If you life in the UK and can't afford a Gaggia MDF (the next grinder up), this is your only option for espresso.
Positive Product Points
- Price. This thing is cheap. At less than £40, it was an absolute steal. - Conical burrs. - Good for for espresso and press - Easy to clean - Can make a decent espresso
Negative Product Points
- Not enough ability to fine tune your shots. - Burrs are mounted in plastic
Like many poor fools, on buying my first espresso machine II had initially imagined that I could get away with buying pre-ground coffee.
After a few terrible shots, I rapidly realized that a grinder was essential, but what was I going to buy? Having blown all my money on my machine, I needed something cheap. The options for me were either a Zassenhaus manual grinder, the Dualit (like the Starbucks Barista, a rebadged Solis) or the Barista. The fact that it was on sale at £40 made it a no brainer.
Even without the tweaks, I was able to get a decent shot, but what the tweaks gave me was a degree of tunability. The Barista isn't the most robust machine in the world, but it does serve it's purpose.
The plastic burrs mean that your shots can drift somewhat, and you can forget about using the interim positions between the markings as they are fairly meaningless.
The manual says that the machine can be used to grind directly into the portafilter. This may be possible if you have a 42mm portafilter, but with the 58mm pro-style portafilter on my Gaggia Classic, you don't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting it in place. Just grind into the receptacle and you'll be fine.
Having said all that though, I've used this machine for almost six months with a high degree of satisfaction. For the price, my complaints are really all just quibbles.
Ultimately, it all boils down to how serious are you about your espresso. If you're unsure as to whether you're going to want to commit much time and money to the process, a Starbucks Barista is an inexpensive way of discovering whether excellent coffee at home is something you want to pursue.
However, if you already know that you're passionate about coffee and want the best, I'd suggest that you go straight for a better grinder.
It's Starbucks. I paid them the money, they gave me the box.