Bullet proof reliability and can make a pretty fine shot with practise.
Positive Product Points
Solid chassis, good looks, very inexpensive for the quality, makes a good shot with practise.
Negative Product Points
Very annoying plastic attachment to make frothing easier, rather noisy, no option of a proper steam tip.
This was my first 'proper' coffee machine and I was looking forward to being a bit of a barista. Knowing nothing at all about coffee machines at the time, and lacking the forethought of research, I simply wandered around one of those hideous department stores and eventually chose the best looking machine on display. Actually, the 'made in Italy' sticker helped quite a bit. The others were either Australian or German made. My thinking was that the Italians make the best coffee so they should know something about their machines. Hoping that their coffee machines were more reliable than their motor vehicles, I bought the machine and took it home.
I must admit that my first impressions of the Saeco were good, and they pretty much still are. It is a good looking machine with all of that stainless steel and heavy feel. Friends still comment on the impressive looking thing on my kitchen bench. Out of the box was not the easiest affair as the machine was made to fit exactly into the box and I must admit that I did have some trouble getting it out. The Saeco came complete and in good order - no complaints there. What was missing though was instructions on how to make good coffee. I followed the enclosed instructions carefully and ended up with an almost cold and flat brew that did not impress anybody. Instant would have been better! I rang a very helpful person at the importers who happily talked me through my next shot (note that I didn't even attempt to ring the department store for help as I knew that it would not be any use), and my next shot was much better and improved (and still does) with each subsequent shot. It has got to the stage where friends come around every weekend, sit down and wait for me to go into auto mode and start making coffee. I go through heaps of the stuff (more about that later).
I was originally concerned that the return springs of the three switches on the front may wear out after time. This machine has gone through at least 8,000 cycles over the past five years and I can now reliably report that the switches feel just the same as the switches on brand new machines in the stores (yes, I do try them). I have not had to replace anything (except the stupid plastic steam wand extension), and the machine has been rock-solid reliable. Heat-up time (boiler heat-up) is around 3 to 4 minutes which is the same as it was on day 1. Nothing looks like it is going to wear out in the future either, which is in some ways a bit of a bother as I want to trade up, but cannot find a good enough reason for doing so. The high-gloss panel which runs from the top of the machine and down the back has numerous marks and scratches on it now as that is where I store my cups but I can live with that. The sides of the machine are as good as new. I have some friends who have similar priced machines that have not lasted the distance and all of which have needed servicing. The Saeco has not been touched- not even the rubber gasget.
I have learnt that to get the best out of this machine I Have to do the following: Make sure EVERYTHING has heated up - including cups. I normally run everything under hot water (wasteful), first to get them to heat as I never think ahead and switch the machine on. Fill the basket to the rim with fresh, fine ground coffee. Tamp to about 10kg and polish at the end. Attach the handle assembly to the machine and wait a couple of minutes. Purists may shudder, but I froth first and then let the frothed milk relax whilst I pour the shots. This works quicker and the froth becomes a little denser. Enjoy!
As I have sort of indicated already, the machine does not have a proper steam tip. Instead it has a plastic tip that slips over the end of the steam pipe. This tip is supposed to make frothing easier but all it does is annoy anybody who knows how easy it is to make good foam. The tip wastes steam and has to be very carefully cleaned. It is simply not capable of making good froth. Instead you nearly always end up with mid sized bubbles that can form interesting mountain-like shapes on your coffee. Some people actually believe that this peaked foam is the sign of a good coffee. I know better, but I am happy not to tell them. Fortunately for me, I drink espresso's so it is not a consideration for me. If it was, I would have ditched the machine a long time ago. I once considered threading the end of the steam pipe and screwing a proper tip onto the end, but it was simply not worth the effort. If you want to produce those arty coffee's of super-smooth foam, do not buy this machine. It is not capable in this regard.
My summary, for what it is worth, is that this Saeco machine can produce excellent shots (better than any cafe coffee in Sydney), and can do a fair job on foam. If you want a reliable and good looking, inexpensive machine, this one is definately worth considering.
Myer, big department store in Australia is just that. A department store with staff who know nothing about coffee making and are only there to take your cash. The price was good though. I have not had to contact them about this machine since so cannot comment about their after-sales service. I would never buy a specialised piece of equipment from a department store again. I need to talk to people who know what they are doing.