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Starbucks Italia Digital - Dwight Robertson's Review
Posted: April 15, 2004, 1:37am
review rating: 6.4
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Starbucks Italia Digital
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Arrow The Starbucks Italia Digital has 21 Reviews
Arrow The Starbucks Italia Digital has been rated 7.92 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since February 24, 2004.
Arrow Starbucks Italia Digital reviews have been viewed 146,885 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Dan Cascioppo 8.12
Ernie Scheidl 7.88
Andrew Brady 7.20
Gary Howarth 7.00
Kevin Clifford 7.00

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.4
Manufacturer: Saeco Quality: 9
Average Price: $995.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $790.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Local Starbucks Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 2 months Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: None
Bottom Line: Style AND substance--the Digital Italia delivers everything you could ask for in a high end SuperAuto for a fair price.
Positive Product Points

Great, consistent shots
Lots of programmability
Lots of steam with very little waiting
Bypass doser
High quality parts & great styling
2 Year warranty from Starbucks

Negative Product Points

Big steam hole = macrofoam
Long chute between grinder and brewgroup
Shot volume not always consistent
Cup warmer also keeps beans very warm

Detailed Commentary

I bought the Digital Italia during Starbucks last sale after doing a lot of research.  At first, I was torn between SuperAutos and SemiAutos.  Once I decided on the Super, I decided on the Digital over the regular Italia.  Both decisions were good, I think.  Knowing myself, if I had to grind, measure, tamp, brew, and dump each shot I made, I would probably do it only once a day.  With the convenience and cleanliness of the Digital Italia, I'm enjoying 2 cappas and 2 cafe cremas per day on average.  As for the Digital over the regular Italia, there is no comparison in my mind.  Extra programmability tops the list. You can set brew temp, prebrew, on/off times for the machine, water hardness, cup warmer, and more.  You can also program 3 shot volumes (shot, long shot, cafe crema).  Next on the list is the quality of materials.  Lots more stainless and chrome, and very little cheap looking plastic.  The parts you touch all the time like the brew spout, steam knob, and steam wand are all durable metal, and the wand has ball-joint like flexibility, unlike the Italia.

I think the Digital Italia also compares very favorably for features/performance vs. cost with anything else in the Saeco line, and offers a very similar package to the Capresso/Jura machines costing twice as much.  I wasn't happy (nor was the wife) with forking out 800 large for an espresso machine, but I just couldn't find anything less expensive that I could get excited about.  The Saeco Vienna line had some cheaper machines, but the blob-of-plastic look just didn't do it for me.

Setup wise, the machine couldn't be easier.   I recommend leaving everything on the factory settings initially and then adjusting your grind gradually to your taste.  I made the mistake of setting the grind on 1 or 2 right off the bat, and the machine choked, dribbled a bit, and that was about it.  I have settled on the following settings: Rinsing, prebrew both on, temp at max, grind at 6, grind quantity one notch less than full +, 1st button 1 oz, 2nd button 1.5 oz, 3rd button 5 oz.  The machine brews a quick shot--expect 10-12 seconds for a single with settings close to mine.  I was initially trying to get the machine to take 20+ seconds to do a shot, but you just can't do it without choking the whole thing down.

I have noticed that after programming the shot volume, the machine seems to "forget" the water volume over the course of a week or more.  I have a 2.5 oz shotglass that I use to pull double 1 oz shots.  It seems that after a while, my double gets bigger until it is at the top of or flowing over the rim of the shotglass.  At this point, I simply reprogram the shot volume again.

I do a lot of lattes/cappas, so I've practiced a lot of steaming so far.  The best thing about steaming with this unit is that steam is ready right away (10-15 secs) and the steam is powerful and fade-free.  It's going to take you about 1.5 min or so to steam 6-7 oz of milk to 155 deg.  One thing that makes steaming a challenge is the large, single hole in the steam wand.  If you slip up and pull the wand even slightly out of the sweet spot, it will spew lots of big sloppy bubbles into your work.  It works best if you get a good swirl going, which isn't hard with the good wand flexibility.  Still, I haven't produced what I thought was any quality microfoam, and I don't know if I can with this wand.  Don't take this as too big a hit on the machine--it will still give you better foam than you're likely to get from the average guy/gal behind the counter at your local coffeeshop.

I think the grinder is of good quality, but its position at the back of the machine means the ground coffee has a few inches to travel before it gets used in your shot.  Ground coffee is the quickest to go stale, so if you don't brew a lot, you may notice this shortcoming.  The fact that the cup warmer heats this ground coffee and also the beans in the hopper can't help the issue of coffee freshness.  I can't say I've noticed a taste problem, but then again I don't have anything to compare my shots with.

Overall, the Digital Italia is a great unit.  If you care most about good, consistent, and fast shots to get you on your way, then this is your machine.  If you like to linger over the process and take great pride in pulling an awesome shot, shop elsewhere.  You will also love the quality of materials, workmanship, and styling of this machine.  Everytime I see it on the counter I want to go over and pet it.

Buying Experience

Starbucks was very  excited about the introduction of this machine, and mine was the first that they sold locally.  Understandably, they weren't very knowledgeable on its features yet, so we kind of learned them together.  The guy at the 1-800 customer service number seemed better trained, however.  I am confident that if I have any problems with this unit, Starbucks will stand behind it, and I won't be paying shipping charges or losing my machine for months at a time.

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review rating: 6.4
Posted: April 15, 2004, 1:37am
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