An excellent durable first machine but I'm ready to graduate to something prettier with a few more bells and whistles.
Positive Product Points
-Once learned, it can produce shots (golden shots with a nice thick crema) that will rival most coffee shops. Yes starbucks espresso! -An excellent beginner machine for it's price. -My mom bought me this machine my freshmen year in college(1997). The machine still works. -This machine can be purchased refirbished for less than a hundred fifty bucks on ebay. -Can't tell you how many times I've been told how good my espresso or cappucino is. -This machine is very easy to fix if it mechanically breaks. I broke a little plastic piece of plumbing internally while cleaning it and examining the insides and replaced it for 3 dollars. -Warming tray is small but worthy of warming cups to a nice temp. -Sturdy handle and portofilter.
Negative Product Points
-Black housing on my unit has faded slightly and has a couple of scratches in it giving it a cheaper look. -Drip tray is plastic and over time it gets stained easily even after cleaning daily. -Resevoir is a pain to clean out, refill, typically after a weeks use you will find a few grinds in your resevoir. -Steam is a little weak and the nozzle makes it hard to find a pitcher the approriate size to froth milk. Fortunately i'm not a macchiato/ latte guy. -The machine can only fit cups about 4.5 inches high under it so remember to measure before you go out buying any special cappucino, espresso ware. -Warming tray only holds about 2 6oz.Cappucino cups and about 2 espresso cups. I got illy's (the ones they give away to restaurants to go with their setup) -Pump is noisy -Machine drips after turning the brew cycle off. -The tamper and crema rubber disc enhancer it came with is lame. Throw them out.
Now when I started using this machine there wasn't a lot of information on the subject of making espresso so it took me a while to figure out the ways from various coffee barristas particularly in the Kent State University area in Ohio and also the men that sold my mom the machine in Jersey (which credit is due but i have no idea what the company was called).
Typically this machine is best went turned on about 15-30 minutes prior to squirting a shot. I've never used the single shot basket holder because it's just to small in my opinion but it is essential to have the portofilter in the unit warming up with the machine or you will get poor results. I'll throw some cups on the tray turn it on wait about 20 minutes unless I'm in a hurry (I'll take my cup put a little water in it and nuke it for about 20 seconds in the microwave to get the chill off the cup (to hot is bad too btw). Grind my beans I use a cheapy Capresso model burr grinder that will probablly get donated to someone here whenever i order a new grinder but on the 2.5 setting it produces a decent somewhat even grind. I just fill the basket up, scrape it level and tamp it to about 2-3mm in the basket. I turn it on for about 3 seconds and back off to wet the grounds a bit and then I turn it back on again to start my squirt, then from there I just eyeball it until it starts getting a little lighter in color then i turn it off. Now if you just leave it there it will keep dripping and dilute a perfectly good cup of rich espresso so take the cup out promptly after you're happy and you should be good to go. If your planning on doing another shot for someone else delay any frothing of milk until the end because this will heat up the machine to much to make another good brew for at least 15 minutes (you can expedite this cool down by leaving the steam wand valve open to let out the pressure and effectively cooling it down). Typically the coffee i use is Indo Noir and it is produced by a company in San Diego and it could be possibly the best espresso coffee I've had, rich but not burnt or to weak. I buy it from Pannakin coffee and Tea in the Gaslamp district of San Diego, check em out!
It was a gift but clearly a great gift. After my first couple of years of use and talking to Barristas I finally figured out that optimal grind and coffee freshness was very important. I will probably upgrade to something more aesthetic and more commercial.