You'd be hard pressed to find a better barista substitute for your buck.
Positive Product Points
Easy to learn Easy to clean Produces quality espresso Great-looking Small, fits anywhere
Negative Product Points
Steamer moderately powerful A bit noisy Built-in, not stand-alone tamper Not all accessories included
This is my first espresso machine. I didn't want to spend a lot of money -- it's supposed to save me money in the long run -- but I feared on my budget I'd end up with a substandard latte, not suitable for drinking. This Delonghi machine exceeded my expectations! I was pleasantly surprised by the quality drinks I was able to produce on only my second or third try. The manual provides thorough, illustrated step-by-step instructions, perfect for first-timers. After just one month, I feel I've perfected my favorite morning concoction (vanilla double lattes), and I'm ready to start learning latte art.
Because I've not invested in a grinder, I took the advice of another coffee geek that owns this model, and used Illy espresso grind. Good call. I have not tried the ESE pods. If you are wanting to use the pods, I'd first make sure the ESE pods are widely available in your area.
I do wish it had come with more accessories. A 12-ounce frothing pitcher is recommended for this model, but I couldn't find anything smaller than a 20-ounce pitcher. I bought a Kreps 20-ounce pitcher at Bed Bath and Beyond, as it was wide and squat, short enough to fit this small machine. I also had to purchase espresso cups (it doesn't come with a shot glass). While you are picking these items up, you might want to get small kitchen towels to wipe down the machine after each use.
I will be interested to see how it stands up over time. I am most concerned about the water tank valve. You have to remove the water tank to completely empty the standing water, and I wonder whether the valve will continue to hold its seal after months of repeat use.
My purchase began with the receipt of a Macy's gift card, so I was limited to the machines they carried. The sales clerk was friendly, but she admitted she didn't know much about espresso machines. So I took down the model numbers of the three least expensive machines - the Krups Steam Espresso Machine ($60), this Delonghi EC 155 ($100), and the Breville Cafe Modena ($200). After reading reviews here and on other sites, I became conviced that the best value was the Delonghi.