DeLonghi c190 Nespresso espresso machine
I live in Barcelona, Spain, and purchased this machine so I could make a "cortado" (essentially a Spanish espresso with a bit of steamed milk) at home. We've had this DeLonghi for two years now, and it's incredibly reliable, easy to use, and makes a great cup of coffee. As for the downsides, well, read on!
The Nespresso system is very popular here in Europe. Visit nearly any city and you'll see people lined up at their boutiques, waiting to buy the capsules. (You can also get capsules delivered to your door, but somehow that's not as fun... the boutiques all serve free coffee!) All the machines work pretty much the same way: pop a capsule in, hit a button or pull a lever, and out comes your espresso, perfectly made every time. There are 10 or more different varieties of coffee to choose from, and while the price is high compared to drip coffee (about 30 cents a cup), it's low compared to having a coffee in a cafe.
(All that said, nothing beats a cafe coffee at the right time, and in Spain, coffee at a cafe is quite inexpensive-- about 1 Euro. Home espresso isn't a complete substitute for drinking in public-- it just adds another possibility!)
So if the Nespresso expresso is all the same, how do you chose a machine? Well, I chose the DeLonghi because a) it's manual,
rather than completely automatic (I like the flexibility of making a slightly longer or shorter cup, to suit my taste), b) it has an integrated milk steamer, and c) it is relatively small and inexpensive. As I said above, it's been very reliable over the past two years.
What's not to like? Well, you do have to "de-scale" the machine every six months or so, which isn't hard but does take a bit of time (and I always find you need to spend an extra 30 minutes or so just rinsing the system after putting the cleaner through, so your coffee doesn't taste like chemicals.) And the environmental impact of all those capsules is worrisome. I very much hope Nespresso is coming up with some kind of recycling system-- I'd gladly return the used capsules when I go to buy news ones. Finally, the "flow rate" is a bit slow, and seems to be getting slightly slower-- it takes a good 30 second to make a short cup of espresso, which is fine for a single cup of coffee but gets old if you have guests over.
Nespresso machines are available in the US, though they're not quite as popular: the coffee is priced a bit higher, and it's far harder to find the boutiques (though the on-line ordering systems works great.) But if you're in the market and find the DeLonghi, I recommended it highly.