5-STAR espresso machine w/ burr grinder for under $230 !!!
Positive Product Points
GREAT espresso, right out of the box ... the absolute BOMB for under $230. (on sale at 1st-Line, which included a bag of tasty whole bean coffee and 6 demitasse cups w/saucers). Pressurized portafilter makes killa crema EVERY SINGLE TIME !!!
Negative Product Points
Plastic construction ... but this does NOT hamper performance in any way. Portafilter isn't all metal, but it works just fine. Grinder is kind of loud, but a good thing - it scares the cats off of my kitchen counter (;-)
OK ... I tried to score my dream Italian machine via eBay, but couldn't do so and stay within my budget. This machine is eveything I had hoped to find, and even matches my black fridge. Yes, the Spidem Trevi Combi plus isn't a hunk of gleaming stainless steel, but neither was the Delonghi it replaced, and that worked just fine for years. I now own my own mini-St*rbucks: I grind, dose and brew every single shot, and do it all whilst in me jammies. Don't even have to tamp: the pressurized portafilter takes care of that, by not allowing anything through until the proper steam pressure (at least 15 Bars of it) has been reached. Yes, sometimes the coffee grounds stray from the built-in conical burr grinder, and the steam wand drips if I forget to firmly close the valve, but thats what the drip trays are for. And the Spidem unit's are nice and deep, and well-designed: two holes in the grate beneath the portafilter allow drips to go right into the drip tray. I became spoiled by drinking great "café" while living in northern Italy for two months ... this little unit brings back some very pleasant memories! (:-)
1st Line Equipment produced a great click / wait / shows-up-at-my-door internet buying experience. I called their 1-800 number (thank you for that!) with a few questions, and the gentleman on the other end was very polite and helpful. Class act!
Three Month Followup
I would buy this machine again in a HEARTBEAT. Whilst some folk poo-poo pressurized portafilters (I admit that I am a homebody amateur, not a barrista), the one on this unit gives me excellent crema every single time. Its never failed. The pannarello makes great microfoam, hence great cappuccino (I keep it just below the milk's surface in the pitcher - no big gurgles - then I dunk it way in until the milk reaches 150F). Only complaint I have is that I have to whack the grinder every once in awhile to clear the hopper intake, but that's it. I use Starb*cks descaler to keep the boiler clean. Best $230 I've ever spent. WAY TO GO, SPIDEM !!!
One Year Followup
I have used this machine constantly for over a year, and have not a single complaint. I descale it monthly, keep it clean, and it provides me with wonderful espresso and cappuccino. The crema is a thing to behold: always thick and creamy. Way better than most coffee shops serve. The panarello works wonders if you keep 1/2 of the side vent hole(s) immersed in the milk (usually followed by a steady whoosing suction sound, but NOT a gurgle - if it gurgles, pull the pitcher down so that the panarello rises). Whatever you do, don't take the pressurised portafilter apart - its quite the puzzle to get it back together correctly! Although not a gleaming stainless steel machine, this little plastic Italian wonder is worth every cent I paid for it. Purists take note: I am not a coffee fanatic ... I am a regular kind of guy who thinks life is to short to drink lousy coffee. The Spidem Trevi Combi plus makes life pleasureable! In fact, I purchased another Spidem (viva eBay) for when this one wears out!