A capable starter machine that can be had for a great price, but is invariably outgrown.
Positive Product Points
Easy to use
Good steaming power, microfoam-capable
Huge water tank
Sturdy, solid machine
Great starter machine
Negative Product Points
After 5 years, still pulling bitter shots
Bought this back in 2001 for $200 when Starbucks was having a sale. It's performed admirably and dependably for me over the intervening years. Every morning, without fail or complaint, pulling out cappa after cappa for my wife and I... tasty ones at that.
It's an easy machine to fall in love with, especially when its the only one you know. Steaming takes a bit of temperature surfing, dumping the initial loads of wet steam before you hit the dry steam mother-lode and start churning out the real quality foam. But it is fully able to produce some nice microfoam, and if your main aim is delicious cappas or lattes, the Barista is a beautifully capable machine, and in the 5 years the Barista has been in my life, in this aspect, it has yet to disappoint.
The trouble comes into paradise when your attention is turned to espresso. I am not certain where the deficiency lies, whether it is in the lack of pressure generated by the pump, the deficiency of the grind, a lack of refined technique, or some combination of all of the above, but I have yet to pull consistantly good straignt espresso shots from this machine. The results range from passable to truly bitter, and quite simply, I always find that a pinch of sugar in the shot is always a welcome addition.
It is not for a lack of trying. I have upgraded my grinder to a Capresso Infinity and created a non-pressurised portafilter and refined my technique, consistantly producing shots with a nice layer of crema... but while I have had passable results, I still cannot obtain what I am after with this machine.
I love this machine for its ease of use, for its reliability and its ability to produce delicious cappas and lattes day in and day out for year upon year upon year... but I am afraid that the time to retire it has come. It took 5 years, but I am moving on into Silvia and Rocky's warm embrace to pursue higher heights.
Purchased from Starbucks.com back when they sold espresso machines. Good purchase experience, great customer service from Starbucks. When I lost the inner spring from the portafilter that I disassembled, they sent me an entire new portafilter free of charge. Thumbs up for great customer service.