Brutishly well built, attractive, and highly capable within its limits.
Positive Product Points
Sweet looking. Grinds very fast. No detectable static cling that I can detect - huge! Very quiet. Seems to be reasonable grind consistency.
Negative Product Points
Fairly expensive. There is indeed a ledge in the feeder as others have mentioned. Possibly the finest possible grind isn't quite ideal for espresso.
I've only had this machine for 2 days. I've done quite a lot of testing with it in that time. I'll update here after a week or two of use, but I wanted to give my initial impressions.
I've owned the version of the Saeco MC2002 that Starbucks used to sell back in the day. After years of loyal service, it's finally died. So time to upgrade. I only looked briefly before buying the Kitchenaid - the thing looks so cool and well built I bought it more or less on impulse. I ordered it from ABT Electronics and somwhere between ordering it and receiving it, it occured to me that I probably should have read some reviews about it. After reading the reviews here, I was very disappointed and was thinking about just sending it back without even taking it out of the box.
But I decided to try it out. The one problem that most people mention is the ledge in the feeder. There is indeed a ledge. But it seems to only be an issue when the been hopper is nearing empty. If you like to grind the entire contents of the hopper at once, this can be a little annoying. I have never done that. I always have my bean hopper filled with more beans than I plan to grind until I decide to change coffee. But I only do that once every week or three. I've put a few pounds of coffee through the thing, and not once did feeding fail while there were a few beans in the hopper. If you want to change coffee frequently (such as between regular and decaf, the ledge may be more annoying to you.
Like others, I wasn't really happy with with the initial setting of the smallest possible grind. Taking off the dial and adjusting as per the instruction manual seemed to work great. The max grind seems to me like ti would be acceptable for espresso.. but I haven't made espresso at home in years. The grind is at least as fine as the best I can do with my Saeco, which I used to use all the time for decent espresso. I don't know if this is the machine you'd want if you were primarily interested in espresso.
I haven't been able to grind enough coffee yet to notice any cleaning or clogging issues. But with my limited experience, I've noticed that clogging/cleaning seems to be a general problem with consumer grade grinders. Possibly you'd expect a $200 grinder to be better. I'll update with more use.
With the Saeco, I had two problems that have always been big annoyances. First is the lack of a decent seal on the grind hopper, and second the huge amount of static generated. Between these two problems, grinding beans was a mess. The Kitchenaid seems to be virtually free of both problems. The grind seal mechanism works well, although it does take a small amount of care to get the hopper centered - missing will spray a little coffee. There is no static that I can detect - very very nice. The only problem I have in this area is that when you remove the grind hopper, there's always some coffee stuck in the grinder that falls down onto the hopper tray. This will eventually migrate to your countertop.
The machine is as quiet and fast as i think you could reasonable expect for a consumer product. Small but pleasant features.
In short, I am so far pleasantly surprised by this machine. After reading the reviews here, I was not hopeful. I'll beat the hell out of it during the next couple of weeks and see if it's evil side shows through.
I bought from ABT Electronics via the net. They had a great price - $179 no tax, free shipping. This is something like $40 less than I could buy it for locally. And at least $20 cheaper than any other place I could find it online.
When I ordered it, I got an e-mail saying they didn't have any in stock and should have some in 2 weeks. If I wanted to wait (I did), they would have to charge my credit card at the time of ordering (they did). This despite the fact that their web page said the unit was in stock before I ordered, as well as after I had ordered and was waiting for the unit. To my relief, they shipped my unit in just 1 week and it arrived well packed. So overall I was satisfied with my buying experience.
Three Month Followup
See 1 year.
One Year Followup
I've had the machine for more than a year now and it has turned out to be an excellent purchase. Operation is quiet and the grind is reasonably consistent. It does not require excessive maintenence/cleaning. I clean mine approximately every 15-30 pots. It is easy to clean.
Customer service, I should mention, is also excellent. I broke the plastic knob during cleaning and sent a photo of the broken piece to their e-mail customer service and had a new part in 2 or 3 days. KitchenAid really stands behind their ProLine appliances.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to a friend.