I own a Breville dual boiler (BES920XL) and love it. So I decide to buy a smaller Breville for my office. This little good pump machine is compact, easy to use and ideal as an extra espresso machine for your office. For those new to the Breville brand the ESP8XL has a few extra cleaning steps than other conventional brands doesn't need. After each espresso the machine drips water to a reservoir in the base. The reservoir needs to be empty and rinse every three to four days depending on the use. For those than doesn't care about this extra step this is the perfect machine. Espresso quality is not as good as my BES920XL but is better than any other comparable brand in size. This is the perfect Espresso maker for the beginners and those who needs and extra machine at work.
My only complaint is that the coffee is luke warm 98% of the time. If you want hot coffee you have to wait 10 to 15 minutes. The machine makes great tasting coffee with a thick foam on top. the steamer works differently than other espresso machines I have owned. If you follow the directions on how to steam, water is introduced into your milk. I do feel it is a quality made machine. If the coffee were to come out HOT on the first brew I would be in love with this machine, but since I have to wait up to 15 minutes for hot coffee I will not be purchasing this brand again.
This is a pump type espresso machine versus a steam machine (those that sell new for about $50 or less). The ESP8XL makes espresso coffee with a tasty layer of crema on top, that carmel colored, slightly foamy layer that's the goal. It will do this without the high temperature of the less expensive steam machines, which is a bit too harsh for the coffee. The ESP8XL takes some understanding. The pump is noisy and the puck of coffee grounds left in the filter will be wet and soupy; therefore, they can't simply be knocked out like the dry pucks of a steam machine. A more expensive pump machine with a three-way solenoid valve will leave a dry puck, but it will require more maintenance for that convenience. You will have liquid accumulating in the drip tray, so I clean the tray daily. I'm not an expert, but my ESP8XL doesn't seem to work very well for frothing the milk with the steam wand. I think the steam machines do it as well or better. I just pour half-and-half into my coffee which works for me and its quicker with less clean-up. Making a good espresso requires good, properly ground coffee, a quality machine, and some time and patience with your individual learning curve and goal. It's easy to become either a fanatic or move on to more important things in life.
Everything the critics say is true — the filters can clog if you use a grind that's too fine, the frother is so-so (at least on the earlier version), the black plastic locking base plate/neck can crack, and it shakes the cups around while you're pulling a shot. Nonetheless, if you use it the way it was intended, it should provide lots and lots of years of excellent service. Notice how nobody has any qualms about the espresso it makes. I believe most of its more serious flaws like the cracked plastic neck are from improper use (overfilling the filter basket or threading it improperly). In my opinion, this is the best value in the entry-level 15-bar machines. Love it! ADDENDUM: I've now used this machine for 3 months and am completely comfortable with it. It is an EXCELLENT machine, but you must have the proper GRIND otherwise the filters will clog. Get a good burr grinder and grind on the coarse side for espresso. (On my Baratza Virtuoso, I grind it set at 12.) Also, it's a good idea to run a shot of water through the filter after you've used it and cleaned it out. This helps dislodge any particles of espresso still in the filter basket. Now that I have a ritual down, it never clogs on me. Ever. My one complaint with the machine is a minor one: the "puck" after you pull a shot is on the wet side so it's a little messy to clean out the used grounds.
I've been using my machine about 4-5 days per week for about 3 weeks now to make latte's. Overall I think this is a very good machine. The good parts: - produces outstanding frothed milk and it can froth continuously. - the new all stainless frothing wand works well and doesn't have to be taken off to be cleaned - the espresso comes out very hot and produces a very nice crema - the water resevoir is a good size, has a convenient handle and seats nicely - the drip tray is easy to remove and clean The not so good parts: - the frothing wand moves back and forth but not up and down. - when the frother is turned off it will siphon some milk back out of your container if you do not pull it off immediately - I cannot see the water level in the resevoir through the viewing window, I have to open the lid and look in to see how much water remains. - the espresso handle is not completely sealed and will allow some water to enter if it soaks for cleaning which will drip out when the handle is attached to the machine Overall, this is a very solidly made machine that works very well. I am very happy with my purchase.