Great machine with unforgettable looks. I'll always need a plumbed in system after my Athenae!
Positive Product Points
Wife acceptance factor (unbelievable looks), E61 type group, big boiler, plumb in, semiautomatic, no problems whatsoever in >1 year of consistent useage (2-3 double or triple shots a day with occasional parties with up to 30 triple shots).
Negative Product Points
Price, having to rely on Whole Latte Love if any problems arise, it looks so good that its tough to keep pristinely clean, "not a popular machine, so no one can really compare notes with you on coffee geek discussion forums and such"
Bought used over ebay, previous owner had the machine for about 6 months. I considered plumbed in machines only and would have otherwise bought a bezzera. I originally planned for a lever type machine but I've been thrilled with the semiautomatic controls and the ability to program your shot time is really very cool and is great for my wife who isn't willing to learn the machine in depth. Cleaning and descaling is also easy with the automatic controls.
The machine of course is beautiful, really the center piece of my kitchen. Plenty of boiler power. Its on a timer so its on for about 2 hours every morning then occasional nights or weekends. No problems whatsoever now with about 18 months of solid use. The eagle does come off and so does the dome so it can fit under most kitchen counters.
I've never had to deal with Whole Latte Love, who is the major expobar distributor in the US, but I've heard some rotten things about their service. Hopefully it never breaks.
I think for the price charged for new machines one can get a better value, although the appearance is worth something.
ebay (which I think is pretty decent way to buy used espresso machines-- can't imagine too many people setting up ebay prosumer espresso resale scams).
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
This is more of a 2+ year follow-up because my first review was written after already owning it for a year. Still absolutely in love with everything about this machine. I recently moved and was able to "fully" set up my athenae with the cup warmer and eagle and it remains the centerpiece of my kitchen. I have it fully tuned in and paired with my grinder I make consistently excellent cappas. The performance has been flawless.