Good value for $$$, but shot quality is inconsistent.
Positive Product Points
Reliable (7 years and still going strong), good price. Makes acceptable lattes, caps, americanos.
Negative Product Points
Forget making straight espresso - tried a multitude of beans, grinds, etc - always comes out bitter or acidic.
EDIT - Read 3 month update below - after buying the non-pressurized PF and a semi-commercial grade grinder, I am finally making good espresso.
This was a Christmas gift from my girlfriend (married her a year later). It was a BIG step up from my Philips steam machine. It works every time, has needed only routine cleaning to keep it going. The only problem I had with it was self-induced - I tried to clean the portafilter by taking it apart - big mistake - one of the springs popped out and went down the drain. Had to order an entirely new PF from *$.
As mentioned above, it does a reasonable job in making long drinks. After trying many many variables to improve straight espresso, it was apparent that I was never going to get a decent shot from this machine. After finding this web site, I see many people recommend replacing the pressurized portafilter with a non-pressurized PF, so I bought one. Unfortunately, it now appears that my grinder Braun KM 30 burr grinder) cannot grind fine enough. The longest double shot I can make is about 15 seconds and that is with a 175 lbs tamp (putting my whole weight on the tamper).
I may look into a good quality grinder, and I will submit a followup review to let you know how I made out.
OK - this is the official 3 month followup review: Shortly after I posted my original review, I bit the bullet and found myself a Rocky grinder. Best $$$ I have ever spent on coffee paraphenalia. I am finally able to make decent drinkable espresso with this machine. However - I would guess that only 3 of every 4 shots is "good", with the other being so-so. I think that the cause is the temperature stability of the machine. I verified this temperature instability using the typical "thermometer in a styrofoam cup" technique. I have experimented with temperature surfing and adjusting time between shots, but the best I can do is 75%.
So - the bottom line is that the machine is good, but not the most reliable. Having said that, please bear in mind that my machine is almost 7 years old, so some of the instability may be due to age and the mileage on my machine. I changed the "would buy again" to a no because I am certain I will go to a HX machine when the Barista packs it in for good. Everyone raves about temp stability on the HX'ers and it would also allow me to serve multiple milk based drinks in a short period - something that is impossible to do with a single boiler machine like the Barista.
One other gripe I have always had with the machine is the shower screen. After 2 or 3 days of use, the screw that holds it into the group head gets clogged with grinds and the water flows out in a steady single stream in the middle (where the screw is). I have to remove the screw, and rinse it clean, and place the screen and the screw back into the group head. I find that if the water channles through the screw while brewing, it disrupts the even pressure on the top of the coffee bed and it can give you a bad tasting shot. Probably due to too much water pressure in the cetral area. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind cleaning the screen out, as I know this needs to be done with every machine, but every couple of days is a bit much.
Great service - the salespeople helped explain how to use it (even though the manual was quite clear). 1-800 number for service has been very helpful in providing advice on cleaning and troubleshooting. Ordering a replacement PF took a matter of two days. Highly satisfied.