I fell in love with this espresso maker and I paid 399 plus tax in William Sonoma.. Later on I bought one for my father on Ebay for 285 brand new, full warranty, go figure.....
No other espresso maker looks as this one, everyone raved about how cute and solid it was.
I managed to pull nice cappas, however, I was unable to pull a decent espresso shot.
Unfortunately, due to the Thermoblock system whick heats the water when it passes by, the temperature is not very stable and this is the main reason it comes with pressurized baskets whick help to overcome this issue.
The espresso always looked good, even with staled coffee.......the problem was that they either bitter or sour.
In order to get a good espresso you have to stick to the Golden Rule, 40 pounds tamping, 25 to 30 seconds for a 2 ounces shot, however, because of the pressurized portafilter, this rule does not apply....
The bottom line is, with a regular espresso maker, if you stick to the golden rule, you'll see the results in the shot, with a beautiful dark tan crema, with the Breville, the shots will always look nice, no matter what you do or what kinf of coffee you are using.
Later on, I purchased a Rancilio Silvia and the shotsthat I'm pulling are wonderful. Obviously, I had a hard time learning how to use it properly, and tamping the coffee properly, now I won't ever go back to a Thermoblock System.
If you just want a beautiful and solid espresso maker that is VERY friendly to use, this is the one. If you really care about the espresso and want to join the major leagues, get the Rancilio Silvia, you won't regret it.
PD. I even managed to find NON pressurized baskets to use them with my Breville, but the shots were not good(and did not look)at all which shows that the Thermoblock is not enough to maintain an stable temperature to pull a good shot, unless you use the pressurized baskets.