A great entry-level machine that will produce a cup superior to the corner coffeehouse.
Positive Product Points
This is an excellent beginner machine that produces better coffee than anything I've had in a coffeehouse. It's easy to use, and will likely impress beginners.
Negative Product Points
The fact remains, this is an entry-level machine. Saeco could spend a bit more time working on the steaming mechanism, and the portafilter could be sturdier. Otherwise, no real issue.
I was never a coffee drinker. I've typically preferred tea, and I still drink quite a lot of it. But I had a decent cappuccino at a local coffeehouse, and that enticed me to try brewing at home. With this machine, I have not been disappointed.
My typical cup is a pull that equates to about 1.5 espressos, and I top it off with about 4 ounces of foamed milk. What comes out of this machine is better than anything I can get when I pay a barista to do it. I have no issues whatsoever with the coffee quality. The portafilter does an excellent job, and it takes a lot of effort to screw up the pull.
The pressurized portafilter itself is made of hollow plastic, and while this feels a little flimsy, I have never felt like it was going to break. So maybe it's a non-issue, but a solid handle would lead to a more quality feel of the machine as a whole. You can use a regular portafilter on this machine too, and I purchased one separately so that I could see the difference between using a PPF and having to tamp the grounds, etc. For ease of use (and lower chance of screwing things up) I stick with the PPF most of the time, and it does a great job.
The steaming takes a little while to learn. It's very easy to use the pannarello wand to produce foam, but this produces foam that is almost too dry. I steamed with the wand for a few weeks, and then finally got the hang of just steaming with the bare nozzle. It does a pretty good job, although I wish there was more steaming power, and that the wand head was entirely metal. Also, the wand attachment seems shorter than most machines. For people who use larger pitchers, this might be an issue, but my 12 oz. pitcher fits just fine.
Certainly, there are better machines out there. But for the price, I don't think you can do any better than this machine. It does what it's supposed to do, and does it well. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it's made in Italy, which I think is pretty impressive for a machine that's only a few hundred dollars on average.
I purchased the machine in black through Amazon.com. I had no issues, and the machine arrived promptly and in new condition. I would not hesitate to purchase this machine in black at the $300 price point, or the stainless machine at $350, however, the price definitely seems to fluctuate. Watch the prices for a few weeks if you're not in a hurry to buy.