I enjoy excellent espresso off this machine every day. My jitters are up and so is my power bill, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Positive Product Points
Solid manufacturing, professional components, e61 gruppo, aesthetics are great, classic styling, relatively modest price point for higher end machine.
Negative Product Points
Plastic tamper, no backflush basket. This machine requires a knowledgeable operator.
I'm sure its all been said before, but I haven't said it yet and I'm loquacious, so read on if you dare. I'll try to assume that you are interested in an E61 and not a pushbutton brainless fully auto.
If one is hung up on the E61 design, then this is just as good as the competition, but costs less than most in this bracket. How many ways are there to re-engineer the E61 anyway? The one I own is the newer Rocket Espresso Giotto, not the ECM rocket. The machine bangs off espressos as fast as you can grind and tamp without hesitation. Temperature surfing is not too crazy unless one is hooking up a digital thermometer, then perhaps another model of espresso machine should be used. E61s are inherently not the most temperature accurate by design. One or two shots of preflush take down the temp to ideal range and away you go.
This machine comes with solid E61 baskets (single and double) and when paired with the brass brew group it blast out fine shots. The steam power of the boiler is as good as any other home use system, and paired with the decent stock steam tip, this product gets microfoam in about 40 seconds. Not too shabby. The knob threadings are quite coarse, which means about a quarter turn from closed to open. This is quite handy for fast shut offs of steam or water. Hot water is on demand, but drawing it will cause the machine to refill the boiler so plan your drinks appropriately.
The drip tray holds more than its share of liquid and what more is there to say about that. If emptying a tray is too hard then one had better go to the cafe instead. Lights, switches and gauge are solid and if you want more then buy a more expensive machine. You'd only get one more gauge anyway and would you really need it? Honestly?
The design of the model is a little more stylish than most of the competition, as in, the sides are angled and the knobs are shapely. It doesn't have a fancy cup tray rail, instead it has a plexi fence. Darn. The cup warmer is ample but as with all top load reservoir machines, the warming tray needs to be emptied for access. Sometimes life is hard, but only every three days when I refill. Some competition's E61's stand taller, this one is stout and allows it to slide under a counter, awkwardly though as it is still quite beefy.
As with all of the higher end machines, the major complaint is the flimsy plastic tamper. Ditto here. I would also like to have a backflush basket included as well as a cleaning brush. Why shouldn't it be there. Another consideration for a prospective purchaser is whether or not to treat (de-calcify) water. It is an additional cost at the outset, or it could result in increased maintenance cost if hard water is used.
This machine allows the operator to dial in all the persnickity niceties of espresso and milk to the finest degree that most home users will need or require. Lesser models could be used for a reasonable person's demand of 2-3 shots per day, this machine is a bit beefy for one shot a day (it draws a lot of electricity to heat). But it is great for entertaining and reduces the time required to prep multiple drinks. It is a center piece for the coffee nerd and allow one to zen on their morning coffee ritual. I say center your chi with this machine.