For $400, it beats the $3,300 Jura Z5 we used to own, hands down!
Positive Product Points
Craftsmanship is simply best in class. Simple and easy to use. Instruction manual "idiot" friendly. Weight (24 lbs) of unit prevents tipping. Design is clean and modern; function dials are user friendly.
Negative Product Points
Difficult to see water level in reservoir. Lack of brass boiler. Emptying the filter holder leaves a lot to be desired.
Before I write any further, just let me say that nothing I own deserves an overall rating of 10/perfect. With that established, let me write my review as to why we bought this product:
We buy everything for the kitchen from Williams-Sonoma because of their customer satisfaction program, so the Breville became a defacto decision after we had to return our third Jura Z5 for way too many malfunctions than one should expect to encounter when paying $3,300 for an expresso machine.
Pulling a tasty Breville espresso with Starbucks Bold Espresso beans:
Our first pull of espresso was bitter as some others have noted. However, we didn't become faint of heart, because I had read the instruction manual and it gave suggestions on what to do if the espresso was bitter. What I realized in just three pulls is that I needed to experiment with everything that is involved in pulling an excellent espresso when changing from one espresso machine to another.
First pull mistakes: I set our Starbucks Barista coffee grinder to the "espresso grind" setting and I tamped the grinds firmly (yes, you should tamp the grinds just as the users manual instructs). The result was an extremely bitter espresso as the manual indicated would happen when grinds are ground too finely or the grinds have been tamped too firmly.
Second pull mistakes: I set our Starbucks Barista coffee grinder to the position midway between "espresso grind" and "drip grind" and lightly tamped the grinds. The result was a less bitter espresso but there was significantly less crema that was light in color and the robustness of the espresso was lacking [this could be have been a result of my taste buds having been sensitized to the first, bitter pull of espresso].
Third pull corrections: I set our Starbucks Barista coffee grinder to one hash mark below the "drip grind" setting and tamped the grinds firmly again. The result was a perfectly smooth and robust espresso with a dark and heady crema. This was the first day of ownership.
Subsequent use: The next morning I pulled espressos for us using the Third pull corrections and my taste buds had not decieved me the afternoon before. It was delicious! After our espressos, we decided to have a latte. Needless to say, it was purr-fect and we are enjoying daily usage without experiencing any variance in taste/smoothness.
Other experiments/corrective actions: If we hadn't found a satisfactory result with the Third pull corrections, we would have begun experimenting with different coffee bean brands. Friends of ours swear by Trader Joe's brand of espresso (because it is significantly cheaper than Starbucks brand) and we tried this brand when we first ventured into pulling our own espresso. But our experience with that brand was that it is consistently bitter no matter what we do. So we experimented with other coffee bean brands and found Starbucks brand provided the taste we were looking for in an espresso, latte and cappuccino. But, just as with fine wines, it really is up to the individual's taste that determines whether a wine is fine or not, and the same rule applies to espresso.
I hope this trial and error review is helpful to anyone who is experiencing a less than quality espresso from their Breville product.
Williams-Sonoma is simply our one-stop shop for anything that belongs in our kitchen. I'm not interested in saving money when it comes to luxury items like this. My interest lies in the personal service and the customer satisfaction one buys when shopping at W-S.