It's a good espresso machine for a house with multiple baristas and variety of espresso making experience. If you are the sole barista and want premium espress don't buy it.
Positive Product Points
Simple design and intuitive controls. Any coffee lover can learn how to use this machine. Produces a good espresso, better then starbucks once you have played with the settings for your specific bean. Has a "bean shoot" if you want to use an alternate pre-ground coffee bean like a decaf or a darker roast.
Negative Product Points
Cannot change the grind setting while it is stopped. The grind setting takes 2-3 shots before it is actually being sent to the portafilter, that's a lot of beans! Single-shot producess weak toilet water material. Double-shot is the only useful setting. Cafe black could burn a whole in your stomach if your not careful.
I purchased this machine brand new on sale from Starbucks for $400. It was regular $1100. It was great for $400 (but I would never pay $1100). I had a little panic at the beginning because I was changing the bean setting while it was stopped and afterwards realized that the manual stressed that you must only change the bean setting while the grinder is running which is ridiculous. I called the service number and the guy pretty much knew less about coffee machines then I did. I figured out that what the grind setting knob was doing was adjusting some sort of guide too that would raise or lower a choking mechanism which would determine the grind size. If you were to have the grind setting set really coarse and then raise it to a very fine setting you could basically seize the grinder and burn out the motor. Smaller changes while it is stopped are ok but larger changes especially when going from coarse to fine should be done while it is running.
It took me awhile to get the right grind setting and even then it was a compromise because it would be a great grind setting for a double espresso shot but then a poor grind setting for a single or a cafe black. So unless you use the "grind shoot" for a single and cafe black you are stuck making a compromise which is something that was very hard for me to accept. You also can play with the strong taste and regular taste setting which basically increases the size of the puck. I found the setting it at #6-#7 for my bean was best for the Double shot and #8 was best for Single Shot and #5 was best for Cafe black. But because of the 2-3 shot delay I put it at #5-6 and limited my selection to a "Strong Taste" Double and a Regular taste cafe black.
A single shot was too short = 15-18 seconds and very weak. The pucks were always very wet even on the strong taste setting. The only shot that worked was "Very Hot", "Strong Taste", "Double Shot" for 25-28 seconds which produced a nice puck at the end and just the right amount of espresso for a nice size cappuccino. The single would be good for someone who likes more of a milky or more of a sweeter coffee drink.
Definitely don't use starbucks beans (which came free with the machine), they are disgusting, thank-fully there is a local roaster here in Abbotsford.
You can have it on a timer so that it powers up and warms-up the portafilter for a certain time everyday. Great for people like me who sleep walk in the morning and don't like to wait for their coffee. Doesn't take too long to warm-up if you choose to manually power it on I would say about 5-6 minutes at the most. You definitely need to do at least 1-2 shots before you have a useable espresso machine. The machine automatically cleans the portafilter after every shot and you can even do as many clean cycles as you want by pushing the "water cycle" button.
The water reservoir is very big and slides nicely along the slide. It is pressured sealed so I am concerned that after a few years of sliding in and out it may loose it's "Sealing" power. But no problems yet. The bean hopper can hold about 10-15 double shots, depending on how efficiently you fill it up.
The steamer makes super steamed milk. A lot better then the Rialto I had and that is mostly thanks to the hi-tech froth enhanced steam wand. It's not the best steamed milk but it's better then what I was getting. Best way to steam is to surf for 5 seconds and then plunge for 15 seconds or until the steam container is hot to touch.
Starbucks was believe it or not a great buying experience. They were always willing to help and even willing to come over and work with the machine. Maybe it's just my starbucks but I was very impressed with the buying experience.