Great machine to learn how to make espresso. Get one used.
Positive Product Points
Very easy to use and clean Heats quickly Makes a good shot of espresso Easy to make lattes
Negative Product Points
I have found it difficult to control the amount of steam, the knob might as well be a switch, it is either off or full blast. I have had some problems foaming milk because of the endurance of the steamer. The white colored model is a bit ugly.
This is my first espresso machine and overall I have been very happy with my experience. First off the machine is very easy to use and I was able to make a decent shot of espresso quite quickly after a bit of experimentation.
My girlfriend detests espresso proper, but adores a good latte (I will turn her to the dark side soon enough), so I have also been steaming a lot of milk and making foam. So far, I have been able to produce some really nice foam with even high fat content milk (i.e. whole milk with a shot of cream), but the stamina of the steamer is a bit weak. I often find that if you want to steam a large portion of milk the steamer runs out of steam towards the end.
The ability to use either ground coffee (the best way to go) or coffee pods made by Starbucks (the lazy way to go) is a particularly enticing feature of this machine. I grind my own coffee 90% of the time, but when I am in a rush or want decaf I just grab one of the pre-made pods. At about 50 cents a pod, they're a pretty good deal and nice for decaf which I don't drink often and so it would be a waste to buy the beans for grinding.
I have been very happy with this machine. As a beginner, it has been a great experience to be able to experiment with espresso making on this machine. Given a little time fiddling around, you can make a really good shot of espresso or a nice foamy latte. However, I am no expert, so this I should stress that this is really a beginner's thoughts.
I bought this machine used for $60, so I my satisfaction may be exaggerated by the deal. One thing I have noticed is that there are a lot of these machines on sale used, so if you are a beginner like myself, I would go hunting on Craigslist.
I got this used and it was a great experience
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
I have come to several conclusions about this machine over the past year+: 1) This machine is great for milk based drinks and mediocre for straight espresso shots. 2) The steam wand being simply on or off is irrelevant (you never need varying amounts of steam strength) 3) This machine generates massive amounts of steam (which is awesome) 4) Pressurized portafilters are easy to use, but produce lackluster results and stunt your growth 5) Converting a pressurized portafilter to a regular one is a pain in the butt 6) Buying a regular portafilter for this machine is expensive
I have learned so much with this machine, I have no regrets buying it, and I continue to crank out pretty awesome lattes with this bad boy. There are times when I want just a shot of espresso and I think of what could be, if I had a proper portafilter, but I'm too cheap to buy one.