The Saeco Classico produces WAY BETTER espresso than ANY of these college town coffee houses.
Positive Product Points
Price...steel body...easy to learn...with a Solis grinder on next to the finest grind, it makes crema about 3/8" thick consistently. It is SO thick, that it sticks to the spoon like glue. The frother makes the non-fat half & half (that I prefer) thicker than I have seen(about an inch using a stainless frothing pitcher) Easy to set-up out of the box...easy to clean...did I mention good price?! (ESPECIALLY if you get the black one)
Negative Product Points
There is a definite "learning curve"...no tamper comes with machine...water in holding tank seems to disappear before you know it, even though it holds a lot. But when it runs out...YOU‘LL KNOW IT!!! (it does have a very visible waterline, so it‘s probably just me) BTW...I never have found a tamper for this filter, but I found two common items that work well until I do find one. After using two LEVEL scoops of coffee...a round-face EKCO meat thermometer fits the filter exactly. This will get the initial pack done but the sharp point of the shaft puts a quick end to that. Then I found that a 2.25oz blue label jar of Armour sliced dried beef(with little stars on top of the jar) fits real close. It has enough weight that you can lean and twist and put some real pressure on your grind. All I know is...IT WORKS!
I read every review of every machine of each brand on this list of consumer reviews. I changed my mind a lot as I read and contacted reviewers. I soon realized from what others said that the "serious machines" were more work than enjoyment (unless of course you consider all the hoopla part of the fun...me, I just want a cup and I want it NOW!) The Gaggias were where I was heading until I saw that there was a lot of reviewer conlict on tamping the "proper grind" and another $200 would be needed for a high-end grinder. I already had what I thought to be a decent grinder...the Bodum. Reviewers told me it wouldn‘t grind fine enough. So I narrowed the field further and ended up with a decision. The Briel Multi-Pro Semi-Commercial. It was then that I received directions from "somewhere on the Internet" on how to adjust my Bodum to get a finer grind. So I take the thing apart (literally) and get the tiny screwdriver down in the tiny hole to the internal adjustment screw and think "wow, I did it!" It was then that, for some unknown reason, I turn the thing upside down to look at something when ZAP< BANG< ZOWIE<> Heart Attack and brown underwear in a flash...idiot me had neglected to unplug the damn thing before working on it. The exposed wires on the inside touched the aluminum sink and even burned a tiny hole in it...did I mention that it scared the crap out of me. But, I‘m lucky that shorting the grinder to death is all that happened. So now the reality is...I have to buy a grinder too!!! More research told me that the Solis burr grinder for $125 at wholelattelove.com would be the least expensive worth buying. More research made me aware that the Saeco Classico for $300 had a black brother for $219. No difference except the color. So I still had to spend $350, as I would have for the Briel. But I‘m very happy with the machine and have a better grinder too. However...I never expected there to be so much mess everytime I want espresso. Next time, screw the espresso "experience", I‘m gonna get a fully automatic machine.