TIME. You would think a robotic full-auto would save you time, but my experience is that it really doesn't. Any time you save because there is a convenient bean chute and you can eat your pop-tart while it brews the coffee, you lose because you have to wait for the rinse cycle and you have to empty the bins inside. You might be able to leave those and empty them after a few days with this machine, but lets be honest, anybody on this site reading this would probably be the type to empty it after each use to avoid mold and stale coffee odor. (And mold it will, if you leave it for a week!)
It handles the whole process for you, if that's what you like. You can throw a party and all you have to do to serve your guests "espresso" from the machine is put a sticky note next to the button with "PRESS THIS" written in Sharpie. The robotic mechanics seem to be standing the test of time as it's been making coffee for about two or three years now. It does a decent job of cleaning itself, but you have to have those magic cleaning pellets on hand. (you drop one into the bean chamber and run the cycle, wait 10 minutes for it to ask for help, refill the water tank and empty the discard tray, and run the remainder of the cycle.)
That said, I hesitate to call the coffee espresso. If you know coffee snobs and you call what comes out of this thing espresso while they're over at your house, they will not respect your opinion of coffee afterwards. It looks like an espresso machine. You can set it to shot-like quantities. It's probably actually espresso by strict definition, I just hesitate to call it that because of the lack of crema and the tasting like a small, strong, normal coffee. When this machine was in my kitchen, if I wanted good espresso and not "just some coffee, any coffee" I would actually drive across town to a cafe and ignore the machine. When I had the Capresso Ultima, that wasn't the case. Instead I would go to a cafe when I wanted a treat, and when I wanted to hang out on wifi and work on my laptop. I know the beans aren't the problem because I've just tried the same beans from the same roastery and the same model grinder in my new Silvia, and in my first night the results were leagues better, without even really tuning the process much. To be fair, my dad likes the weaker, no-crema shots that come out and actually sets the dial to 7 ounces which makes something more like an over-extracted Americano. Just yet another assertation that quality of coffee is subjective I guess.
Cleaning issues: The machine can clean itself, but unfortunately you cannot get in there and brush those last little corners that I'm sure have some grime building up in them. The coffee works are off limits to you! The best you can do is look down the long, dark chute that leads to the bean chamber. Serious effort might open those components to you but you'll void any warranty for sure and you'll need tools. Now, as mentioned, the machine CAN clean itself. I'll state right off that I have no way to verify that it ISN'T doing a great job of self-cleaning. I just doubt it.
The machine decides when it's time for you to clean it. Cleaning time is not for you to decide, puny user. The computer knows all! It can and will decide in the middle of your party that 200 cups have been brewed and it wants to run a cleaning cycle. You can continue to use the machine, it will just flash "CLEAN ME" on the display, with instructions, to confuse your guests. To be fair it's probably good to get a reminder after a certain number of cups to do a cleaning, but the reminder is pretty persistent. If you clean it without putting the little magic cleaner pellet in the bean bin, the machine will never know that it isn't clean.
Also, when you turn the machine on, it will not make a coffee. It will rinse itself. There is nothing you can do about this except let it rinse itself. "Please make me coffee now HAL." "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that." I got into a habit of rinsing after making the coffee to avoid having quite so much residue, but it will still force a rinse cycle on startup. And there's nothing you can do.
To run the non-coffee-making functions, you open a panel and turn a "programming" knob several clicks and push the program button. (this could have all been replaced with a block of 9 buttons, much easier, but oh well.) Then you have to turn the dial back up to zero to be able to make coffee again. This would be fine, but the knob is small and kind of uncomfortable, and very stiff. Not pleasant to turn. This would be no issue, but if you're not just now starting the machine, this is how you do a rinse cycle. (You do NOT run a blank - that will just clog up pores in the filter for some reason and display a message about filling the bean chamber.)
You have to know what the machine is going to be doing, or have an instruction manual in your hand, if you want to use your own grinder. It's not all that bad, it's just that it IS possible for you to do bad, bad things if you're confused about the process. I don't know for sure that the machine doesn't detect and recover from bad user input, I just doubt it does because I don't know how they would make it do that. Examples: You really must NOT put more than two scoops of beans in the chute. Most extra beans get dumped into the waste bin, but I'm pretty sure some end up in the mechainics. You also really must NOT put beans in the chute if you have the machine set to grind its own beans. You must NOT put beans in the chute again before the machine has finished its whole cycle and opened the chamber again.
I -think- the machine might not suffer harm if you do these things, but I'm afraid to try, as you'd essentially be dumping coffee beans into the top of a robot. I may have dumped too many scoops down once and I think they mostly ended up in the discard tray, but there's no way some of them didn't end up going underneath the plastic shield and into the mechanics. Who knows maybe coffee grinds make a good lubricant. It's really hard to say what might happen, because you really can't see what goes on under the hood. There's a piston with gear teeth that gets pushed from the bean chute towards the grouphead and then some motors run, that's all I know.