Great entry level machine with lots of potential for great espresso
Positive Product Points
Low price and lots of aftermarket parts. Great shots appear occasionally. Pressurized portafilter is disgusting but easy.
Negative Product Points
Flying blind. No temperature or pressure gauges. Flimsy tray. Does not look great but it's pretty well built. Have to spend extra to make it non pressurized.
I think this is a good machine for the money but coming from a nespresso machine I am frustrated by the lack of consistency but this is partially my fault and partially getting to know the machine. A lot of people mod these and the Via to get temperature visibility to allow the to temperature surf and adjust pressure. I think this is a tinkerers machine. A few things from my experience are:
Warm up the machine and portafilter with a blank shot till the shot light goes dark.
Pull a shot right after it re-warms and the shot light turns on. This is when it's hot.
It's difficult to pull 25 second shots without a really fine grind and 15 grams (full double basket).
With my breville 800xl grinder I go to either the finest or second finest setting then dose a double shot. This varies depending on roast but the 2 shot dose works perfectly and wastes very little
My best shots have been with a full basket hit and shaken down to about half inch from the rim. Inspect it to make sure its level. Then I use a metal tamper and spin it to flatten the top and then tamp 5 lbs.
Try letting the steam wand drip one drop per second while pulling a shot to relieve pressure and then close it half way though. This may work better with a stronger tamp. Shots are cleaner tasting.
Clean brew head with a flush and dump tray.
I know what I'm saying here may go against traditional wisdom but this is what works for me. I have a feeling the quick shot times have to do with the pressure regulator but I have no evidence to back that up.
All in all I like this machine and is great for the price but leaves me wishing for more dials and knobs. As I don't make any lattes I cannot say for the steamer but the wand does get in the way when I try and remove the drip tray.
Seattle coffee gear sells this guy for 199, free shipping and 1 year free warranty. Not even amazon prime could touch that. Plus they are an authorized service center for saeco. I called them when I was making sour shots and they told me to up the dose and use a burr grinder (don't ever use preground) and instantly I got great shots. Love their YouTube videos too they are super informative. It was purchased 7/2013.
Three Month Followup
Got about 75 dollars and did a over pressure valve mod using random parts from espresso parts.com and it works much better. I can do a full 30 lb tamp without gushers and channeling. My new procedure is dose a full double basket and lightly tap it twice then level with a toothpick. Keep in mind that this is all with a bottomless portafilter. Then using the rattleware tamper I do a light tamp to make sure the top of the tamper is level with the top of the basket. I only use the pressure of 3 fingers; index middle and thumb. Then I do a NESW light tamp kind if scraping the sides so I don't get edge channeling. Then I do a 20 lb tamp.
Temperature surfing is the same as before but the problem is the tiny 3 oz boiler. No mod will fix it but I'm going to use a pid next or get rid of it altogether.