If you can get past the funky looks of this brewer, it is capable of producing outstanding coffee.
Positive Product Points
Has all the advantages of your typical vacuum brewers(i.e. makes great coffee), quick heating and brewing, large capacity, Easy to use, safety design features
Negative Product Points
Unusual looking, use of plastic in construction, cleaning of bottom reservoir is difficult
The Startucks Barista Utopia is geared to the coffee fan who is enchanted with vacuum brewing, but who also wants a bit more capacity than is offered by the other vacuum brewers on the market. The appearance of the unit is quirky, looking like it sat too long in front of a hot window, wilting in one direction. Structurally, however, it is solid. The reservoirs fit together very well, the transparent cover on the top reservoir does a great job of preventing spills and splashes from the brewing coffee. The electronic controls at the base are basic but are easily mastered in a few minutes.
Brewing coffee in this unit is easy, but a Starbucks-produced video tape is included to cover the use and maintenance of the unit. The unit is fast, too, taking all of 5 - 7 minutes to complete its task.
For the advanced user, some fine tuning of the coffee grind is desireable for optimal coffee extraction, and due to the larger design of the bottom reservoir, this vacuum brewer can handle finer coffee grinds without plugging up, unlike other vacuum brewers such as the Hario Nouveau.
Now, it is tempting to try to make just a "smidge more" coffee in this brewer than the amount recommended by Starbucks, but try to resist this temptation! It may lead to a kitchen mess -- this is especially important for those home roasting afficionados out there, as fresh roasted coffee tends to foam a bit when brewed.
Cleaning of the Barista Utopia is easy and difficult. The easy part is cleaning the filter and upper reservoir, but the lower reservoir is difficult, mostly due its smallish opening. A cleaning brush is definitely called for here. Another design flaw *may be* the choice of polycarbanates for portions of the lower reservoir, especially next to the built-in heating plate. Time will tell on this. As it is the Utopia is backed by Starbucks no questions asked warrantee for a period of two years, so the buyer is encouraged to enjoy the use the brewer on a daily basis.