I bought this on a whim from a vendor on eBay Ė didnít expect to get even Starbucks quality shots at home, and had decided that was something I could live with. As Iíve figured out a few tricks, Iíve discovered that this machine, as humble as it is, consistently produces better espresso than I can get from nearly any of the coffee shops in Austin. Iíve used it for espresso just about daily, rather than the occasionally weekend cappuccino Iíd expected.
Let the machine pre-heat for about 10 minutes. The light goes off much sooner, but it takes a while to actually get hot enough.
Run a blank shot through the portafilter into the cup Iím going to use. This gets everything up to temp, since thereís no cup warmer.
Remove the portafilter and dry off the basket
Grind enough for a double (this is strictly an eyeballing operation, the timer on my Solis Mulino is pretty inconsistent). I use the 1.5 setting on the Mulino for Peet's Espresso Forte.
Use the cheap plastic scoop-and-tamper that came with the machine to dump two slightly heaping scoops of coffee into the portafilter with the double basket (the single is a complete throw-away)
Tamp down firmly, so that the coffee is just about even with the top of the basket.
Empty the hot water out of the cup, make sure the light has turned back off, lock, and run the shot. I get about 25-27 seconds for a double.
Also Ė if the machine isnít pre heated for at least a good 7 or 8 minutes, the shotís a bit bitter, and the tiny aluminum portafilter feels chincey and loses heat fast. Thatís about it though. I donít steam much, but I can get good foam when I do (sans turbo-frother, naturally).
Iíve got a bit of the upgrade bug, but I freely admit that itís completely irrational - more about the aesthetics than a dollar-for-dollar better output. No doubt a Silvia could produce a better shot, but itís also about 1500% more than I paid for this machine. As a relevant metric: this machine paid for itself in 3 weeks of bypassed Starbucks, with a better shot nearly every time. If the Gusto stopped dead in its tracks today, I'd be completely satisfied with the results I've gotten.
Bought from a vendor (Basketlady724) on eBay who had a bunch of demo/open box/customer returns. Looked completely unused, and came with all manuals. Prompt shipment, everything completely as advertised.
Three Month Followup
3 Months later... The machine is still humming along, though I can see its limitations a bit more clearly at this point. A few other issues to note:
I'm not convinced its really possible to get a rich shot with this small a basket. I haven't measured, but it's tiny. I generally run about 1.5 ozs, something like that, for a double.
Its sprung a small leak in the bottom of the drip tray. Not sure how. Currently this has been repaired with duct tape, but that's not particularly sustainable long term.
When I do steam, which is rare, it take some Major Effort to get microfoam. And some major luck. Sometimes there's enough steam pressure and sometimes there's not.
As far as buying again - I've left that as a yes, since I'd buy again if I were looking for a seriously cheap first machine. Not a chance I'll buy this one for my next machine.