This is an attractive machine with simple lines and a very small foot print. Built like a tank and it's substantial weight keeps it firmly planted. Makes pretty good shots of espresso and after some practice it will foam the milk to a nice consistency. Though it can be assumed to be a minor detail, having a removable drip tray is a big bonus.
Negative Product Points
-Pressurized portafilter is not really cleanable unless you have a screwdriver. A non-pressurized version is available through the manufacturer. -The manual is a useless waste of paper. -Water level is hard to seen but a previous review mentioned using a ping-pong ball (brilliant).
We purchased this machine prior to transferring to Alaska not realizing there is three very fine coffee shops on the island (one also roasts). We figured that we better learn to make espresso pretty quick. The machine is pretty easy to use and we quickly learned its quirks. Setup is very simple and I have managed to learn to effectively steam the milk so that it double is volume (very fine foam) by the time I reach proper temperature. I would recommend some ear plugs while steaming the milk as it is very loud. As a beginner this is a pretty good balance between cost and usability.
I e-mailed Saeco for the part number of the non pressurized portafilter. They are: Black non-pres portafilter - 226551350 $48.02 Grey non-pres portafilter - 226550263 $36.79 Saeco customer service at 800-933-7876
The folks that sold us the machine went out of their way to ensure we knew how to use it. There was some initial confusion why the puck remained so wet after pulling the shot, but after much discussion and a pound of coffee, it was assumed that the pressurized portafilter was the culprit. A quick phone call would have solved that mystery, but where is the fun in that?
Three Month Followup
Sorry I missed the three month followup.
One Year Followup
This summer we are moving back to the lower-48 and the machine is still pumping out espresso based drinks. On average, we make 3-4 lattes per day and Starbuck's Barista has yet to fail us. After becoming more attuned to making proper espresso, two things become the Achille's heal of this machine. First, you need to steam the milk first, which puts the temperature too high for espresso extraction. After the milk is steamed, depress the steam button and vent all of the steam pressure off the boiler to reduce the temperature before expresso extraction. The second issue is the recovery time between drinks, which means it is not appropriate for a dinner party.
Overall, the Starbuck's Barista continues to serve us well and I have no real intentions on replacing it in the near future.