The best machine in the sub $300 range, do not confuse with flashy stainless machine or the new weaker gaggia products
Positive Product Points
Solid product, 58mm REAL portafilter, good cycle time
Negative Product Points
plastic exterior, water tank could use a top fill option. The options for placement are limited to keeping sides open, because 1) the tank comes out easiest to the left and 2) the wand is on the right. Silly design...should have made these both happen on one side, wand works OK to the front.
The machine is annoyingly limited to placement. Filling works best from the left side so even placing on a Gaggia Bar, it is in a bad place next to the grinder.
That said, this machine is AWSOME. It is a REAL machine, with no fakey crema device. You have to work for it and you will be better for it.
I have been using paired with a Zass hand grinder at work. Getting very nice results. Contrary to my previous machine a Hamilton Beech machine (which it is very similar on paper) it has much better temperature stability, recycle times and consistency. The pump is much more consistent and I think stronger. I had to do a lot of temp surfing before.
The portafilter is nice an heavy and quite solid in the machine. I have been eyeing other products in the Gaggia line, but actually having them infront of me an comparing to others side by side...they really stood out.
Gaggia used to only have 1400watt machines with very similar internal, the espresso (old model), coffee, carezza, evolution and intro baby's are all about the same, just some dosing here and there and stainless steel exteriors. There are some new weaker machines in the line that are not as good. The cubik and new espresso dose/color/pure are weaker machine and not to be confused. The evo or carezza are a much better. If you are considering an Evo or Dose...go with Evo.
If you have more cash...step up to the Classic next, then to Baby D twin. Otherwise my opinion is the other machines shouldn't be considered at all. Evo (great intro to a solid espresso machine) Classic (adds the 3 way valve) Baby D twin (Adds twin heating elements for brew and steam). Stop there though, dump money into a good grinder and you are ready to go.
I got this for the office because of the cost, I didn't want to drop a bundle and I have been waiting and saving to get "what I wanted" for home. Partially not really know "what I wanted" for home I have been waiting. BUT, this machine is great. I seriously can not believe the quality for the price. I was lusting after a Classic for home, still am but based on cost retail though, it is hard to justify an extra $350 for stainless steel and 3 way valve.
Got from a Liquidators, they had nothing to do with coffee at all I just recognized what it was and gave it a shot, it was less then half price. Worked great. I am assuming there is no warranty or support from seller, accepted risk considering price.
Three Month Followup
Yeah, read the year.
One Year Followup
The product is still rocking. I have been using off an on, depending on my schedule. I don't get good results unless I have fresh beans and fuss with the grind. This is the case with any real espresso machine, so I often let the local shop full with the grind and give them 2 bucks for a cup. When I have the time though, I love this machine. I am surprised how Gaggia has weakened their line up, this seems to be the last of the "Espresso" models.
Everything I had said below still stands, it doesn't have great steaming power, but will do a decent cap, late's are a stretch. I usually just drink a straight shot with a spoon of sugar, so this doesn't bug me much. I always use bottled water in it.
This machine is still a great value and still a huge value winner in the $300 range, the fact I got my for $125 was crazy luck.
I would like a new grinder as I use a hand crank Zassenhaus, I was also lusting over a baby twin, but apparently that product was a flop, so I am happy I didn't get one of those. I am still looking for a decent twin system with a three way valve for less then $500, if that even exists. Seems you have to drop $1500 for a good one. Gaggia, come to my rescue. I probably have a basic super automatic in my future before I get a real machine, probably only afford to get one after I retire.