A hands-on machine that gives you more control over the espresso-making process.
Positive Product Points
The Gaggia Factory is well-built, nice looking, and inexpensive. It truly can make a great shot of espresso. It has good steam power, without any waiting after pulling a shot. It requires a manual pull on the lever, giving the barista more control over the process.
Negative Product Points
It does have a steeper learning curve than semi-auto/auto machines. It is finicky about grind quality and fineness. It overheats quickly, handicapping it for multiple, successive shot pulls. It tends to move around a bit on the counter when pulling a shot.
After researching espresso machines for several months, I decided to try a manual lever machine. I saw that Whole Latte Love had a refurbished model for $279, so I quickly purchased it. It arrived well-packed, with all the accessories, and a manual to get me started.
It did not take me long to realize that my Baratza Maestro grinder could not produce a fine enough grind to satisfy the Factory (although it is great for other methods). The Factory requires a fine enough grind to create enough resistance in the pull, thus generating a pressurized water flow over the coffee. I have since upgraded to a Rancilio Rocky which works very well.
Using the Factory is a little bit skill, a little bit art, and a little bit ritual. I have learned that I have a short window of time (about 10-15 minutes after turning it on) to pull a couple of good shots. After that, the group is overheated, making the shot a little bitter. Oddly, thatís part of the charm of these machines! They have a temperamental personality but produce delicious espresso!
Steaming is a breeze on the machine. It takes about 20 seconds to steam about 4 or 5 ounces of milk. There is no waiting for the machine to reach steaming temperatures after pulling a shot, thanks to its design. Just turn it on and steam!
If you are thinking of getting a lever machine, consider that it isnít the easiest machine to use, but it is fun. Itís not good for big parties and multiple shots, but it really does make great espresso.
I bought it through Whole Latte Loveís outlet store. It was a good experience with no problems.