I must be lucky but I have had this machine for 4 YEARS and I use it 365 days a year to begin my day with. I start with a 12 oz coffee mug, just because it allows me to make a huge 'head' of foam on the top of my leche (milk). I use all different flavors of coffees in making my cafe con leche (espresso with milk). The main thing with the coffee is grinding it fine enough for espresso. I fill the glass carafe to the metal band that goes around it and that usually fills the water boiler to the tip top. Only if I clean the machine, or if I brew more espresso past the 4 cup line do I need to add more water than the one glass carafe. I do use a tamper to pack the fine grinds in the metal filter. I like to put 3 saccharin tablets in the glass carafe before it brews the espresso, as I don't use sugar to sweeten. It brews the cafe quickly and without issue. I then switch the lever to steam and use a metal milk frothing pitcher (purchased at a kitchen store locally) to heat the 2% milk OR the vanilla almond milk I occasionally use. I have a pedestal I made out of an overturned ceramic coffee mug, that the pitcher of milk can sit on as the milk is heating up and it keeps the steam nozzle just barely into the milk. I can tell by the sound changes of the milk as it heats when it is ready to froth. I remove it from the pedestal and slowly remove the nozzle from the milk and slowly move the pitcher back and forth which produces a nice 4" thick froth of milk. I pour the steamed milk into the espresso in the large mug. Some days I use Torani flavored coffee syrups to add flavor and some days I top the froth with colored sugar crystals (all purchased at Walmart). I've been making cafe con leches since a kid, and can make simple pictures in the foam with a toothpick and the colored sugars depending on my moods or holidays. I've not had one problem with this machine. It did leak once AND it also had steam blowing out the seams of the top over where the coffee is located, but upon reinspection, I found that the top was MIS-tightened on the screw-on part of the boiler. It never happened since with MY use. My son used it several times, and was careless with the screwing on of the top and had leaks, too. It also must be tightened very tight when in use or it lets out lots of steam and then won't steam your milk enough. I think 4 yrs of use for a $40. espresso machine is more than adequate for me. I live in an area with 'hard' water, so I do clean it every 3 months with white vinegar, but that is all I do for care besides a gentle wipe daily with a wet rag.
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