This machine is marketed as the Aerolatte in the UK, and the Nemox Lux in the US. As another reviewer has done, I've put it under Ibertal, as they are the actual manufacturer. Also, the price paid is converted in to USD based on the exchange rate at time of writing. UK price paid £79.99.
I've been looking hard and long for a new grinder to replace my Gaggia MM, the burrs of which had almost worn flat. I've been without a grinder for a few weeks, and relying (with much chargrin) on local deli's and online stores to grind my coffee. Nightmare - never doing it again!
I decided on the Aerolatte primarily because it was the style I wanted (I'd more or less decided on a doserless Rocky, and was in the process of saving up) and at a price I couldn't refuse. I'd decided that I couldn't wait any longer to get a new grinder, and this was the only decent looking one I could afford without getting another MM, or a Starbucks/Dualit.
My first impression is that it's smaller than I expected, and doesn't take up any more space on the kitchen counter than the MM. Plus it's a shiny silver, and looks a lot more expensive than it was! Putting it together from the box was a doozy - it was just a case of putting the bean hopper on top of the machine. This was a little bit looser than I would have liked, but otherwise fine. The grind settings go from 0 to 11, and several increments in between (20 in total). Initial setting of the machine took me to number 5 on the dial for what I would consider a good espresso grind. I should add as a follow up to Jenn's review feedback: I used the number 5 grind setting with the machine straight out of the box. I later took the top burr off to measure the burrs for someone on coffeegeek, and when I recalibrated my grinder, it's now just about perfect on a number 2 grind setting. Obviously the whole thing depends on your beans/machine etc too.
My only gripe is that the bean hopper doesn't sit snugly in the top of the machine. The lid of the hopper fits tightly, and it's sometimes a bit of a struggle to get it off without removing the entire hopper. Maybe that's just my machine, I don't know. Grinding also makes the hopper wobble, and so I've ended up putting my hand over the top of the hopper to make sure it doesn't come off! [edit - I've actually put a length of electrician's tape around the base of the hopper, which has solved the problem completely - see http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominocat/24437266 ] However, this is a tiny gripe, and I intend to ask other coffegeek/aerolatte users if this is a problem. (I'll report back if I hear anything) As with most grinders of this style, if you want to remove old beans, or change the beans in the hopper, you either have to grind them through, or turn the machine upside down to empty it. I use both caffeinated and decaf, so it's going to be a case of trying to judge how much coffee I intend to use, to avoid wastage and/or fiddling.
So, what about the grind? Wow - this machine delivers an incredibly even grind - I put some onto a saucer to look at it, and I couldn't stop staring! Based on my previous experiences, the Gaggia MM is a flat burr grinder, the Aerolatte is conical burr. God alone knows what the people at the various delis use, and maybe my bad experiences there make this look better, (I've had experience of "we can't grind that fine, it clogs the grinder"(?!?) to buying coffee that is ground from old beans that have been stored incorrectly) but so far, I'm impressed. Very impressed. The design of the machine is such that you have to tip it forward slightly after grinding to extract any leftover grinds, but as other reviewers have said, that's just good practice anyway. I pulled my first shot using some decaf columbian beans that were left when my Gaggia died, although they were stored in an airtight container in a dark cupboard. Even so, the shot was better than anything I'd experienced with shop ground coffee, and certainly better than the grind I was getting with the Gaggia, even in its early days. A mouthwatering thick dark crema, smooth espresso and a solid puck - things that had been ellusive for so long are now easily attainable.
I know I've not had this grinder long and maybe I'm getting over excited, but I'm very impressed. The couple of niggles with the loose hopper are nothing - at last I have espresso worth writing about. Given that in the UK this grinder is only £10 or £20 more than the MM and Starbucks/Dualit, it's certainly worth it, if you can't afford to step up to the likes of the Rancilio Rocky or Nuova Simonelli.