A great value in a super-automatic. I'll probably spend all of the savings on beans in the first year...
Positive Product Points
Very easy to use. Fast warm up, quick recovery. Excellent documentation. (This review is for the non-digital Model 3400, black with chrome accents.)
Negative Product Points
Some plastic parts seem less than robust, steamer wand awkward to use.
After a year of using a Mr. Coffee basic pump machine and getting some good shots but becoming frustrated with the amount of time it took to serve guests I started shopping for a super-auto. Found this unit on Costco Online and came here to check the reviews. It was well reviewed so that, along with the bargain price, made the decision easy. After unpacking I was impressed by the heft of the machine but not so much by the rotary knobs on the front. They seem out of place compared to the rest of the controls. Minor gripe since they work just fine. The construction is largely plastic but only the access doors seem less than sturdy. The brew group is stout and easily removed. I had already read the manual online a couple of times so following it through from preparation to first use was quick and trouble free.
Every aspect of the machine is easy to understand and utilize. At first glance there appear to be a lot of controls to deal with but most of them are rarely used once the unit is set up. The only adjustment that took any real fine tuning was the grinder, which is to be expected. By simply observing the delivery rate and making one click at a time changes I was getting great shots within 20 minutes. Note: One exception to the otherwise good documentation- In only one place, (the troubleshooting section) does it say to adjust the grinder ONLY while it is running. This may be common knowledge but it wasn't so for me. I'm not sure what damage could result but I didn't cause any. The only disappointment is the steaming wand. It has limited motion and will require that you shop carefully for a pitcher that allows proper access to the contents. I have no comment on the "ground coffee" feature as I never plan to use it. Warm up and prep take 3-4 minutes and recovery is less than 1 minute. Using the steamer causes the temp. to rise above what the brew group requires. It can be several minutes before it cools down. Follow the directions for delivering hot water, (steamer off, open steamer knob until water comes out), and the unit will cool down right away. In this way I have prepared 6 drinks in a row without any real delay. A complete clean up and refill takes less than 5 minutes.
On to the coffee - For my taste setting the strength a little past the middle gave a remarkably strong shot. All the way up results in a film of sticky sludge in the bottom of the cup. Maybe folks in Europe drink it that way but I don't think anyone will wish for a more potent cup. I now use a setting that is about 40% of the full range. Some SB Verona beans sufficed for a couple of days but things really came to light when I received some Stumptown Hair Bender Blend from Portland. Ahh...that's why I got this thing! With the volume set at about 2/3 of the full range and pressing the "one cup" button I get a great double shot. Coffee temperature is okay but near the lower limit. Well heated cups are recommended. Reviews of other machines make it clear that a higher degree of control over the brewing process is possible but any compromises this machine exhibits are, to me, fully outweighed by the convenience and consistency.
The performance and price of this unit have resulted in one very satisfied customer. The quibbles are minor and if the Magnifica proves reliable and durable it will hold a place of honor on the counter for years to come.
Aug 14,'07: Just a note on maintenance. I noticed that after a couple thousand shots the unit sounded like it was bogging down when it compressed the ground coffee. I noticed when I first got the system than the moving parts of the brew head were lubricated. Most of that had been lost. I thoroughly cleaned the unit and lubricated it with "SuperLube", available almost anywhere. It is a USDA H-1 rated lubricant so it is safe to use for this purpose. Now the machine is quieter and smoother operating. I don't recall seeing anything about this in the manual so I thought other owners might like to know.
Costco - Easy, quick and great price. Plus, if the unit fails you can simply return it to any of their stores for a refund. Shipping was listed as 8-10 days but it took 12 due to holiday rush.
Three Month Followup
After 3 months and approximately 500 shots this machine is proving to be a sound purchase. I have learned a few things: - The grinder settings are touchy. I use only "2", "3" or "4" and wish there were settings in between those. I noted before that the instructions came up short in telling you to adjust the grinder only while running. I have since found that I missed a line but you can't really turn the knob without it running anyway, (I suspect if you kept twisting it might break something). - Pulling the best shots is best accomplished by watching the delivery of the coffee and stopping it when the color/viscosity change occurs as with a manual machine. - One reviewer said it doesn't work well when trying to make larger volumes. I agree with that. The best approach is to zap a few ounces of water in the microwave and dispense the espresso into that like my wife does for a rich americano. I don't turn the "quantity" setting much above about 2/3, (double shot). It tends to deliver thin, bitter coffee at the end of the cycle if you do. The machine recovers so fast it's easier to just run consecutive shots anyway. - I clean the interior daily. The instructions say to brush the debris from the mechanism and vacuum up the residue. Seems like a lot of trouble to me. I just use a damp paper towel and wipe everything carefully, paying particular attention to the O ring found in the upper right, which forms a seal with the interior of the brew head. -Overall this has been one of the best consumer purchases I have ever made. It has allowed me to enjoy coffee like never before and takes less effort than a drip machine.
One Year Followup
Nothing has changed since last year. I have been very satisfied with the performance and reliability of our Magnifica. All of the comments from the 3 month followup remain valid. Yes, you can get a better shot at a good coffee purveyor, (sometimes), but this machine allows convenient, fast preparation of espresso that is vastly superior to most retail coffee in this country. Now, while spending all of September in Tuscany taught me that it's possible to have excellent coffee available at nearly every turn, that's not going to happen here in my lifetime. The Magnifica provides me with enjoyable coffee, not just a medium for caffeine. It you are cosidering an automatic machine give DeLonghi serious consideration.