Not bad as an entry-level machine for producing okay espresso. But for the price, try the Saeco Aroma, which features 15 bars rather than the Barista's 8-12 bars of pressure.
Positive Product Points
This machine has sleek styling and is available in multiple finishes, including stainless steel. Like the self-storing cord, which is a nice feature.
Negative Product Points
With only 8-12 bars of pressure, it simply does not have enough uumph to brew a quality espresso with consistent crema, as compared to similarly-priced machines that have 14-15 bars of pressure to start.
I went into the Starbucks store for a live demo of the Barista so that I could "try before buying." The store manager was extremely helpful in explaining all the features and walking me through the process of brewing espresso. He opted to use one of the prepackaged pods, rather than ground espresso for ease of the demonstration and cleanup. At roughly $400 retail (or $279 when on sale), this machine is not a bad entry-level espresso machine. But even the Starbucks manager admitted that a really good espresso machine usually has a minimum of 14 bars of pressure. The Barista did froth milk well and was easy to clean. Warning: stainless steel model shows every spec and splatter mark imaginable. Much more high-maintenance in terms of its finish when compared to the graphite or black finishes. As someone who loves everything Starbucks, it seemed natural for me to buy this machine. But in the end I went with the Saeco Aroma, which was priced around $300 and offered 15 bars of pressure along with similar styling and features as the Barista. If I had the money, I would love to have bought the Rancilio Silvia, but that would have necessitated me spending another $200+.
Couldn't have been more positive. Starbucks really excels at customer service. And they stand behind their products by offering a two-year warranty, as long as the buyer can provide true proof of purchase...ie not from an online auction site.