A real espresso machine, at a really low price. A clear standout in sub $100 market. For the vacation house or dorm room.
Positive Product Points
There is no other machine on the market within $100 of this machine that has similar numbers. For $69-$75 this little wonder really stands alone. It has the basic function and esthetics of a Gaggia Espresso. It has much lower build quality, but the out of the box function is amazing...for the price. Pump driven, Single Boiler, passive 58mm portafilter.
Negative Product Points
Buttons are cheap and has a weak tamp and scoop combo. I cut the tamp side off the scoop and still use it, picked up a $5 alloy tamp at coffee shop. Only marginal steam, it is plastic tipped, short and pretty lame looking. The steam wand drips a little until the boiler has completely warmed up 5-6 mins. Will post follow up on after more use...pulling 3-4 doubles a day at work, so getting a good workout.
OK, you wouldn't even be looking at this if you were not comparing sub $100 machines. I did the same search and was delightfully surprised by this little machine. There are no other machines that produce real espresso, most other machine in this price range have a "crema enhancing" portafilter. They take over presured water and force through a tinny little hole after it is brewed, this acts like a controlled sprayer and fluffs the coffee. Real crema comes from the proper temp, proper grind, fresh beans, proper tamp, etc. This machine makes this possible without modifications.
This machine is demanding that you use fresh coffee and proper technique. You can pull a dreadful shot real easy, but understand this is a manual machine. Don't fault this machine for a bitter swill shot if you have no clue how to use it.
I purchase this for my office, I was going to just use pods...but found this machine, even then I was just going to use pods in it, but after opening I was psyched to find a full 58mm pass portafilter.
My light goes off at 1:30 after turn on, but best to wait till 6+ mins. Really 15 mins gets whole machine hot including portafilter.
Who this is NOT for, ie why should I spend more. If you were entertaining and needed to pull a bunch of shots the consistency will lag as the temperature dips. You want a kitchen gem and like a little bling. You are a big latte lover, not good wand. Actually have the extra money..look to the Gaggia line. You are new to espresso and don't have the time to learn.
Not for the coffee neophyte, for an aspiring budget barista, this is a demanding machine...if you know what you are looking for this sells itself.
Conclusion, real espresso machine, great for work or for the aspiring poor barista. A machine you can actually learn a lot about coffee from, will not last forever so do not expect that. It is what it is.
In the sub $100 range it is a diamond in a bunch of fakes. Good first machine.
EDIT UPDATE ..................................................... .................................................... I have been using for a little more time now and wanted people to know the steam wand is almost useless. Steamed milk tastes like the boiler with a distinct metallic taste. Besides that weak mechanical function, the wand is way to short, can only do a 4 inch cup, so you end up making a huge mess. I don't have space at work to store milk so I only take a straight shot or americano.
Still working as described above otherwise, still learning a lot about coffee from this machine. Looking to a Maestro Plus Grinder for next purchase, more important then the espresso machine right now, as this one works great otherwise. ..................................................... ....................................................
Went to K-mart, put in cart.
Three Month Followup
Machine is still going strong, the temp is only correct at the point the red light goes off. The temp is rather volitle otherwise and the acceptable range in the machine must be huge...that is whyit is only good at the top.
Steam wand is usless because the wand is too short and the boiler is too small.
I am still happy with the machine because I only pull shots in the office for myself with 1 sugar.
I have learned alot about coffee with this machine and stand by my original review.