I love it to bits. The little gripes are minute and marginal, and the positive completely wins over the negative. I recommend it whole-heartedly.
Positive Product Points
I think it is a beautiful machine - which is purely subjective, but my wife and I love the way it looks.
Makes excellent Latte. Don't care for Espresso, don't care for Cappucino, I am a Latte kind of guy (my wife too) - we both hate milk foam, so we never use the frother, and since we mix the shot with heated milk - I don't really care about the "Crema" of the Espresso. The flavour of the coffee, it's consistent great taste (I am using a 3 part blend from Starbucks), and the simplicity of using the machine have won us over.
I got it for a killer price in Costco here in Ontario - $275, about half the price I saw in most other places including online (around $450 or more).
Water tank contains a lot of water, so we can make several cups one after the other without refilling.
Excellent drip tray - has a built in indicator to show you when it is full, easy to pull out of the machine without taking anything apart, easy to empty and clean. This tray also has another important virtue - if you are using anything taller than large coffee mugs (which the machine supports without any problem) - simply remove the drip tray to give yourself an instant extra inch + of clearance!
Excellent cup heating space on top - we always have four mugs up there which the machine keeps nice and warm.
Once I found the right level of bean grind - which must not be too fine, everything is perfect. See negative points for more on this.
Comes with a great set of accessories - a quality stainless steel pitcher (for milk heating and frothing - which we don't really need), a two sided plastic tool - measuring spoon on one side and shot compactor (or whatever that is called...) on the other, one filter basket for single shot, one for double shot and one for pods (which we never used). It also has a needle "thingie" to unclog the filters - but I never needed to use it yet in the 4 or so months we have the machine (used everyday several times per day).
Not too noisy. I can actually make myself a cup at 6AM when I wake up to go to work, without the noise waking anyone up (we live in a bungalow, so everything is on the same floor).
Really easy to clean. After I'm done making the coffee, I simply put the filter basket back on the machine without putting any coffee in it, and turn the water faucet on as if I was making a shot. Once about a shot's worth of water flows through, I take the filter basket off, and that's it - the machine's head is clean as a whistle. Whiping the rest of the machine with a paper towel is all I need to do for the exterior cleaning. Real simple.
Negative Product Points
Coffee grinding - finding the right grind level is a balancing act between too fine (the default Starbucks grind totally suffocated the machine the first time, and I had to throw that whole batch away and buy a new batch of beans). I found that "sand" is the best consistency for this machine. I am not using a number, because I found out that every machine (even in Starbucks) is calibrated differently, and due also to wear and tear, produces a different grind even when using the exact same number). So I simply ask them to do a test grind with their own beans first, and when I feel the grind in my fingers, and it feels like sand - I let them grind my coffee.
The water tank sits on a sort of horizontal "rail" under the heating top part of the machine. When you make coffee, the vibrations from the machine "dance" the tank out slowly, pushing it towards the filter basket. This is irritating, and I need to push it back slightly every time. It is not terrible - the tank does in no way travel more than a cm or two - but it still does vibrate its way out of its proper position. I do wish Breville - whose products I love (we have a few) would have made the tank lock into position using some kind of recessed groove on the rails or some other simple trick to keep it from vibrating out.
The filter's spout (the dual spout that releases the coffee to the mug) does not pour out equally on both sides all the time, so I never just put two cups under it to make two coffees - I make the coffee using a pyrex jug and then pour it to two cups equally.
This purchase was half "spur of the moment" - impulse buy, and half careful research. When I first saw it in my local Costco selling for that price, it was after I was already itching to buy a coffee machine for a while, and almost bought Breville's Cafe Roma a few days before that for about $220. So when I saw this one, I used my Blackberry in the Costco shop to go online and read everything I could about this model - which is how I got to this great website here...
Once I saw that people like this machine (minus the usual "fine schmeckers" that will find fault with everything that doesn't cost thousands of dollars) - I just put it in my cart. My wife wanted to kill me - because she was always against getting a machine thinking "we don't need one". But since we got it - she admits it was one of our best buys ever. We use it all the time, our family and guests love the coffee we make them, and we feel like we won the lottery of something - it is simply so much fun to enjoy this great coffee thinking I could just go back in the kitchen and make as many as I want without having to settle for louzy instant coffee (I always joke that what North American's consider to be instant coffee is actually diesel fuel leftovers Folgers / Nestle and the others here get for free from the gas companies...) or expensive coffee from coffee shops.
Buying experience? In Costco?... What can I say? I came in, I waited in line at the register, I came out...