-Great looks. You have to keep it shiny, but it really looks good. -Wonderful espresso. Even a bad shot (which is rare) is better than 90% of what I could do on the Profi/Barista. -Gauges!!!! I still don't use the boiler pressure much, but the output pressure (9-10 bar) is a good indication of shot quality -Hot water wand. Great for making tea or caffe americani.
Negative Product Points
-Small tank, and the auto-cutoff tends to shut the pump down when the tank is half-full (to be fair, Chris' tech has a solution, but I've been busy) -Expensive. Don't even try an ROI calculation. You only do it for the love. -It will ruin you for normal espresso you get elsewhere. -What's with the name? Yeah, I know it's pronounced "teh-ah," but they could use some marketing help...
What more can I say than what I said above? At first, I was a bit inconsistent, but slowly I've been drilling down to a great shot every time. Definitely let the machine warm up for 1/2 hour (I turn it on when I wake up and pull a shot when I'm getting ready to leave for work). Purge the boiling water out of the head so you don't scald the espresso. Get a good grinder - and Chris has deals on the Tea/Mazzer combo. Use a scale to get your tamping down.
Yeah, it's more work than a fully automatic machine, but the results are worth it. I've had espresso around the world - and all over Italy - and I can say that my average shot off the Tea is better than almost anything I've had elsewhere.
Is Chris the cheapest? Maybe, maybe not, who cares. His service is incredible. He loves to talk coffee, and he follows up to make sure you're happy. I'd buy from him again in a heartbeat.
Three Month Followup
Chris' Coffee now has a new steamer tip that really helps you nail microfoam. Otherwise, nothing has changed. I still love the thing to death!