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Starbucks Barista - Josh Baer's Review
Posted: September 8, 2007, 10:27am
review rating: 5.7
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Starbucks Barista
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More About This Product
Arrow The Starbucks Barista has 163 Reviews
Arrow The Starbucks Barista has been rated 8.23 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Starbucks Barista reviews have been viewed 1,008,935 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Bam T 9.50
Carl Lobitz 8.67
Rick Wayne 8.22
Dave Jahsman 8.00
Kevin Bailey 8.00

Previous Review Next Review
Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.6
Manufacturer: Estro Quality: 8
Average Price: $350.00 Usability: 6
Price Paid: $160.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: ebay Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 1 week Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: Pro Barista Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Several terrible steam-driven machines
Bottom Line: The Calvin Coolidge of espresso: there's better, and there's worse, but it's pretty darn endearing nonetheless.
Positive Product Points

Sleek & Stylish-- A clean, post-modern look. Steel and black always look good together.
Operable By Even A Lower Primate-- Astonishingly easy to use; good for the rushed or lazy.
Solid-- Hefty, well-built parts. The machine probably won't wear out quickly, except for the portafilter...

Negative Product Points

Mediocre Shot Quality-- Shots taste OK, but lack true crema or body.
Inconsistent Steaming-- Sometimes it works great, sometimes it shoots lukewarm milk across the counter, machine, and operator.
Inadequate Hot Water-- Each brew cycle only heats enough water for a shot-and-a-half, and the steam cycle can't heat the milk to 140F in one go.
Portafilter-- A portafilter with movable parts. This is a bad idea, a chocolate teapot level bad idea; the dark side of the ease of use.

Detailed Commentary

To start, I work as a barista in a small cafe, with a Marzocco 3-head, but I've only owned Wal-Mart-type espresso machines. This is my first real foray into home-use espresso machines, so take my words as you will.

Before I even opened the box I was surprised by the heft of the machine, which I took to indicate solid construction. I cracked the thing open, and everything seems to be built well. The Barista itself has that minimalist Starbuck's aesthetic to it, with a surprising amount of functionality involved. The water reservoir is large, and easy to fill. The drip-pan is somewhat shallow, but has a useful little storage drawer beneath it. So far I haven't had any water overflow and I've used the drawer quite a bit, so the balance is on the plus side.  It's a useful, eye-catching design that makes you think "I need more chrome in my kitchen."

The actual function of the Barista is a mixed bag; on the one hand, it's easy to use, on the other, the machine sacrifices quality for simplicity. My main fear is over the portafilter, which is well-constructed, just not by someone who likes coffee. The portafilter is spring-loaded, which means the springs or the bushings are going to wear out. The portafilter is made half of plastic, which will crack or develop that "old-coffee" flavor. And to top all that off, the espresso isn't all that great. HOWEVER, the portafilter does protect the user from the truly terrible shots possible with another filter-- it also protects them from the truly great shots possible.
The steaming wand does what it's supposed to... in a way. I'm not wild about the idea of having to "prime" the machine between steaming and brewing (hence the "6" for usability), but I'm not familiar with the home-machine market, so this may be normal. Do not expect microfoam from this machine. You will not be able to pour a rosette, or any other design for that matter. (Unless you count "blob of foam" as a design.) The steam wand heats and froths your milk, that's all. It does however, make a lovely pitcher of cappuccino foam, perhaps even moreso that the professional machine I'm used to operating. That said,  I may get better results when I reduce my pitcher size from 12 oz. to 8 oz.
This is not to say that the Barista has let me down, in fact, quite the opposite. With two spoons of finely-ground coffee, and a good tamp, the espresso shots are quite drinkable (if somewhat short). I happen to LIKE cappuccinos, and this machine shines in their construction, which is fine by me.

Overall, this machine is far more valuable than the price I paid. If you can afford the full price for this machine, I would suggest skipping it and going with one of the higher-end machines. But if you are but a poor worker such as I, ebay sellers seem to regularly auction these Baristas off for about about as much as I paid. The Barista is good, not great, but a workhorse that gets the job done. My only fear is that my boss will find out that I purchased a Starbuck's machine...

Buying Experience

N/A
Although I assume I'll be having a chat with Starbuck's support to replace a broken portafilter sometime before my 3 month update...

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review rating: 5.7
Posted: September 8, 2007, 10:27am
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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