Easy to use, fool-proof semi-automatic for the coffeegeek-in-training.
Positive Product Points
Inexpensive, when on sale.
Easy to use; no tamping required, grind-forgiving.
High quality workmanship for price.
Negative Product Points
Too expensive when not on sale. Too forgiving, so you never really learn how to grind/tamp/pull a shot
I've been researching inexpensive semi-automatic espresso machines for about a month and have purchased several, but have found them all to be lacking. Lucky for me that I bought them all at stores with liberal return policies. I've tried several Dilonghis, the new Krups EX4000 and a Saeco Via Veneto. The Saeco Via Veneto came closest to what I was looking for and the price was right ($100) but I decided the all-plastic construction was just too flimsy (read "cheesey") for me. I read all the reviews on the Starbucks Barista and thought that this is the right espresso machine for me. However, $399 was more that I wanted to spend. Then I happened upon the Starbucks Christmas sale and purchased a Barista for $299 with a free pound of coffee.
This espresso machine is all that I wished for. I am not a coffee-geek, I just like a good latte; I'm not a straight espresso drinker. This machine makes the best lattes I have ever tasted. My wife, who balked at me spending $300 for a "coffemaker" was a quick convert.
I highly recommend this machine if you don't want to be bothered by grinding, dosing, tamping, pulling and just want a good espresso or latte. It comes with accessories for espresso pods and a training video. It's so easy to use that I haven't unwrapped the video. The sale is on until January 5th, so hurry. If you buy one on eBay, make sure it is new, in the box. As I understand it, Starbucks has two sales a year: Christmas sale and a brewing sale either March or May.
Easy: pick it up and hand the barista your Amex card.