This is a nice looking, programmable machine that produces a very nice espresso. At the $650 price point that I bought it at it's a good value. At $995 it's getting a litte pricey
Positive Product Points
Extremely easy to use Programmability Good looks Very good espresso
Negative Product Points
Noisy Can't get good microfoam with the steam wand Smallish dump box
I purchased my Starbucks Digital Italia about 6 months ago and it has been working reliabily the whole time. I like the programmability of the machine that allows you to select the brew temperature, prebrew and volume of the shot. I've got it set up as follows:
Grind Setting: 12 Coffee Volume: 9 grams Shot Volume: 1.75 oz. Brew Temp: Maximum Pre-Brew: On Pre-Grind: Off
I'm using Flying Goat Coffee Company Espresso Tacino and have used Illy as well. The Illy seems to give a better cup of espresso, but the Tacino is very close and a much better value at $9.95 a pound.
The Barista produces a nice, rich, mellow espresso with good crema and no bitterness. I haven't actually checked the temperature, but I think it could be a little hotter. The Barista indicates that it is ready to brew in about 3-5 minutes, but I've found that if you let it heat up for ~30 minutes, the espresso is hotter. Unfortunately, I'm usually too impatient to let it heat up really well.
I'm a cappucino lover and I haven't been able to get really good microfoam with the steam wand. I'm open to suggestions as I've tried everything I can think of. Saeco sells a European version of the Digital Barista called the Incanto that has a pannarello. I'm trying to find a place to purchase the pannarello, but haven't had any luck to date. Maybe a good excuse for a trip to Italy.
The machine is easy to maintain and clean. The machine has a built-in swivel base that let's your turn it in place to access the water tank in the back. This is nice because the machine is heavy and my wife wouldn't be able to move it to get in the back. The front of the machine swings open to access the brew group and the dump box. Both are easily extracted for emptying and cleaning. The grind setting and coffee volume setting are in the bean hopper on top. I use Brita filtered water and the Barista hasn't asked for a descaling yet (about 250 shots to date). The shot volumes seem to wander a bit and need to be reprogrammed once in a while. I've reprogammed the espresso shot twice now. But that's a small price to pay for the one-button convenience.
I used to use a Gaggia Espresso and a Saeco MC2002 grinder. They produced a good cup of expresso and actually better microfoam with the pannarello on the Gaggia, but it was a pain in the neck and a mess every time I wanted a shot. So they didn't get used often.
Even though I purchased the machine on eBay, Starbucks registered it and indicated that they will honor the warrantee as long as I could verify a purchase date. Starbucks have been very helpful and their Tech Service is very responsive. Overall, I'm very happy with them as a vendor.
Wholelattecoffee has refurbished Digital Barista's on sale at $550. I'm considering another one for the office.