I bought a fully automatic Gaggia Syncrony about 18 months ago on a annual stock take sale and struggled to get a decent coffee from it.
I had several conversations with the Gaggia service engineers who have been most helpful and I thought I would offer a couple of hints that might help some others on this site.
1. Before use always run a shot without coffee through the machine. ie press manual feed button before running shot. This helps to keep the top shower screen clean and also reduces the boiler temp which is always too hot on start up.
2. Adjust the coffee volume UP from the standard and the grind finer, grind will depend on beans to some extent but still needs to be finer than standard. Try to get a 20-25 sec pull. I have mine set on +1 3/4 dots for coffee and 3 for the grind.
3. Once every 2 weeks clean out the inside of the machine. You can wash the guts in hot soapy water if you want to but you have to regrease the plunger arm that compresses the coffee.
4. ALWAYS clean the outlet to the drip tray from the machine, its at the back and you can see it when the guts are out of it. If you dont the machine will leak all over whatever you have it on.
5. Dismantle BOTH The top and bottom screens and clean well. The bottom screen although a little tricky to get out causes most of the poor shots you might get.
6. Descale inside of machine at least every 4 weeks with either a coffeee descaling solution or I use Citric Acid - this is stnd for all coffee machines.
The rest of it is normal running coffee machine stuff ie getting the pull time and therefore crema right and temp/conditioning of the milk.
I think I can mostly put out a coffee that is as good or better than the average coffee shop but nowhere near as good as some of the great coffee shops in Sydney.
I was going to upgrade to a semi automatic and a grinder but at the moment this is doing a a pretty good job and its very easy to use.
Hope this helps and some of it may relate to all fully automatic machines.
Some other observations over the last 3 months.
1. After descaling the machine takes us about 10 cofees or a couple of days to get it back to a reasonable coffee. Cant work a way around this, I have run 2 extra containers of clean water through but it seems to taste of citrus. The coffee runs through it too quick after cleaning but this is just the way it is. See Point 3 below.
2. The bottom screen is easier to get out from the top before you take the guts out. You will need a magnetic screw driver to lift the screw after unscrewing it from the screen. Replace it the same way.
3. The machine hits an optimum rate about a week after cleaning as the old coffee builds up in the shower screen and reduces the flow rate to a better 20-25 sec shot rate. The machine can remain at this state for up to 3 weeks if you dont mind the dirty state it gets into internally.
4. When you clean it put something up the steam pipe as this dramatically improves the steam output rate. I use the end of a corkscrew - dont ask me why.