Very satisfied! Sorry Starbuck's, but you sold me your own replacement!
Positive Product Points
Works reliably and consistently produces a very satisfying double shot of espresso. For those who are into the 'art' of producing espresso, as opposed to the technological, vending-machine type experience. Patience is definitely rewarded.
Negative Product Points
Prime-Steam-Prime-Brew! You need to memorize this mantra and the rather involved set of procedures it is intended to evoke. Instructional video is in error when it says to "tamp the grounds". I also wish the steam wand were just a tad bit longer.
I bought this machine so that I could have my afternoon coffee latte without having to leave the office for a trip to the local Starbuck's. I bought it on the last day of the recent sale as an early birthday present for myself. I also bought the Barista grinder and some accessories. After getting it home, I immediately played the instructional video through 3 times, and then one more time in the morning before taking it to the office. I have a nice long table across from my desk and set up my personal espresso bar. With a deep breath and one last review of the written instructions, I plunged bravely into my first ever attempt at a home-made latte. No sooner had I turned on the steam wand than I had a crowd of fellow office workers around me! Apparently the sound carries quite far. Well that upped the nervous-ness factor a few notches. Remembering the mantra "Prime-Steam-Prime-Brew" I successfully, albeit slowly, produced what appeared to me to be a rather successful rendition of a coffe latte on my very first try! One thing I did notice was that when I removed the pressurized portafilter there was a fair amount of liquid on top of the grounds. A call to Customer Service revealed that the accompanying instructional video was incorrect in advising that the grounds be tamped before brewing (apparently the Rapporto filter is 'self-tamping'). They also recommended that I not use the finest grind from the Barista grinder. After making these adjustments, the problem seems corrected and I still am getting good strong double shots. So, after only having the machine for a week, I got 'volunteered' to make coffee drinks for an office "pancake breakfast" event! Even though I had made only about 10 lattes for myself up to that point, the Barista and I were able to pull out 25 or so lattes, mochas, and cappucinos relatively efficiently. I would say, based on the positive feedback, that the quality of the drinks was first-rate. The red color is beautiful!
I kept eyeing this machine after noticing that is was on sale for $100 off during the annual Starbuck's sale. However, as is my nature, I set about an exhaustive search on the Internet to evaluate this machine (as well as the fully automatic Digital 'Italia' model) against the competition. I really appreciated finding this website! After quite a few hours of web-surfing, I was pretty much convinced I wanted a Rancilio Silvia (it seems to be the machine everyone wants). But, in the end, the $200 price difference and the immediate availability sold me on the Barista. The folks at the local Starbuck's know me quite well and were very helpful! I wanted the red model, but the only one they had was the display model. I asked if they would let me buy that one and they agreed. Then one of the barista's, who happened to own one himself, went over the basics of running it. Starbuck's Customer Service was also very helpful (see commentary above).
Three Month Followup
Starbuck's Customer support is outstanding! After a few months, the Rapporto filter quit working (no pressure). Starbuck's replaced it immediately, no hassle. I also called Saeco and ordered a standard portafilter - I'm still experimenting with it occasionally and haven't yet been able to match the results of the Rapporto. All in all, the product meets my expectations.
One Year Followup
We use it several times a day at work, mostly for lattes, and it continues to perform quite well. On a few special occasions (i.e. office pancake breakfast) it gets pressed into "heavy-duty", non-stop service, producing a few dozen, various coffee drinks. The Barista (machine) just swooshes right along, while the barista (me)... well, let's just say I'd best keep my day job!