Buying an espresso machine is a lot like being a parent in that you leave yourself vulnerable to all of the highs and lows. Kids can please, and they can dissappoint. If you do any amount of research, the same is true for an espresso machine.
I have friends who can tell you, high end units don't necessarily result in the manufacturer "standing by" their product when it stops working.
With this in mind, I decided to go toward the lower end: Mr. Coffee. For under $100, I found a machine that received mostly positive reviews (they all get a lot of negative reviews). This way, if it fails after the one-year warranty, as they often do, I'm only out $100.
The first several pulls were pretty good--nice layer of crema on top. So far, I am happy, but I plan to work the machine hard within the warranty window.
I decided I should establish my relationship with Mr. Coffee up front.
Dear Mr. Coffee,
As a Hot Water Gasket Salesman, I travel quite a bit. As you can imagine, people don’t run right up to me and buy a gasket. It’s always a tough sell. But, when I find that customer who wants to buy, he’ll want 1000 of these things. I just need to find him.
Travel is, as you can imagine, exhausting. Smokey, Gladys, and Diana can only pump so much energy into one’s soul. At some point, drugs are required. I have chosen caffeine. Coffee and pop have caffeine, but they also contain water. Water is kryptonite to a traveling salesman. Espresso, however, has a lot of caffeine, and much less water.
I decided to take a chance. I have done a great deal of research on the internet. You can spend $2000 for a really nice machine, or $30 for a crappy steam-fed machine. Logic would say “you can by a $1000 unit that lasts 20 years, or ten $100 units that each last two years. However, I see big spenders are complaining after two and three years. They’re problematic. Pumps break. Seals fail. Steamers clog. Again, the complaints are the same on the high end as they are on the low end.
For me, the requirements are simple:
1) 15 bar pump.
2) Removable water reservoir.
3) Removable Drip Tray.
I chose the Mr. Coffee ECMP50. I’ve had it a week, and so far so good. With the right beans, and the right grind resolution, the espresso tastes as good as any that I have had.
So you’re aware, your machine gets praise and criticism.
Praises: 1) Removable trays. 2) Swinging froth wand. 3) Easy to use. 4) Nice layer of crema. 5) Warms up quickly.
Criticisms: 1) No service parts. 2) Leakage. 3) Temperamental. 4) Pump failures. 5) Smoking. Some people made it less than 6 months.
It seems I’m in a crap shoot. I intend to hold up my end of the user/buyer agreement. I’m following the cleaning and maintenance instructions very closely. You mention periodic de-scaling, not storing with the brew basket in place, using fresh water each time, etc. I’m even using distilled water.
Be advised--I intend to work my machine hard for the first year (during the warranty period). If I own an infant mortality unit, you and I will hopefully know within the warranty period.
Please don’t let me down.
They didn't respond.