This machine is great for begginers as well as for pros, It produces a great coffee, capable of competing most of the coffee bars I know.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use, provide great espresso, no crema problems, no rust problem so far, nice replicability of coffee, ability to produce several shots one after another, large water reservior, Great machine in that class (possibly the best).
Negative Product Points
Steam wand drips if machine stays on for more than 30 minutes. Steaming is fine but the wand's place allows only small pichters (max 12 OZ.) altough the machine can handle larger ones. Flashing water between shots is needed in order to cool the boiler and stabilize temp.
I read most of the reviews on this machine. Well, this machine worth every dime, quite easy to use and provides a great cup of coffee (espresso, machiatto, cappuchino etc.) It can work nice for those who crave a quality even professional cup, but it demands little time investment in getting use to the perfect retual of espresso brewing, also finding the correct grinding size takes time (usually finner grind than other machines in that class) but don't get to scared, making excellent shots with Gaggia makes up for the time you'lle invest.
Please do not try to blame this machine for any crema problems. I achieve 20-40 percent crema depanding on the beans and freshness. Try changing the beans (roast your own mixes at least once a week and grind per shot) "make a FRESH coffee".
Yet I don't see any sign of rust as others claim, possibly the brushed Stainless Steal is better than the other options. I clean this machine almost weekly (put the parts in a bowl full of water and soap for 30 min, then wash and dry). So far I had to change a grouphead band which was faster and easier than I expected (7$ and 5 min service).
Don't put wet cups on the hot tray, water might drip into the electronics. Use decalcifing material once in two month to avoid calcification (mineral water are baaad for this machines).
Dripping problems from the steam wand are not that severe, allow water flow from the steam wand in order to cool the boiler and thereby stopping the drip problem.
Milk frothing proccess is not that easy, but practise using CG frothing guide will produce nice results. If you wish to achieve a dense froth (micro-foam) try frothing without the plastic aid, buy 12 OZ. pichter and practise alot (It took me like 100 liters of milk to reach a consistent microfoam and latte art with Gaggia).
Online Shop in Israel was O.K. although I read in some forums about several problems with their service.
Three Month Followup
I will join those who recommanded to remove the frothing-aid. Try frothing your milk without it. Yet I achieved micro-foam several times. Latte Art is possible with the Gaggia but it demands intensive practise for both milk frothing and pouring. While operating this machine for almost 9 month I noticed a small difference in the quality of the espresso brew between single filter to double filter (double is better). A tip to improve the quality of the "single", dose the coffee like a hill, this calibarates the density of the coned filter, also try to "lock" the edges of the filter by turning the tamper 360 degrees. Another point, in order to produce several shots, flash some water from the grouphead and the steam wand in order to cool the boiler and avoid errors in termostat functioning.
One Year Followup
Actually this followup is regarding the previous 3 years of my Gaggia Classic. Some leaking has begun almost a year ago from a inner part of the steam wand (may be the thread that connects the steam wand to the pipe coming out of the pump). It doesn't disturb that much I shall fix it some times. Anyway nothing changed so far with the quality of my drinks. Steaming is fine, even my latte art capa. improved. Combined with my Iberital Grinder I enjoy a great coffee at home.