Real Espresso?

I’ve decided to break down and acquire a new, “real” espresso machine – I’ve been using a steam-driven Krups model for some time, but to be honest, it just makes good, strong coffee…

Now I’m looking around for that ever elusive combination of good quality machine and affordable price. I’ve been scouring the web for reviews, recommendations, opinions, praise, and criticism – and there’s plenty. Too bad very little of it was written in the last year.

So I’m taking a chance that you may have some experience in this area. Do you have an espresso maker? I’m looking for the “pump” variety, semi-automatic, and relatively affordable ($300 being about as much as I can dream of spending…). I don’t want some plastic piece of crap that’ll fall apart after a few months of daily use, and since it seems to be a common option, I’d like one that works with both my grind and the “pods”.

There are a few that meet these basic criteria – but all have mixed reviews, depending on where you look and whom you trust. Here are some of those I have seen, but feel free to recommend another if I missed a good one. I’d love to hear your feedback on any of these you have experience with:

(Note: I’ve looked at several similar models to these by the same manufacturers, these are the ones I tagged most recently)

Krups XP4050
Gaggia 35008 Carezza Espresso Machine
Delonghi BAR32/42

and… I’ll add to this list as I come across them… I notably do not want a Nespresso, or any other machine that requires proprietary, pre-packaged coffee to use.

Currently leaning towards the Gaggia models – “Espresso“, “Espresso Deluxe“, and the “Coffee“. Probably going to buy within the next few days… so if you have advice/experience, speak up, please!