Ok, I decided that I needed to get a home unit that was not too expensive. The 3 dollars a day at the corner coffee shop was adding up and I really like a latte while I read my weekend paper. I decided on the Gusto, initially, as it was a pump unit and it was pretty cheap on ebay. There were a ton of these Novo's on ebay around Thanksgiving and I won an auction at about what I was willing to pay for a Gusto. I was quite happy initially, but the happiness wears off after you use it a while. It is a nice looking machine in my opinion. It is easy to use and easy to keep clean. The removable drip tray is key. The removable water tank is very convenient. There are many comments about leaking Novo machines. Actually, I have never had a true leak. It is very picky about grind and tamping, though. If it is not tamped tight enough or if the grind is too coarse, you will get water running around the portafilter and it wil spew out the weep hole at the back of the portafilter. Another complicating thing is that the filter backet can get stuck on one of the alignment ridges and may not be held down correctly against the inside base of the portafilter. I have had both types of 'leaks'. You end up with a water-y espresso as the water runs down the back of the portafilter and around. This is not a leak, per se, but is easily remedied with a better tamp or a slightly finer grind or repositioning of the filter basket. The portafilter has this weep hole there to allow the coffee to drain after the pump is turned off. On the other hand, if it is packed too tightly, it will take an age to pull a shot. This is what I mean by 'picky'. (see addendum - this MAY have been the sign of a dying pump) Once you get the hang of it, it is fine. If the grind, coffee type and pack is just right, you will get some crema, but not a lot. If you want to make 2 shots in succession, it is probably best to pull the shots then steam any milk after the shots are pulled. I am not completely sure why this is, but I guess it has to do with the change in temperature of the components during steaming and it takes a bit before it will pull a good shot again. ALso, do not stop the brewing process and restart it. It will take an age to pull as the water sets the grounds to teh consistency of cement. If it is not pulling right, start over. (the steaming of my boiler machine shows me why many have not been very happy with the steaming capabilities of the Novo. There is no comparison. Thas very wet steam and ceases to 'steam' milk before the milk has become much more than warm.)
The 'auto cappuccino' does work as advertised, but it does not give a light creamy head, just bubbly. It is OK, but not great. You will need a machine with more steam capability than a thermo block machine to get good foamed milk, if that is what you are after.
If you have one of these and it is giving you fits, try being very deliberate about the grinding and tamping of the grounds in the partafilter. If you have it ground, get a standard espresso grind and play with the tamping. I have a Solis Maestro grinder and have it set right in the middle of the pictogram of the portafilter and it works ok if I push the tamper down on the grounds with my fingers only. A full 40 lb. tamp like at a local coffee shop will take an age to pull a shot.
I have had much better luck using the larger portafilter and have had very little luck getting a decent shot with the smaller one. I have never used the pre made pods.
it is a decent starter to see if you want to deal with making espresso or espresso drinks. If you do enjoy it, you will want to trade up. I am looking at a more expensive machine with a proper boiler and not a thermo block heater.
Addendum: 2/11/02 - It appears that my machine died as a result of a pump failure. The pump DOES make pump noises and does pump water, but does not pump at high enough pressure to make a shot. I received this machine as a remanufactured unit. If you think you may be serious about making your own espresso, I would look for a machine with a true boiler as opposed to a thermoblock.