This machine is a beginner's dream, as the learning curve is slight and the resulting shots are delicious.
Positive Product Points
Easy and fast to use when you need your fix. Though this machine does not even try to be commercial grade in any respect, at this price point it has good metal in the group head and filter, with a rugged handle for knocking out. It is up and ready to go very fast. Great bang for the buck from a company that knows what they're doing.
Negative Product Points
At this price it's tough to gripe, but I will say that it's not much to look at, particularly with the large white lettering on the face of it. The cup warmer barely warms the cups, but it's got a plastic case and one can't expect too much from it. The resevoir is quite small, but then everything about this is compact.
This is my first machine that makes genuine espresso and I have learned lots with it. This is the perfect first step into the full enjoyment in the hobby of "pulling shots" and "microfoaming" milk. With the help of a good grinder, it yeilds a good hot, crema laden shot every time, though at slightly inconsistant temperatures. The Espresso is obviously well priced because of it‘s package and aluminum boiler; though this is a real plus if you don't want to wait for a brass boiler to heat up for the steamed milk.
The look of this is not great; it's plastic case looks cheap compared to the other appliances in my kitchen. It is like having an advertisement for Gaggia on your counter, with big white lettering on the face of this shiney high gloss, black plastic case... It comes with a rubber crema assist gimmick for the porta filter that is wholey uneccessary, and I never use it, I forget what draw I threw it in anyway. It froths a bit too fast with another gimmicky device; a plastic attachment that attaches to the wand, that does not allow the milk to heat up enough before turning it all into foam... I have been doing without this too.
They did do a nice job on the functioning parts, because this machine works great. The bottom line on the Gaggia Espresso is speed and ease of use; that boiler makes it ready to go for pulling the shot and switching to steaming and frothing in the wink of an eye, and the learning curve is extremely slight. However, it doesn't maintain the heat, nor is the group head really hot enough, so despite how fast I want to go, I found I need to give it a bit more time to really heat up in order to avoid bitter shots.
It's a straight forward and simple appliance that you can pick up for far less than anything else that produces results this good. I recommend this for good quality shots at a very reasonable price; form and function in this hobby usually cost lots more, and the parts are darned good for this price.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
4 years actually, and it's worth noting that it still produces a good shot of espresso with plenty of crema and lots of micro-foam at will, but it's starting to leak water from the group head whenever the machine is on. The biggest upside to this machine is how very fast the aluminum boiler heats up. This is likely still the best at this price point and I am constantly impressed by this little espresso machine that can...
IMPORTANT NOTE: Change your gaskets once a year and avoid the hell I went through in changing mine after 4 years.