Is it really better than the standard Wal-Mart issued Krups that it replaces? So far, I can't say that it is...Don't tell my wife.
Positive Product Points
Offers a thermal carafe, shower-head water delivery, removable water reservoir, stylish look. Good price when on sale.
Negative Product Points
This is a big-ish coffee maker and it might have trouble fitting under certain cabinets. The removable water reservoir is a bit awkward - can't fit it under the filtered water dispenser in my refrigerator. Like other thermal carafes, you have to pre-heat in order to assure a hot final product. Very touchy about alignment of the carafe during brewing.
I bought this for myself before Christmas. I did a lot of research here and other places. I learned about optimal brewing temperatures, shower vs. stream water dispensing, cone vs. flat bottom filters, and so on. For what mattered to me, it came down to this and the Bunn. I really wanted to go with the Bunn (esp. the new thermal Bunn), but the idea of having, essentially, a pot of boiling water sitting on the counter at all times with three curious young kids running around (not to mention clumsy me) I opted against it.
The Starbucks machine has a lot of nice features - the thermal carafe, the timer, the shower-head water dispenser. It uses the cone shaped filter; I moved the gold-tone permanent filter from my old machine over to this one.
Anyway, the jury is still out on whether or not it's possible to get a flavorful and hot cup of coffee out of this thing. I've noticed that in addition to pre-heating the carafe, it helps to start with room temperature water as opposed to chilled water. I'm also still experimenting with the courseness of the grind (probably need to toss the old Salton grinder and get something with a little more consistency...maybe try a Bodum Antigua).
One feature that I thought would be great is the removable water reservoir. My fridge dispenses filtered water and I always use that for coffee. Unfortunately, the reservoir is so big and the opening on the door of the frdge so small that it doesn't work out. Instead, I've kept the old Krups glass carafe on hand to shuttle the water. So that's basically a feature of the machine that I can't take advantage of in my situation.
Once the coffee starts brewing, it does so at what's probably an average pace - about 8 minutes for the full 8 cups. The pop-up lid on the carafe seems to do a good job of holding in the heat. It pours cleanly. I usually pop the lid closed and give the carafe a little shake before pouring to distribute the solids. This has to be done over the sink as the seal is not coffee tight. As long as I remember to pop the lid closed after that, the coffee stays hot for at least 4 hours and warm enough to drink for about 6 hours. Again, pre-heating the carafe with hot tap water is a must in order for this to work.
I'd like to say that the postings on this list provided extremely valuable guidance in my decision making. However, I'll also note for those who come after me that there is tremendous variance in what people consider to be a good cup of coffee - i.e., you will find people who claim the best cup can be found anywhere from Starbucks, to a "real" coffee shop, to the nearest 7-11, to their mother's old Mr. Coffee machine. Some people *like* the brew served up at the local diner and *hate* French pressed coffee (to the purists here that probably sounds like fingernails on the chalkboard, but it's true). That makes it really hard to put great faith in these opinions. But since it's impractical to try each of the possible machines in your home, you have to start somewhere.
Update: after two pots brewed out onto my counter top in one week, I decided I had had enough of this unit and returned it. The problem wasn't a fine grind gumming up the works - what was happening was that as the heater kicked in to heat the cold water, there was a "pop" and the machine jerked slightly. This seemed to be enough, in some cases, to disengage the latch on the brewing basket, which in turn closed the basket's output hole since the "pause and serve" lever was no longer in perfect alignment with the spout of the carafe. Maybe it was a flaw with this unit. But between this and the other shortcomings noted above, I was out of patience. Decided to rework some things in the kitchen and make safe space for the Bunn afterall...review to follow....
Ordered on-line from Starbucks, on sale for $99 with a free 1/2 pound of Christmas Blend, used a 15% off coupon too. Transaction was smooth, delivery timely. Returned it to the local store which was somewhat more of a hassle than I expected. At first they said their policy was to not accept returns on shipped merchandise - had to ship back myself. I had to explain that their posted return policy on the website contradicted that. After they called HQ, they processed the return.