This machine was a gift for my wife in 1996. It was purchased for about US$200 on sale at our local Starbucks. The idea at the time was to save some money on the lattés and mochas we were guzzling down. We used it for awhile and then after a year of use it ended up sitting on our counter unused, as the results were more than a little disappointing...
That was until this spring, 2001, when I began roasting my own coffee and sprung for a decent (Solis 166) burr grinder. Some of the internet info I had read mentioned that the proper grinder was far more important than the espresso machine for good espresso (including the CoffeeKid). I wondered if the old Braun whirly blade grinder had had something to do with the lousy espresso I remembered from the machine. The machine had sat so long, I had forgotten how to use it. I turned it on, and let it warm up; then ran the steam until it ran clean, pulled a couple of shots of clear water to pre-warm the portafilter, then tamped 14 grams of my fresh home-roasted coffee into the large basket and pulled what up to that time, for me, was a "god shot"...
Perfect crema, thick (3/8"), tawny brown with reddish streaks. It was wonderful. The machine I had considered throwing away, was worth keeping after all. My wife, who usually only drinks espresso with loads of milk and chocolate and even my 14 year-old daughter who normally doesn‘t like coffee, will drink these shots straight.
For occasional use, the Buon Caffé 330 has plenty of steam and will pull very consistent shots, as long as you are using FRESH beans and they are ground properly (about the consistency of fine white sand). Of the three machines I now own, a Krups 964 pump and an Elespresso pump, this machine, by FAR has the most consistent shot quality.
It was made in Switzerland, and according to Home Espresso Repair in Seattle, was probably made in the same OEM factory as many of the Krups models. All Starbucks Barista machines as of this writing (July 10, 2001) are made by Saeco in Italy.
Some tips for better espresso from this machine:
- Start with the freshest beans you can get or roast your own.
- Grind with a good burr grinder. The grind MUST be consistent. I have gotten good results with the Solis 166, but also with a Braun KM30 I own.
- Take time to run PLENTY of water through the machine to warm up the machine, portafilter and the shot glass or demitasse you will be pulling shots into. This means running the steam wand until it no longer spits water and pulling several shots (2 oz. at a time) of clear water through the portafilter with time in-between shots for the pilot light to go off.
All this is because the machine runs a little on the cool side 180-190°F, and cycling the steam and hot water will get the temp up as high as possible. Brewing with higher temperature water will help to keep the shots from finishing with a bitter "bite" at the bottom of the glass.