This machine started out as the Estro Vapore, then became the Rio Vapore, and the latest version is called the Barista. All of these machines were/ are made by Saeco for Starbucks. To the best of my knowledge, this was an exclusive arrangement, i.e. Saeco never offered the machine themselves for consumer purchase. At one time, the machine was available with a built in grinder, similar in quality to the current Starbucks Barista grinder for additional $. It was also, at one time, offered with a portafilter designed to take pods.
The current version, the Starbucks Barista, comes with an instructional video, measuring spoon, and single and double shot baskets. Spare parts, such as extra filter baskets, group head gaskets, portafilter O-rings etc. can be ordered from Starbucks or directly from Saeco. I would
recommend one each of the aforementioned parts.
As befits its price range, this is a solenoid-pump style machine with separate thermostats for
steaming/frothing the milk and brewing the espresso. The portafilter is a unique design in that it automatically maintains a fixed pressure while pulling the shot. It does this by incoporating a simple pressure regulating valve in the outlet of the portafilter. What this does is allow for variations in grind fineness, tamping force, humidity, bean characteristics, etc. to produce a good 20 second, 2-1/2 ounce "double shot" with a nice crema.
The design of the machine has been well thought out - rounded corners, smooth edges, and a nice lip on the drip tray grill to catch splashes. The distance from the portafilter outlet to the drip
tray grill was not enough to fit a normal mug so I found myself removing the tray/grill when I
pulled shots directly into the cup. It has an easily removable water supply tank that holds about 1-1/2 quarts.
Filling a 20-24 ounce steaming pitcher about 1/3 full produced the best results for me. I could
steam/froth enough milk for two double-shot lattes or caps in a little over one minute - hence the
reason for having extra double-shot filter baskets especially when guests were present (and thirsty). My double-shot pulls of espresso were good (not the greatest) but what was easily
achievable with this machine was consistency and I attribute that to the design of the portafilter.
This is a great machine for someone just starting out in espresso-land and is an especially good
value when purchased on sale at $250 - 275. It is about (overall) 75% of the Silvia from the standpoint of steaming capacity and quality of the beverage produced.