Perfect Espresso everytime, fast no mess, easy to use, beautiful and well made machine; now that's Italian!
Positive Product Points
All I can say is this is a superb machine. I love it. From opening the box, right to the wondeful first cup of espresso, it has been a joy to own. The new design of this machine looks wonderful on the kitchen counter. Coffee is ground precisely, tamped and drawn to make a wonderfully full and rich cup of espresso. The adjustments and fine tuning make even a coffee snob happy. You can pull long or short shots. One of my favorite features is the digital timer. The machine is hot and ready for me when I wake up. Maintenence is well thought out. Machine tells you when to add water, coffee and empty grounds. What could be easier? I have been using daily with much pleasure. Instead of cleaning up daily, now I clean machine once a week. A great timesaver. Warranty is great. Beware of purchasing on eBay however. Starbucks will not honor warranty on purchases from 3rd party according to factory technician I called. Get one today they are wonderful.
Negative Product Points
I have a pet peeve with the machine. Each time you start up the machine, it goes through a warming and rinse cycle. That isn't the problem. The first shot that comes out of the machine still has the (yecch) rinsewater in it. I take a small stainless steel saucer and place it under the spout during the pre-brew cycle my machine is set on. I catch the 1/2 tablespoon of rinswater, just before the crema comes out. I know that is being really picky, but my coffee must be perfect or I will toss it!
Having been a Starbucks Barista user for many years, when the Saeco super auto machines came out I was naturally interested in them. I kept eyeballing the units at the local Starbucks for months and months. Alas, I could not bring myself to spending the nearly $800 to purchase one. I just waited until the local Starbucks had them on sale for $699 and bought one. I then sold my old machine on eBay for about $320 so my net cost was about $400. The machine is great for small kitchens with espresso fiends. The mess and time to make a wonderful coffee drink is reduced significantly. I actually would forego coffee several times a week (due to my early schedule and tendency to sleep as long as possible). Now, my machine is ready for me every morning and I can have my espresso!
What I have learned about the machine is this; if you are not willing to lovingly care for it, don't bother. Yes it is fully automatic, but you must keep it full of beans, water and cleaned. Only empty the grounds when the machine tells you to. I believe it uses some sort of counter because at first I would empty the grounds collector basket after 4 or 5 doubles. The machine would have me emptying it when it wasn't full. Now I just wait for it to tell me to empty grounds.
The beans hopper holds about 3/4 of a pound of coffee, usually enough for us for about a week. I did adjust my shot size up a little bit as well as the grind slightly. The factory settings are pretty darn close. Again, the machine will let you know when you need to add beans. As for the pre ground bypass, I don't bother with that and cannot comment on it. From what I hear, it works just fine, but are cautioned not to overload it or you may damage the machine.
The water reservoir is a bit smallish it holds about 2 quarts of water. I use filtered or bottled water and it lasts me about 4 days. The machine will let you know when to add water. I usually peek over at the side and add water when it gets down to about 1/4 tank.
I clean my brew unit weekly following the factory instructions. I carefully remove the unit, rinse it and pull off the screen and rubber o-ring gasket. After rinsing, I take a paper towel and wipe all residues from behind the seal and the plunger, being careful not to damage the unit. Then I rinse again and make sure that all coffee residues are gone, shake and then air dry. I check to make sure there is just enough lubricant grease to keep the brew group working. Be very careful not to over do it with that stuff, youíll gum up the unit with excessive lubrication.
To speed up my drying, I gently shake the brew unit over the sink until most of the water is gone. Then I take a can of that compressed air (the stuff you use to clean computers and electronics) and blow the rest of the water out of the brew unit. I inspect it for any wear and tear on the moveable parts and then reinstall the screen with the handy tool supplied and replace the o-ring seal for the brewing chamber. I ordered a Saeco Brew Group Maintenance kit from www.1st-line.com for $6.95 which includes lubricant grease and 3 o-ring seals for the brew group. Because I am a coffee fanatic, I am also ordering an extra brew group ($84.95 from 1st-line) to keep on hand in case the original unit breaks. This is a personal quirk of mine; having spare parts for equipment with moving parts. Even with factory warranty, certain parts are going to wear out with daily use and my feeling is that the seals will be the first to go. Lubrication is also suggested weekly by some, in my mind, it seems like every couple of months. I agree with weekly inspection, but like changing your oil in the car every 3000 miles; itís just not necessary. If you go crazy with that lube grease, you are going to cause problems with coffee grounds gumming up the works. Call Starbucks for instructions on how to apply the grease.
The steamer wand works very well. It actually is more powerful than my previous Barista machine. Steam comes out very quickly and in abundance. You must blow the water out as with all home machines first but that is a given. The new design eliminated the nut at the end of the steamer wand which makes keeping the milk build up off the steam wand much easier.
Depending on your use, cleaning the machine one time a week should be sufficient to keep your unit working fine. All told, I save at least a couple hours a week making coffee. This is a great machine, be careful and gentle with it and it should serve you well for years.
I have used several different machines in my life, and this one is my favorite. Automation really brings the joy back to enjoying my coffee and biscotti in the morning with the paper. Gone are the days of dragging a cup in the car, or skipping the paper or heaven forbid, not having my biscotti with coffee in the morning. Now I can have my coffee, paper and cookie too! The machine really saves time.
Starbucks really stepped up to the plate on this one. An employee mistakenly placed the 'on sale' sign on the machine. I said, "I'll take one" the manager told me that the employee made a mistake. No problem, I could wait. Well Starbucks sold me the unit for the$699 price instead of the $995 regular price. Besides that, with Starbucks market penetration, you will have no trouble with parts or service on this unit for years to come (Starbucks owns Saeco). It really makes sense to get the machine there. I was told by a warranty tech, as I mentioned earlier, the warranty is not valid unless purchased directly from Starbucks (you have to register and provide receipt). So if you are thinking about buying a gray market 'new' unit on eBay, be so advised. I feel the warranty and service make this a very good buy. Starbucks is a good company, even if their coffee isn't my personal favorite. They stand behind their product, and try to do a good job. They are on sale at least 2 times a year. The eBay price for a new unit is about the same as the sale price so just wait. This is a fun machine to use; my wife even makes espresso now, although she got scared when it started tamping the coffee. You will be very happy!
Three Month Followup
A followup to my review. After about 6 months my machines DESCALE notice came up on the display. I followed the instructions but alas it would not come ready. I called the folks at Starbucks warranty dept. and they arranged to have me pick up a brand new unit from a local store. It seems the water here in LA area is very, very hard. They recommended I use bottled or distilled water because of scale build up. My recommendation is to use only bottled water if you live in an area where water softeners are as plentiful as rain in Seattle. Since then, my machine has performed flawlessly. Another note, the newer model has an improved brew unit (they replaced a plastic section in the compression chamber with a stainless steel part) that appears to be much sturdier and stronger.