First off, the details:
I live in Canada, so adjust details accordingly.
This is my first home espresso machine, so be conscious of that when comparing my review and machine to others.
I bought it in Dec. 2006
I use filtered water.
I use JJ Bean Palamino Organic whole beans.
My grinder is set to 12, as suggested by Espressotec staff.
After spending some $1,600 CDN per year at Starbucks I decided to pony up and get a home machine. The list price was/is $650, but with taxes (ah, to be Canadian), it was $733. It took me a few attempts to get the espresso pouring properly. The shots pour easily enough and the taste is much better than Starbucks, so for me, this machine has been worth the cost.
The 15 months's worth of use went well. I made 2-3 lattes a day, pouring double shots each time. All in, I've made well over 1,000 lattes since I bought it. Recently, when I pour a shot, the pressure disappears and water/steam comes out of the wand. I've tried descaling it a few times but to no avail. Espressotec gave me no solutions and so I've learned to live with the problem. As far as I can tell, the espresso tastes the same, I just end up using A LOT of water. Also, the cup warmer is a bit of joke. You'd have to leave your cup on there for quite a while for it to make any difference.
Would I buy this again? The water issues of late have annoyed me to the point that I would not want to buy the machine again. If it weren't for the water issues of late, I would probably buy the same machine again. After I finish grad school, I'll probably move up and get a fully automatic machine. Therefore, for a novice or a post-Starbucks, this was a good choice. But like many other reviewers, I want to graduate to better machines and hopefully better espresso.