Great coffee machine for people developing their addiction and the related skills required to make good coffee
Positive Product Points
The Starbucks Barista has managed to consistantly give good extractions, as well as a good ability to steam and strecth milk.
Negative Product Points
Portafilter a bit cheap, and the lack of blind basket for cleaning somewhat annoying.
I bought this online on trademe.co.nz (like ebay), as it was being sold by someone who had had it given to them as a gift, which they had not used (they ran a Bed and Breakfast, and therefore had a better coffee machine). This was brand new and I managed to get it for $300NZD.
The build of the machine is generally good. Brushed metal gives it a feeling of being strong but the size of it (it has a fairly small footprint) still gives the impression that it is unobtrusive. The curved design cues make it something you want to touch, rather than avoid, and lack of right angles on the unit means that it doesn't catch clothes or cords etc. This is an excellent design point and I think makes the unit a good fit for smaller bench areas.
The machine easily pulls off good extractions - even with a limited knowledge of what I was doing I could still get a good crema, froth a good jug of milk and fool my friends. Now I have a bit more experience, I find it still manages to produce a coffee close to machines I have used that are considerably more expensive (i.e. 2-3 group commercial machines, and high end prosumer (E-61)).
The portafilter is a complete pig however - the plastic used is cheap and ugly, and the removable basket has got very damaged from use (even though I look after it) - on more than one occasion the doubleshot basket has cut my fingers due to the edges becoming very brittle and rough. Also the basket is a weird size, meaning finding the right size tamper is near impossible.
I look forward to finding an aftermarket replacement basket.
Excellent deal (these units generally retail for $700 NZD - the Saeco Via Venezia branded ones are sold throughout NZ.