My first espresso machine was a Krups Bravo, a steam powered toy ($50). It made a nice strong coffee with a hint of espresso taste. After I got hooked, I went a level up and bought this unit (Krups Novo 2300) for $199 at my local Bed-Bath-and-Beyond. It was the "highest end" machine I could find in the New Haven area.
Stupid me, I should have driven to Zabar‘s in NYC and gotten something much better for the same price. Germans just don‘t get espresso (makers).
That being said, I enjoyed the first three weeks of my Krups Novo 2300. It‘s fairly tolerant of user-failure. The ESE pods, for all everyone says, are great for those mornings where I can barely get my eyes open, let alone dose-tamp-pull-clean. I usually drink an Americano in the morning followed by 2-3 lattes during the day.
The Americanos are for the caffeine. The lattes are my afternoon treats. The espresso from this unit isn‘t bad, it‘s about Starbucks quality (when the portafilter isn‘t leaking water into your drink), which isn‘t saying much. There‘s usually a modest crema, although this may be due to the crema enhancing portafilter. Not bad, just not something you‘d shout out "Molto Squisito!!"
It was the latte performance that was the first disappointment. The steamer is a toy, it has no power and just produces a wet, weak steam. It‘s almost impossible to steam a good cap manually using it. You can use the "auto-cappucino" feature which sucks up milk through a flexible straw, froths it, and dumps it in your cup. It‘s easy to use and clean-up. But the bubbles are large and not the "micro-froth" that you‘ll find at the best cafes.
For a beginner, it‘s a great machine. It‘s very tolerant and makes a decent drink in most conditions. It‘s just that it‘s impossible to make a great drink out of it.
Furthermore, the nail in the coffin and the reason it‘s going back to the store (I love BBB‘s return policy) is that it has developed three major flaws in the 6 weeks I have had it:
1) The plastic casing has developed a visible crack in it. The entire unit is made of plastic and when you pull on the portafilter, you can actually see the entire machine twist ever so slightly, repetitive stress causes a crack along one of the fault lines. This is why a stainless steel body in the > $300 units is a goid feature. Your espresso maker shouldn‘t sway in the wind....
2) Portafilter leaks. No matter how scrupulously clean I keep it, the brewhead leaks. This is fine when I want Americano, it‘s a pain when I‘m trying to pull a straight espresso.
3) The portafilter occasionally threatens to unscrew itself and blow off during pulling. I‘ve seen the portafilter lever move on its own accord a few centimeters. I‘ve always stopped it before it blew off (not wanting to conduct that particular experiment), but it‘s unsettling. The portafilter just doesn‘t want to lock onto the brewhead very well.
In summary, it‘s not a bad machine and I can see many non-espresso afficianados (most Americans) being happy with it. It‘s a consumer machine, tolerant of most mistakes and designed to be used once or twice a week. If you gave one to your evil stepmother who drinks "expresso," she‘d most probably be thrilled with it (unless she has a stainless fetish).
Most people will buy it at their local kitchen store or Sears, not knowing that they can get the real thing for about the same price (Daily Grind has Gaggia Coffees for $199). It‘s their loss, but they won‘t be unhappy with their purchase unless they know better.
Me? I just bought a slightly defective Silvia from Daily Grind for $300 (missing screws and the motor mount is cracked; replacement part on its way). I‘ll post that review separately once I get used to Miss Silvia in my house.
Benvenuto, Signorina Silvia!