Buy one and you will not regret it (well as long as you actually use it)
Positive Product Points
WOW, all around great espresso machine that is built to last and pulls excellent espresso shots that simply in my opinion do not get any better. Fantastic steam power, heavy high quality construction, decent drip tray, huge water reservoir, very nice looking in any kitchen.
Negative Product Points
Some say the pressurized portafilter does not produce great shots or REAL creama. I personally think it is a great addition and the creama stays around for a very long time which is one of the key quality measurements to REAL creama. Like all automatic machines (e.g. with a pump not a handle) it can get a bit messy with the grinds...but in my opinion that is the price you pay to get a good shot of espresso. The super automatics are cleaner but take all the fun out of it. Other than that, I am finding it hard to find a fault right now...perhaps I will at my 3 month review.
I got very lucky recently when I purchased an Estro Vapore (AKA Starbucks Barista) for $51.01 US on eBay. When I made my winning bid, I knew I was taking a gamble (albeit small dollar). The seller claimed to know very little about espresso machines and could not confirm it even worked. Furthermore when I inquired as to where the portafilter was (not in the picture) he had no idea what I was talking about.
Well I got a real surprise when it arrived a week later...suspense...the unit looked and worked virtually like new. The body, water reservoir, drip tray / drawer, grouphead, stainless steal back and top, buttons and knobs could not look any newer if I bought at Starbucks today. No water stains or even coffee on the dispersion screen. I would say that this machine has only been used a handful of times at most.
I gave the machine a thorough clean as it was a little dusty. I also ran some coffee de-scalar just in case and to ensure it was clean inside. With that out of the way and with my FREE yes FREE replacement portafilter (Starbucks warranty service is unbelievable even on used machines that are clearly out of warranty), I was up and running pulling excellent tasty shots (no issues priming whatsoever).
Compared to the Krups Gusto (my previous machine for 3 years) this machine definitely makes better espresso and steamed milk...much better (probably due to the larger filter basket and brewing temperatures).
The steam power is probably the area that most surprised me...it kicks butt even though many reviewers felt it was weak. Again my previous experience was with a Krups Gusto that was not bad at steaming milk, by the Estro Vapore has so much more steam power that I was shocked as to how fast I got my 20 oz pitcher to 170 degrees...and the micro foam looks like freaking whipped cream ƒº. Perhaps the Estro Vapore being a few years older (as many 10, though I am not sure about this unit yet) had a better boiler? The unit itself is without a doubt, built to last. It weighs 17 pounds dry and 23+ pounds with 3L of water it can accommodate. It looks and feels like quality. Unlike my Krups which was built to be disposed of, the Estro Vapore was built to be serviced (was build in such a way that one could replace a part if it fails). With the Starbucks Barista (which is visually and apparently mechanically identical to the Estro Vapore) so popular, finding parts is as easy as calling their warranty hotline (that is how I got the free portafilter).
All in all I would highly recommend this machine brand new from Starbucks or like I did on eBay (though you never quite know what you are going to get). I fully expect to be pulling years of high quality espresso shots and great cappuccinos for the wife.
This eBay buying experience was very much worth the risk of the unknown.
Three Month Followup
Well it’s been 3 months now since I purchased my Estro Vapore off of eBay and all I can say is that my house constantly smells like a good espresso café …and this in my opinion is very good thing.
I’ve been pulling 3 to 5 shots a day (sometime 10 plus when guests are over) without a single problem! The machine still heats up very fast, makes great steamed milk and foam, and pulls shots very consistent every time. I virtually never have to re-pull due to a bad tasting shot.
It is a messy machine or course, but I am not willing to go to a fully automatic due to cost and frankly I am not sure the taste is as good (maybe it’s the art versus the science thing).
I’ve opted to stay with the pressurized basket for I tried the non pressure basket at a friends house (has a Starbucks Barista) and honestly could not tell a difference. Besides, I noticed that these machine actually tamp for you when you tighten the portafilter to the grouphead so getting creative tamping with the non pressurized basket may not have the impact you’d expect.
Bottom line, friends and family now request espresso, cappuccinos and lattes every time they come over to my house and compliment on how good they are (did not get this with my old Krupps Gusto).