This unit looks really good on the counter. It's heated up and ready to go in just a couple of minutes. Steams ok with lots of thick foam after a bit of practice. Holds plenty of water, so there's no problem making more than one or two in a row.
Negative Product Points
Steam power is a bit lacking. Although it's pleasing to the eye, the plastic exterior doesn't seem to be very durable. Programmable shot didn't work on mine. The pressurized portafilter doesn't allow enough control over the process to refine the shots to my liking. After three weeks of daily use (4-6 shots) problems with leakage around the top of the portafilter appeared.
I bought the Athena right after Christmas on sale $399.00 (CDN), what a deal I thought. It was an impulse buy, and not too long after I was regretting my lack of research before committing to the purchase. Out of the box I was quite pleased with the unit. I must say, it's sharp looking. Over the next few days the kitchen became my favourite place as I refined my technique and began to produce shots that were actually drinkable. I was disappointed to discover that the programmable shot length feature on mine didn't seem to be working. After "programming" my shot, the next one would only draw for a few seconds before shutting off. I could still simply hold down the button each time so I wasn't too worried about it.
As I approached the one-month anniversary with my new toy, problems started to emerge. No matter how I adjusted my grind or amount of coffee used, about halfway through every shot I would have water and grinds leaking over the top of the portafilter and out the screw holes on the bottom. I had bitter yucky shots coming out my ears. That's when I phoned the olí1-800.
So maybe I got a lemon? Hey, that happens and I could understand. But to tell you the truth, for the amount of money spent I just wasn't happy with the overall performance. I can't stress enough how helpful and courteous the people at Starbucks were. They took time to answer all of my questions regarding the problems and offered to ship out replacement parts to me immediately. When I told them that I just wanted to return it instead, they contacted my local store and arranged everything. The store itself was equally courteous and offered us drinks on the house for our trouble.
So for the next few weeks, it looks like I'm back to making a stop for my morning (afternoon and evening) latte's. But not to worry, Miss Silvia is on her way.
My buying (and retuning) experiance was fantastic.