I see so many negative comments about these inexpensive DeLonghi machines (this BAR32, the EC155, EC270, EC702 etc) that I just had to speak up in favor of a machine I've owned for two years now.
My drink of choice with my BAR32 machine is a double espresso. When I first got the machine I was measuring out about 16g of freshly-ground, and finely-ground, coffee, but after the early days it's just scoop, tamp, scoop, tamp. Each scoop seems to be about 7g or 8g consistently.
I have a Hario Skerton manual grinder but my Capresso burr grinder set on the lowest setting is what I normally use to feed the BAR32. With a portafilter I find this espresso maker is very forgiving of variation in grind and tamping, and even not-so-fresh beans will still produce a nice crema. I don't want to knock anyone who wants to tell me that this portafilter-forced crema not "real" crema, but it tastes just like the crema on espresso I've ordered at local (non-chain) coffee shops here in Austin, TX.
I do make cappuccino occasionally. The steam wand froths milk really well when I just barely dip the tip into the milk. Usually I start with about an inch depth of whole milk in a chilled frothing pitcher, and I fully immerse the wand to get the temperature up over 100degF before dropping the pitcher so the tip gurgles at the milk surface. If I start it gurgling/frothing right away the milk will rise over the top of the pitcher before I get the milk temperature up to my desired 160-170degF range, so I try to avoid that.
To keep the machine running as cleanly as possible, I buy either purified or distilled water at the local grocery store for my brewing. Every couple of months I follow DeLonghi's descaling instructions. Basically I fill up the tank with a mixture of water & citric acid, run a little thru, let the now-primed solution sit for 20 minutes or so, run the rest thru, then flush with at least one more tankful of plain distilled water. Good to go for another 100 or so espressos.
I'm not suggesting I'm a heavy user of this machine since I drink drip first thing in the morning and at work. But every single evening after dinner I have a double espresso, and multiple doppio on weekend days. My wife will have some on the weekend, but she's not a fan of evening coffee. So over two years I've certainly made 700+ espressos with this little machine & it's going strong. I've also brought it into work to make a dozen or so espressos or cappucinos for coworkers & it's always impressed - not the unassuming black plastic housing, but the quality of its output.
I would never argue that a steam-driven machine makes a real cup of espresso, and would never call the output of a Keurig machine espresso. But this pump-drive BAR32 makes a very nice cup of espresso which I enjoy every day. I certainly understand why machines in the over-$1000 range could produce a better or more consistent espresso, but if your budget is sub-$500 I can't see any reason to spend more than the $99 or so a machine like this will set you back.
- Jim in Austin, TX