Great machine if you have money to play with. Otherwise, you might find better value with other machines (La Spaziale and Rancilio Epoca)
Positive Product Points
After owning the Rancilio S27 and the La Spaziale S1 for several years, I knew that I wanted this machine the moment I first laid eyes on it! I should note that I live in the Pacific Northwest (Portland), and also considered the Synesso since they are located in Seattle, and the machine is similar in many ways, but I had a little trepidation - which could be entirely unfounded - about such a small company .
I bought the machine from Republic Espresso in Seattle and found the installation to be very simple. I quickly discarded the water reservoir tray and hooked into a water line under my sink using a filter (no softener required in my town).
I give the machine very high marks for the following areas: Appearance: the machine is beautiful, and very few people enter my kitchen without noticing how beautiful the machine is. I love the glow of the blue lights on the front panel Consistency: I have many years of experience owning high end machines, but the unit can very easily pull a great shot almost every time. Footprint - this may not be something you would thing about, but the low clearance needed for this machine is key if you want to install under a kitchen cabinet. I considered 3-4 other machines, but could not purchase due to the height requirements (especially once you place cups on the warming tray) Construction - the machine is very sturdy, extremely well built, and - due to the commercial nature of La Marzocco's business - can be opened within literally 30 seconds.
Nice features: The built in timer to activate the machine and the shot timer and very useful and are easy to overlook No burn steam arm is great, especially with young kids Love the design of the joystick for steaming
It is great that you can upgrade the firmware, but it is hard to access the data port in the machine for doing this. I would suggest to La Marzocco that they use a more modern approach such as a USB port, over an RS232 jack.
Negative Product Points
Design flaws: The drip tray is a joke. It sits in a small receiving frame on the unit and comes out of place almost daily The top of the drip tray fits poorly and is hard to put into place The "no-burn" steam wand is a feat of engineering, but it makes it vary hard to produce consistent latte art The buttons are not at all intuitive- the pictures on them, (except for the tea pot) and meaningless
Usability flaw: turning OFF the machine requires that you push a sequence of two different buttons at once The HOT WATER Button is one of them. This is probably the most annoying aspect of the machine as it is hard to remember at first, and even after a year, I still sometimes hit one button before the other, causing hot water to come out of the TEA Wand all over my counter! UGH
I have undoubtedly had some great espresso machines over the past decade, but this is the finest. I am really proud to own "the Cadillac" of machines and enjoy making 3-4 lattes and/or shots of espresso daily. Entertaining with the machine is great, and even at 110V, I can pull enough shots and steam milk for 8-10 guests without any stress on the machine or the boilers. This unit could easily support a small business or coffee shop.
On the downside, I have to say that the price-to-value ratio on the machine is poor. For the money, I would probably rather own my old La SpazialeS1 or even my Rancilio S27 (the Epoca is the newer version), which I bought used on Ebay for $700, and I would say that it pulled the best shots and made the best latte art of all three of the machines I have mentioned.
I would also like to see some of the design items addressed. If La Marzocco were to provide a new drip tray and a better steam arm, it would make the machine a lot better and more enjoyable.
I have decided to stick with the GS/3 as it is a pleasure to own "a Ferrari" and love walking into my kitchen each morning to see the beautiful chrome and blue glowing lights. Please contact me if you have any specific questions.
I purchased the machine from Republic Espresso in Seattle. They were very nice and helpful at the time of purchase, but did not respond to 5-6 calls and emails when I needed something fixed on the unit. I would not do business with them ever again.