This low-maintainence machine works great out-of-the box and has been serving barrista-made shots daily for 10 years and brewing.
Positive Product Points
I bought this machine at starbucks 10 years ago during their annual sale. it was $300 list and I paid $200. It pulls great shots and is easy to maintain and has never had any serious problems in 10 years. I have used it with ESE pods and fresh grind. I prefer grinding before each use, thought the pods work well, if you like them. I think they are OK for office use (clean, simple), but nothing beats a fresh ground shot.
Negative Product Points
The only negatives I have are 1) that one of the plastic internal pieces that is part of the spring mechanism within the portofilter broke after about 6 years. I took it apart and found the broken part - it relates to the spring loaded pressure release valve in the base. I ordered a new one from Starbucks, though the machine actually worked fine without the internal spring-release. and 2) after about 5 or 6 years, I had let the machine get dirty and clogged and the rubber gasket around the pressure head blew out. Starbucks replaced it for free and I received it 2 days after I called the 800 number on the sticker that I've kept on the machine since I bought it. It's been 10 years now, and I've not had to replace it again. My Capresso machine that this replaced blew a gasket about once a year or so.
Pulling perfect shots is as easy as
1) grind using a burr grinder 2) keep the head clean 3) keep the portflter clean 4) use fresh, filtered water
2 and 3 are best done by rinsing the portofilter, pulling out the metal filter and rinsing both sides after each use. When I get lazy and dont do this, after a few months it starts to get clogged. If this happens, simply remove the filter, clean it, and you're back in business. I have tried a few methods, but usually warm water followed by using a pin to push the packed grounds out of the holes works best. The filter at the water head needs to be cleaned once in a while too, it removes with the handy screwdriver that came with the machine and is easily wiped clean. I run vinegar or citrus cleaner through the machine about one a year. The machine runs today as well as it did out of the Box. I use it every day - a few shots in the am a few in the pm, and if I work from home, about 5 shots a day. At parties, I can quickly serve up shots, caps, and mach's. The wand is easy to keep clean, too.
Easy - I waited for the annual 30% off sale.
Three Month Followup
Its been about twelve years since i bought this machine. it recently has been unable to pull shots using the pressurized portafilter, so I modified it by removing all of the guts leaving just a plain portafilter. This makes it more difficult to pull a perfect shot, but it still works well with pods and properly tamped espresso. I ordered a silvia to replace this, as i wanted something new and i have read good reviews of this machine and associated grinder.
This review is also moot, since the machine is no longer sold by star bucks, and is no longer supported by them either. It served me well for twelve years and will now take its place as a backup office machine.