I really like it, good coffee/espresso and great convenience but problems with my unit make it a bad value for me.
Positive Product Points
A very simple machine to use. Add coffee and water, set the dial to the desired volume and hit the button. I like Americanos and my wife likes the 8 oz. cup. I generally dial it to .75-1.0 oz. and hit the button twice, hot water from the wand and I'm drinking a great Americano in less than 5 minutes from turning the machine on. My favorite so far is from some homeroasted Harar.
I agonized a bit over this purchase. I had tried the machine at the PNWG Coffee Soirée this past summer as well as shots from the host's Sylvia. The Sylvia definately provides better shots and a more extreme barista experience. I opted for the Solis as the coffee is still really good, my wife can/will use it and I'm trying to regain time for myself and family.
I will use my vac-pot or Gusto if I really feel the need to fiddle with something, but for now, the Solis is a good fit. A Sylvia could be in the cards someplace down the road...
Negative Product Points
Lots of plastic!!!
A little bit on the loud side, but the convenience balances that out.
I am a clean freak and the machine is hard to get as clean as I like it. I have not really noticed any change in the taste of the coffee due to not being able to keep it as clean as I like.
I took the frothing aid off of the wand, but still need a lot more practice, I actually got pretty good with the wand on the Gusto steaming milk for my wife's latte.
A little more room between the spout and drip tray grill to allow a taller cup to fit would be fine with me. The spout moves up and down and back and forth a bit but my usual cup won't fit. I was going to make 2-5 oz. brews but had to do it into a smaller cup and pour each one into the bigger cup. Not a fatal flaw I guess...
It is a little on the big side...
After unpacking the machine and putting it in its new home, I filled it with water and primed it. I added coffee to the bin while the machine heated up and hit the button for a double 2 oz. shot to clear the machine of any test coffee and dust and tossed that out in the sink. I set the pour to the 1 oz. mark and hit the button twice again. The machine grinds and doses the first shot then continues with a 2 second pre-infusion and shot brew while the grinder preps the second shot. The shots provide a reasonable amount of crema and are pretty tasty.
I brew a couple more shots and make an Americano for me and a 8 oz. cup for my wife. We sit down to enjoy them while we marvel at how easy it was.
I decide to try steaming some milk so I push the steam button while I pull the supplied frothing aid off of the steam wand. I pour some nice cold milk in my pitcher, I open the steam valve when the steam light stops blinking into a small cup to see how much water will come out before I get some good steam. I'm pretty impressed, very little water came out and I got a good volume of steam pretty quickly. I start steaming the milk but the hole in the tip of the wand appears to be a bit bigger than the one on my Gusto and I don't get much in the way of micro-foam before the thermometer says the milk is hot enough. Oh well, plenty of time for practice! A couple of shots in each cup and pour in some milk and we again sit down to discuss life.
I saved some time by reading the manual online from Baratza's web site so I was ready when the machine got there. I didn't see it in the manual, but a sticker on the spent grounds bin tells me I can start a cleaning cycle by switching the machine on while holding down the brew button. I did this after mixing up some CleanCaf and putting it in the water container. After it runs through the cleaning cycle I run it 2 more times with clean water to flush it out. I disassembled everything I could/should and wiped it all out and rinsed the trays and spout.
Life is good and, at least for now, I am happy!
I bought this directly from Baratza, one of their buyer's remorse returns. Neil, the Service Manager was great to deal with, I ordered it on Wednesday and I got it on Friday of the same week! Of course it helps that they are in the Seattle area and I'm in the Portland area...
They had both the all black and the black and silver in stock as returns and I went ahead and ordered the silver, I like the looks of it a little better than the all black one.
I would definately do business with Baratza again!
Three Month Followup
Oops sorry I missed it, see the 1 year review for the reason why I didn't enter the 3 month review.
One Year Followup
I see here that I didn't post a 3 month followup, I seem to remmeber that I was postponing it at the time due to some problems I was having with the machine. The proble went on and on and I guess the followup suffered.
