I couldn't be happier with this machine. I get great espresso any time on-demand.
Positive Product Points
Heat exchanger so you can steam and brew with no waiting Fast warm-up time (less than 10 minutes) Large resevoir capacity Resevoir is easy to fill (Don't have to remove cups from cup warmer when filling!) Indicaters and controls are easy to use and understand Automatic boiler refill Automatic shut-off when resevoir runs empty Machine can be left on all the time Massive steam power Makes great espresso Backed up by a US company with great service
Negative Product Points
Drip tray is plastic and too small Attaching and locking the portafilter was awkward at first
When I decided to get an espresso machine I thought I would start out with a lower cost simple machine. I ordered a Gaggia Baby and when it arrived it was DOA. I sent it back and had some trouble with the importer fullfilling the order properly so I dedided to go a different route.
I decided on an Isomac Venus. The Venus was a nice machine in many ways (not the least of which was its beauty). But after a few days of use I began to get discouraged because I was unable to ever get a decent shot out of it. Not one. I knew I was an espresso newbie, but it seemed like a michine should not be this difficult. I decided that this wasn't going to work for me. It was either fins a better machine or give up on doing my own espresso.
I then found out about the Illy deal for the Pasquini at $725 when joining their coffee subscription service. I roast my own coffee so the idea of buying 36 cans of Illy espresso over the year was not thrilling, but I know someone who drinks it and worked out a deal with them to take most of it from me. (I kept the initial shipment and have used a few of the cans and I actually do think that its pretty decent espresso.)
I bought the machine. Illy was great to deal with. I was excited when the machine arrived and wanted to immediately try a shot. The first thing I did was fill the resevoir and turn the machine on. Right away I noticed that the resevoir holds a large amount of water. Between the boiler and the resevoir I used over a gallon. Another nice feature (compared to the Isomac machines) was that you can fill the resevoir without removing the cup warmer. This makes the cup warmer actually usable compated to the Venus. Anyway, I sloppily ground some coffee in the Mazzer, threw it in the portafilter, kind of poorly tamped it, and attached it to the machine. I pressed the brew button and could see right away that the shot was not quite right, it was coming out too light and too fast. I decided that I would taste the shot anyway before throwing it out. I was shocked because it was one of the best shots I had ever had. For my second shot I dialed the Mazzer in a little finer, and took more care in tamping, and voila!, my first ever near-god shot.
Besides making great espresso this machine has lots of things that make life easy. The automatic refill of the boiler, the heat excahnger, and the fact that the machine can be left on all the time, make the machine a joy to work with. These are things that should not be underestimated. If your machine is a PITA then you are less likely to use it. The less you use a machine the more expensive that machine is per shot.
Although I don't do a lot of milk drinks, the steam power on this machine is nice to have when you need it. With the Venus, the steam would start out fairly strong and then quickly fade. With the Pasquini, the steam blasts out and keeps on blasting.
So far I have had no problems with the machine whatsoever.
My only complaints are the ones I listed above. The portafilter fit was kind of hard at first. Over time it seems to have gotten better. It would require quite a bit of a push to get it lodge on all the way. But it seems to be easier now. Maybe it went through some sort of breaking-in period.
If there was one single thing I would change it would be the drip tray. It's lousy. It's made of flimsy plastic and it's way too small. It's the only thing that doesn't match up with the quality of the rest of the machine.
The stainless steel housing is top notch and the machine has a commercial look and feel. Maybe not quite as stylish as the Venus, but a more solid well-built feel.
Some other things to mention include the fact that unlike the E61 group head machines, the group head on this machine does not overheat over time. In fact, the limited testing I've done with my TC shows that the machine has excellent temperature stability. This may be the single most important factor in why this machine produces such better shots than my Venus did.
Bought from Illy, no problems.
I do want to mention my buying experience on the Venus. I bought it from 1st-line and they were fantastic. When I bought it they went out of their way to ship it same-day overnight for only a nominal charge. Then a few days later when I decided I wanted to return it, they took it back without any hassle at all. I will never hesitate to be a customer of theirs in the future.