I spent alot of time trying to justify the purchase. It is a beautiful machine and I was given it as a gift and came with a knoxbox...so I wanted to love it. It also sold for like 2.5X as much as Wiliiams and Sonoma, so I had high expectations.
At first I had to get a grinder, I picked up a MDF. I found that with the Breville a small change in grind would make a huge change in flow. With my Gaggia small changes make small changes in flow. This is because the Classic has lower pressure and as such is less affected by the change in grinder, allowing me more room to find the sweet spot with my beans. (The Pressure on the Breville is set for ESE Pods, which, as I understand it, require significantly higher pressure than the generally desired 9bars for fresh ground coffee.)
After picking up the grinder, I had to find nonpressurized portafilters. I called Breville and they sent both a single and a double for free no shipping no questions asked. Excellent.
It still tasted terrible. Each shot made my mouth pucker in disgust. I could get some decent crema, but the flavor was horrible. My Classic does much better, though I am still not great.
I ran a battery of tests on a variety of days and times. I let the machine heat up for over 30 minutes (though it wasnt necessary due to the nature of the heating element.)
On using a styrofoam cup test I noticed drops in temperature, it would generally go from about 190-170 during a shot, sometimes starting at 200.
I then found another testing that I liked, but because of the quanity of water involved may be inaccurate. I took several towels, folded them under the group and placed a preheated instant read thermometer on top of them. I turned on the brew function and I found that it pulled at 200 at first, it quickly dropped to 190 and would last for about 5 seconds in that range.
Then it would start to drop, and a little before 20 seconds would be from 150-160. Then it would start to rise a little and drop off again before getting to 30 seconds.
Now, this is not the most accurate test, but at least the towels provide some resistance to the flow of the water. My Classic does MUCH better on both tests.
This is important because anything less than 180 degrees will certainly result in a sour extraction, hence the mouth puckeringly horrible shots.
To make up for it, the Breville has a beautiful steam wand. I found that for the first 60 seconds it produced a very wet steam, producing something along the lines of 2-3 oz of water. After 60 seconds it seemed to kick up a notch and would produce less "water" in the same amount of time. I gave it 60 seconds to run, then turned it off, put it in my milk, and quickly turned it on. I was not dissapointed with the milk, and with sugar, syrup or other additions then the Breville would be ok for someone not demanding too much from his/her espresso.
I do not recommend the Breville. Search for a used Classic, Sylvia, Francis with brass boiler or other-I picked up a classic for 150 and have not been dissapointed.