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Starbucks Barista - Sean Strugnell's Review
Posted: July 26, 2003, 3:29pm
review rating: 0.0
feedback: (4) comments | read | write
Starbucks Barista
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More About This Product
Arrow The Starbucks Barista has 163 Reviews
Arrow The Starbucks Barista has been rated 8.23 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Starbucks Barista reviews have been viewed 1,032,807 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Bam T 9.50
Carl Lobitz 8.67
Rick Wayne 8.22
Dave Jahsman 8.00
Kevin Bailey 8.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.2
Manufacturer: Saeco for Starbucks Quality: 8
Average Price: $350.00 Usability: 6
Price Paid: $275.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Guess Aesthetics 6
Owned for: 4+ years Overall 7
Writer's Expertise: I live coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Philips steam espresso maker
Bottom Line: 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.

Detailed Commentary

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.

Buying Experience

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.

Three Month Followup

See detailed commentary above.

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Posted: July 26, 2003, 3:29pm
feedback: (4) comments | read | write
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