Makes good coffee easily ..... when it works. Don't waste your money on it - unless you really like your service department!
Positive Product Points
Large reservoir quick heat up ease of use abundant steam easy to clean large removable drip tray very nice portafilter great price
Negative Product Points
tough to make a HOT (140 degree) Americano plastic tamper lack of pressure or temp guage (but that's why it was so affordable) pump is a bit noisy leaky steam wand 2x repaired in less than 1 yr (not covered under warranty)
UPDATED REVIEW!!! Nov 24, 2007
NOV 24, 2007 follow up--- I must say that although this machine consistently makes really nice espresso and good steam for frothing milk, I have had to have it serviced 2x already. within 6 months I had to replace the boiler (the shop of course says user error so $75 please). So after this I take much more care about leaving the machine on for longer periods of time. All of a sudden, no power. Apparently it got too hot and burnt out the capacitor (safety device). Again the shop (Capuccino King) says it is OUR fault. I say BULL!!! What good is a machine if you cannot leave it on for an hour or so? I often like to have coffee more than once in the morning, but now "have to" turn the machine off in between. What a bunch of crap. ALSO, now when pulling a coffee, the steam wand will leak about 3 oz of water while the coffee is being pulled.
I have to say, that when this machine finally dies... the relationship will be over and I will NOT be buying another.
-------------------------------- -------------------------------- -------------------------------- -------------------------------- Let's start off with some background. I enjoy a good espresso. I only make 1 soy latte every morning but I savour every drop. I am by no means a coffee snob, but I can tell the difference between a good coffee and a bad one. I have been using a Faema Cappuccino steam machine which has served me well for the past 15 yrs but it finally bit the dust.
Renamed as Ascaso, I have only had the ARC for 2 days now (welcome to the new age). So far I have been able to pull some very smooth tasting espresso and americanos (except the temperature of the americano is not as hot as my wife would like). I can already tell the difference between this machine and my old faithful steam toy. Lattes are a joy. Once the boiler gets up to steam (pun intended), it is very easy to steam milk (cow or soy) and to create plentiful amounts of foam. The foam is not of the micro type, but this is probably more due to the soy milk and the skim cow milk. The steam seems endless and makes frothing and heating the mild a treat.
The cup heating space is fairly useless other than to store some props. The hottest area is near the front, but the slope keeps the cups from staying there.
This machine seems to be well built and very sturdy. The portafilter is solid brass and has a nice heft to it. It is 57 mm so if you pick up a different tamper (which you should as the plastic one is very flimsy) make sure you DON'T get a 58 mm. The reservoir is large (2L) and can be refilled on the fly if you are in the mood to show off your barrista talents. The boiler heats up the water in about 90 seconds, however, I found that if I let it properly heat for a good 10-15 min, the taste of the coffee pulled improves (I suppose that has something to do with the head group getting up to a good temperature).
I was considering the DREAM model, but since the internals are identical and it is only the outer construction and esthetics that are different (that and a temp guage), I could not justify the extra $300 for it and took the ARC.
Very discreet looking and the only place to find the name of it is on the steam knob (which is a nice size to work with).
So far I am pleased with my purchase and will update here after I have had it longer.
Bought it locally at Cappuccino King in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Kelly was fantastic and took loads of time to show me the machine and others. Having several models on display, she was able to pull me a very nice espresso and showed me in detail how to work the machine. The price was fair for me ($465 Cdn) compared to what else I could get here in town. She even included a pound of coffee for me as well. Overall a great buying experience
FOLLOW UP - Nov 24, 2007 Very slow service department. Had to have unit service 2x already and neither time was it covered under warranty according to the shop. NOT IMPRESSED!
Three Month Followup
After 6 months I have to say that I find it easier and easier to create fantastic crema with this machine. I finally purchased a Reg Barber tamper and it really did make a difference in getting the puck just right. We actually put away our regular drip coffee maker and ONLY use this now. I have finally figured out how to make good microfoam, even with soy milk.
Great value. Solid machine and reliable pulls everytime.