Looks good, Works Great, and it is as Tough as a Tank.
Positive Product Points
Good solid machine with a large water reservoir. With a little practice it makes good espresso shots and good lattes. After 6 years it still looks good and has had no significant issues. The finish is very good, and I expect it to last a lot longer.
Negative Product Points
The water level in the reservoir is hard to see (but there is a fix) The stop on the steam valve must be adjusted every few years, so that you can close the steam valve all of the way. (it is easy to do, except that you must revmove the Chrome Cover to get to it. Because of the crema enhancer, the puck comes out wet, which is messy.
LIke any machine that uses one boiler for both steam and water, it takes a lot longer to make more than 2 cups of coffee. It is great for my wife and I, but it gets to be a pain when 6 guests all want a latte.
This is my 6 year followup.
I actually have two of these machines, one at my Home, and one at my Ski Cabin (along with Two Starbucks Burr Grinders). The newer one has been in daily use for about 4 years, and the older one in daily use for 2 years and then weekends for 4 more. I added ping pong balls to the reservoir on both machines to make the water level more visible.
I have my own brewing procedure which is slightly different than suggested by Starbucks:
For steaming, I blow the water out of the lines into a small pitcher, and continue to blow steam, until the ready light goes off. I then wait 16 seconds (which is a couple of seconds before the light would come on) and start steaming milk. If I do it right, the light never comes on, and I get the strongest, dryest steam possible from the machine.
I follow Starbucks recommendation for preheating the porta filter, and cooling the boiler down to brewing temp. I use the Starbucks porta filter, but still tamp the coffee with 30+ lbs of pressure. I always run water though the porta fliter after emptying out the grounds from the last cup.
I clean the porta filter mount with a qtip about twice a week, and take the shower screen off about once a month. We have soft water, but I still descale about once a year.
I have a spare Porta Filter which I took the valve out of, but I don't see that it works any better that way, so I use the factory filter as supplied.
On both machines, I have had to readjust the stop on the steam valve. The valve is a needle type valve, and as the seat wears it needs to go in a little further. Eventually it leaks even though it is turned all the way to the stop. The stop, (which also makes the limit switch for the water pump) will limit hwo far the valve can be closed. Losening the set screw on the stop and moving it a few degrees solves the problem. I had to do this once on each machine, after several years of operation. It was easy to do, but you do have to take the cover off of the machine.
I make occasional use of the "pods" for decafe, since we use so little of it, that the beans would get old. It isn't great, but it is better than the alternatives since they seem to have a fair shelf life.
I'm surprised by how well the machines have held up over the years. Both of them still look very good, The paint is good, with no sign of rust, and the rubber gasket has never been replaced. I know a lady who ran an espresso stand for several years, with two of these Barista machines. She finally retired them and went to a commercial machine, but she had nothing but good things to say about them. (Considering that she asked a lot more from them than they were designed for.)
Just as a comparison, I had a Krupps (the model before the Nuvo, much heavier) which lasted quite a few years before it finally wore out, and I could not get parts for it. I then bought a cheap Brio machine which literally self distructed in less than a year of daily use. Neither one of them made as good a cup of espresso or steamed milk as well as the Barista.
The first machine I purchase on sale from Starbucks, and the second was a new machine sold on Ebay. Both transactions were excelent wth no problems. Starbucks sent me a new porta filter for the first machine, because the two little plastic nozzels broke off the bottom almost imediately. I'm not sure why, since I've never had a similar problem. (the filter would work fine with out them) Starbucks customer support has been great.
Three Month Followup
Way past 3 months now.
One Year Followup
15+ Year followup. I went to a bottomless portofilter on two of my Baristas (I actually have 4, one is a spare, and the others are in different locations). It mostly taught me that I need a better grinder and a better espresso machine. I recently upgraded to a Nuova Simonelli Oscar and am making much better shots and milk drinks.
I still think the Saeco Machines are a good starter machnes, and they hold up very well. With a good grind and a non pressurized portofilter, they can make decent shots.