I bought the machine in October of 2003 and by the midle to end of December I started having a problem wit hthe machine, it would buzz loudly when I powered it on and fail to cyle and power on correctly. Alternatively, it would buzz loudly and cease operation at different points in the brew cycle. I contacted Baratza in January after returning from the holidays. The sent me directions to remove the cover and wanted me to remove the circuit board and use a dry toothbrush and brush both sides of the board to make sure that any corrosion that might have formed was cleared off and not causing a short circuit. I followed the instructions and after performing the brushing and reassembly, the machine worked fine. Two weeks later the problem starts up again, so I follwed the cleaning procedure and again the machine started working. I went through this a couple of times and finally decided that I didn't want to spend the rest of my relationship with the machine taking it apart every couple of weeks. I get in touch with Baratza again and they have me send the machine in for repair. After a couple of weeks with no word I called Baratza and they tell me that the machine works fine and that they are sending it back.
When it arrives back at my place I take it out of the box and turn it on, buzz, buzz, buzz... I call them back and let them listen to it over the phone, send it back they say. I sent it back and after not hearing from them for a couple of weeks I call them up. They tell me they have replaced the circuit board and it is working fine and they are sending it back. It arrives a few days later, I take it out of the box and turn it on, buzz, buzz, buzz. I call them immediately and tell them I am fed up with the machine and want either a refund or a new machine. They wanted to try one more thing and sent me instruction on taking it apart and working on the connectors for the circuit board, they think one of them is loose. I follow the instructions and the machine starts working fine.
Two weeks later I turn the machine on and buzz, buzz, buzz. I take it apart and work on the connector that I had worked on previously and the machine starts working again. So every couple of weeks I pull it apart and tighten the connection. Pretty soon I decide I can't live like this!
I call the Baratza service number and talk with someone new, no Neal isn't here anymore, I'm the new service manager the man tells me. I go through the whole story and he agrees that the machine sounds like a lemon. We agree that I will send the machine back and he will replace it. He sends me a prepaid shipping label, I box it up and send it off. But wait, I'm not sending it to the same address in the Seattle area, it is going to Medford Oregon. I ask the service manager if Baratza had bought them out and he said no we bought them out. Don't know the whole story...
I don't hear from the for about a week and a half, this must be an espresso machine service industry standard, so I give them a call. He tells me that they found a power regulator bad and have replaced it and shipped the machine back. He promises me that the machine works properly and that they will replace it if I have any problem with the machine. It arrives, I unpack it, but they left out a few essential parts so I can't test it. I call, they send me the parts. I turn on the machine, can you guess? Buzz, buzz, buzz...
I get in touch with them and tell them it is still broken and that I want a new machine or a refund, nothing else will do at this point. I send the machine back and get a call a couple of days later, the machine arrived and is working fine. They are reluctant to replace the machine, I insist and they finally agree and promise to ship me another machine in a couple of days.
The new machine arrived last Friday (10/29/2004). It is working very nicely, it appears to be a later revision of the machine, the graphics are all different and there is a finger guard in the bean hopper to keep your fingers out of the grinder. The most noticeable thing is that it is much quieter and operates more smoothly than the old machine ever did.
Would I buy one of these again, hmmm, good question. I like the machine when it works, but is it worth the headaches I've gone through? I don't think so. I know a lot of people have these machines and love them, but when you get a lemon it kind sours the experience. It only took us, the Baratza service folks and me, 10 months to get the problem resolved. So here we are a year after I bought the machine and I have not been able to use it for probably 2 months out of that year due to it not working or in transit or in repair. The good thing is that they finally replaced the machine and I am again enjoying the coffee, but if I turn it on one day and it buzzes at me I will have to spend my time and money on something else.
I have adjusted all scoring to reflect my experience over the last year, the initial scores were all 8 and 9, they are now considerably lower.