Huge water tank. Nice looking stainless machine. Does the job at a moderate price.
Negative Product Points
Repeated "priming" necessary. Dripping from "pannarello" frother.
After searching all the sights that post reviews I decided on the Classico/Aroma. I had planned to hold off but when I found the unit for $159 I had to go for it. I have a DeLonghi 140, a pump machine, that did a fair job but did not create the "warm honey" effect I had read was typical of great espresso.
The Classico comes with a pressurized portafilter which does a nice job although the grounds are a soupy mess and you have to scoop them out with a spoon. I thought I would try the non-pressurized style of portafilter so I ordered one online. I noticed the “warm honey” effect I was looking for. Frankly, I don’t feel there is any more effort this way and would recommend the upgrade for those that want more control over their results. I also purchased a Starbucks “Barista” grinder for about $125 to get a more consistent grind which seems to be much more important when I go the non-pressurized route. (Please note 1 year follow-up, when preparing straight shots I feel the pressurized is the way to go for consistency)
I’m hooked now and seem to be drinking way more espresso that I should. Following is my, long-winded, routine for making a latte: Fill water tank. Put small cup under steam wand to side of machine (as reviewed this machine does tend to drip from the steam wand when in use). Plug in machine. Prime machine by opening steam valve and turning on brew switch, the portafilter is not attached to the machine at this point. Let several ounces of water run (a steady steam) into the cup under the steam wand then turn off the brew switch and turn off the steam valve. Let machine warm up, not ready light will go out (warmer is better so if you can wait an additional 5 minutes or so after the light goes off you are probably better off). Attach portafilter to machine and run a couple ounces through to heat up handle, filter and shot glasses or cups (no grounds at this point). Remove portafilter and cups and wait for not ready light to go off again, a minute or so. I put about 6 to 8 ounces of 2% milk in a stainless 20 ounce pitcher. Purge the water build up from the steam wand into the overflow cup by slightly turning on the steam wand, it only takes a few seconds. Now I submerge the steam wand almost all the way to the bottom of the milk pitcher and slowly turn on the valve until it’s all the way open. I heat the milk for the first 20 or 30 seconds then I move the wand almost all the way to the surface of the milk so it starts to create micro foam. You know it’s in the right position when you can see it drawing the milk through the holes on the side of the “pannarello” attachment. If you raise the wand too high you get HUGE bubbles and foam so you need to be careful. As more foam is created you need to lower the pitcher to keep the right position. Once the foam is almost to the top of the pitcher I submerge the steam wand deep into the milk until I hear that nice “hollow” sound the milk makes when it’s done. Turn steam knob off and put pitcher aside. I wipe the steam wand with a damp towel. Now it’s time to prime the machine again. Follow the priming instructions from above (open steam valve and turn on brew switch) at first the remaining steam will come out of the wand into the drip cup but continue until its just hot water. Leave drip cup under wand, don’t forget this machine likes to drip. Wait for not ready light to go out. I usually grind my espresso immediately before I load a double shot in the non-pressurized portafilter (I use a couple clicks short of the finest setting on the Barista). I give the grounds a firm tamp. If you’re using the pressurized portafilter the tamping and fine ground aren’t as important. Attach portafilter and put warmed cup, I use the bowl shaped latte cups since they will fit, under the portafilter. One again make sure not ready light is off, if so turn brew switch on. After about 7 seconds or so the “warm honey” starts flowing followed by beautiful crema. My double shot is usually complete in 20 to 25 seconds. By this time the milk has usually separated into stiff foam and milk so I sir and fold it slightly to recombine and bring back its original thickness. Now I slowly pour the milk into the cup of espresso. Voila! Drink up. The same process is followed when I make a cappuccino accept I use the appropriate cup and milk/foam measurements.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of priming this machine. If you do not follow the included instructions carefully you could run the risk of ruining your machine almost immediatly. Just remember... prime to start, prime after frothing, prime after filling water tank, of better yet, when in doubt prime the machine.
I hope this is helpful for those considering or using the Classico or Aroma. It may seem like work but the entire process actually goes very quickly and the priming and small dripping from the steam wand are a small price to pay for a very good machine and quality espresso.
I found an ebay seller, based in Portland, who had a number of refurbished machines. For roughly half the price of new I had my machine in 4 business days. Double boxed and looked like new. Very happy with purchase.
Three Month Followup
No review at this point.
One Year Followup
Still pulling great shots. I've switched to the original pressurized portafilter. I'm drinking espresso shots mostly now so inconsistencies in my shots are much more obvious than when I prepare a milk drink. I feel many "purists" feel that the only way to go is non-pressurized, why this is I'm not exactly sure... all I know is that the consistency (rich crema and non-bitter shots) is more important to me. Don't think I haven't tried. I'd pull back to back shots adjusting variables such as grind and tamp, one with the non-pressurized then one with the pressurized, only to get better shots with the original pressurized portafilter every time. Oh well... I tried. On a different note make sure you remove the pannarello frother frequently and take it apart to clean... it can get scary with build-up inside.