Saeco superautomatica, Krups grinder, M4 on the way
I am relieved and pleased that I made this purchase as the machine is beautiful, easy to use, and makes great espresso.
Positive Product Points
This machine is very easy to use, heats up fast, and makes nice hot espresso with crema. The actively heated cup warmer is a nice touch. Fast switching between making espresso and steaming milk means you get your drink hot, not after it has been sitting and cooling off.
Negative Product Points
The button for larger coffees, such as when using the double basket, does not have a pre-infusion cycle. Must vacate water from steam wand before steaming coffee. Also wish it didn't display the name "baby" on the front.
When I researched machines I wanted one that would have good pressure, fast heat up, and the appropriate temperature for making espresso. I also wanted one that looked good and was consistent, with out me having to stand nearby with a timer in hand. This machine exceeds my expectations.
First, when I researched this machine all the retailers had it for $699 to $799 and I was not really willing to spend that much on a new product that had not seen many reviews. However, I got this product at a great price from KitchenGadgetry.com. It arrived much faster than I thought because when I talked to them on the phone they said they do not stock them but order them from Italy. Well, the machine arrived 8 days later. Not bad! It was also very carefully packed.
Unlike other manuals that I have read on line and read about on line, this one is very user friendly. I had the machine up and running in 10 minutes. Here are the details:
Cup warmer - takes the chill off and warms nicely. Not need to flush hot water through a cup to get it hot. The active heating is much better than relying on the residual heat from a boiler as with most other machines in this price range.
Espresso making - this is just a breeze. My Macap M4 has not arrived yet so I am using an old Krups burr grinder. However, even with this I get rich, intense espresso, with a nice crema. The pre-infusion cycle works on the smaller cup button, normally used for single espressos. However, one can program this button for to pump more water though as needed for a double. That leaves the double button for programming for over extraction or regular extraction without the pre-infusion. The pre-infusion cycle can also be disabled if you want to but I see no reason to. Most superautomatics use the pre-infusion to get the maximum out of the coffee and the more expensive machines have this feature. So I'm using the pre-infusion. Have not yet compared with and without but that will be in my follow-up in 30 days. Espresso making is fairly quiet as is milk steaming.
One note on milk steaming. The wand is on a ball joint so it swings out and up and is very flexible to position for small or larger milk containers. Also I was concerned about the report of the "burned rubber" taste from the machine that some reported. I have no such problem. It must have been a supply problem in the earlier production. My milk steams fast, froths easily, and has no odd imparted taste from the machine. I love it and get great espresso cafe quality.
Build Quality - the PF has a nice sturdy spring load feather so your filter basket does not come out when knocking grounds out. The water tank, exterior of the machine, and electronic button panel are all very good quality and not flimsy at all. The on-off switch is located in the middle left side on the back. I don't mind this as it is easy to reach. The machine looks elegant. I just wish the name "baby" was not on it as it is kind of too cutesy for a machine of this price. But I think the Italians go in for that as all my past superautomaticas had silly names on them too. However, the Gaggia name is promenent and the "baby' moniker is subtle. This machine makes espresso as good as any cafe, better than SB's in my opinion. As far as I can tell the machine has a fairly wide tolerance for grind and can produce a very good espresso even with grind variations, although the crema may suffer.
One advantage of this machine is that once you get your grind right and program the extraction time, almost any house guest can use it and get very good espresso. They can help themselves so you don't need to be working some touchy machine all the time for them.
Excellent - faster delivery than expected. Machine was new, not rebuilt and the price was fantastic.