Surprise Kookgerei in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands
I live coffee
Would Buy Again:
Similar Items Owned:
Philips Senseo Crema, Nespresso(what else?)
A beautiful and solid looking machine, eye-catcher of the kitchen. When you want to enjoy espresso or milk-based drinks consistently and quickly, this is your machine !
Positive Product Points
- Right out of the box its easy to operate and to maintain. With all the Chrome-like steel and with only the essential extremities it looks very esthetic. - The E61 Grouphead with Thermosyphon not only looks good, but also promises to offer you the best means for a fantastic Espresso. (The rest is up to you). - Abundant steampower, which is directly and always available after warm-up. Very good for producing milk-based drinks, like cappucino. - 'No-burn' steam- and warmwater wands, which are omni-directional
Negative Product Points
- No pump pressure gauge is available, which leaves it up to the manufacturer to have it set on the optimum. - Small Driptray. When it's stands idle for a while and before using, you have to flush some water to bring down the temperature (most HX/E61 machines have this). Combined with the Portafilter 'wiggle' I do after each shot, leaves you with a quickly filled driptray. - Outer casing temperature. Not only the grouphead get's hot (that's what its designed for) but the rest of the machine also. (The knobs, switches and wands stay cool, though, which is good)
The machine came in a very large box. You will need a stationwagon if you pick it up yourself. It weighs 26kg (57 lbs), including packaging: Watch your back! The machine is wrapped in plastic and encased in styrofoam. It looked well-protected for transport and had no visible damage after unpacking.
Included is a manual, a plastic border for the cup warming area, a plastic tamper and a measuring spoon. The tamper is too small for the portafilter and practically useless. Certainly compared with the Reg Barber Tamper I have now. In my view, the plastic border for the cupwarming area looks cheap on the machine. You can just leave it off: Since it has no special attachments, you won't have any visible holes, clips, etc. Besides, it's not really necessary as the cupwarming area has a raised border anyway.
The machine looks very solid and well finished. No metal residue or scrapes in sight. It is in fact completely spotless. Again, watch your back with lifting and placing the machine. The E-61 Grouphead makes it top-heavy (weighs 4.5 Kg or 10 Lbs. by itself). The machine has small feet, so make sure it stand solidly on those. After 3 months in place, I can still pass by it and be amazed how good it looks.
Always read the manual, which will be done quickly, due to the minimalistic nature of the information. Which is logical, because it is very easy to use. The first-use protocoll is: Fill the reservoir up with water > Plug it in > Turn open the warm-water and steam wand > Switch it on with the only(!) switch on the machine > You will hear the pump filling the boiler > As soon as its filled, water starts coming out of the wands, so close them. The pressure will rise up to 1.2-1.4 Bar and the only thing you now have to do is wait ca. 20-30 minutes for it to warm up properly and Presto! Ready to go.
One thing is clear: You have to be a coffeegeek to buy this machine. Don't get me wrong: Basically it's very easy to use. Why then? Well, As I imagine is the case with other commercial machines, there is a ritual with this machine. To me, this includes regular cleaning, such as backflushing. All very simple, but it is still a ritual. Also, you have to clean the outside regularly to keep it spotless, but that part too is easy to do. When you don't mind that, you will, as I have, be consistently rewarded with a terrific cup of coffee in any shape or size you like; And very quickly. It recovers almost immediately after a shot, so when you have some friends over or a party, the Giotto Premium will keep pouring the good stuff just as fast as you can make them.
I am from The Netherlands. The reason I bought from a Dutch company, Surprise Kookgerei, is because I wanted to obtain parts and service as easily as possible. S.K. was very helpful and very prompt with their reactions, both by email and returning phonecallls. I could have had the machine delivered, but I wanted to enjoy this purchase to it's full extend. The people of S.K. were very friendly and added to that experience.
PS: The dollarprice is a conversion from Euro and includes 19% Dutch VAT.
Three Month Followup
I have the ECM (and the mazzer) for over a year now and... I'm still as happy with it as I was when I bought it, perhaps even more so. In that time I only replaced the showerscreen and gasket. Not because of an indication, but because it was suggested on the forum. (The gasket had become rigid, so it was a good thing. The importer suggested, I change it out every six months)
It works properly and consistently, in short very, very well. This is, for the most part, the way it's build; solid and durable and in part because of the maintenance. - After each cup I wiggle the portafilter in the stream, because there is always residue and grinds. - Every 2 to 4 weeks I backflush it with Urnex Cafiza. Every 4 months, I flush the system with Urnex Cleancaf. All this cleaning has a serious (read positive) impact on the taste. The outer casing, showerhead, etc.. can be cleaned easily with windex or glassex, but better is to use a stainless steel cleaner like Muscle. Don't forget to clean the water container. Cleaning the drip-tray speaks for itself, I think.
Shots can be brewed in a rapid pace and can be combined with milk steaming. It recovers immediately. However, tapping (tea-)water will leave it shortly out of breath and it's not possible to steam milk right away. I have a Quooker, so I don't have that problem. (If you don't know what a Quooker is, check out www.quooker.nl).The pump makes some noice, but that is an unfortunate quality of vibratory pumps, which most machines in this price-range have.
Using this machine has been a good and rewarding experience. I expect that I will keep using it for many years to come, because it serves my needs very well, which is an average of three cups per day of various products. When I have people over, the machine enables me to serve everyone quickly (and they always like the show and the coffee).
I support this machine whole-heathedly and recommend it everyone, who is in the market for a good(looking) espresso machine.
29 July 2008: After more then 3 years of use, everything I've written is still true. It performs as though I just bought it. I changed out the showerhead gasket every half year and clean it regularly, but that's all the maintenance it needs. Still a fabulous machine in my book!
One Year Followup
04 June 2009 : FOUR YEAR Follow-up : The handle was leaking a bit from time to time. This is the first rather small issue after four years of daily use. Not bad in my book. On suggestion of the service company I decided to let them give it a complete overhaul. Yesterday I got it back and it again works like a charm. I got more or less used to the nespresso, but man what a difference to the real stuff. I'm really glad its back for business. Anyway, as before, I still think its a great machine, very easy to use and an abundance of steam.