For espresso afficionados not ready to make the jump to a Rocky or Mazzer Mini, this a good machine -- but only if given proper care.
Positive Product Points
Grinds well for many different levels, including the three I use most: espresso, drip and french press. No dramatic static cling issues, even with fine grind. Relatively quiet. Handles light and dark roasts well without serious jamming or clogging A solid value, especially if you can purchase the machine on sale or on ebay for cheaper than suggested retail. Given proper and delicate care, the machine can provide good results, even for an every day user.
Negative Product Points
Flimsy construction of plastic parts is a major design flaw that greatly detracts from the value of the machine -- easily broken or chipped internal parts can completely incapacitate operation. Difficult to clean thoroughly. Turkish setting is nearly impossible because the blades literally touch at that level. Heavy base makes for difficult lifting and/or manuvering, and may test the limits of anyone with a small or awkward kitchen or coffee preparation area.
Background: Mine is a CoffeeGeek evolution. I had just decided to upgrade from a Capresso C-1000 super automatic to a Expobar Office or Rancilio Silvia. In my search for a new burr grinder (I'd had it with my boulders-and-dust Capresso mini burr grinder) I happened upon a middle ground that I found appealing -- the Solis Maestro Plus. Was going to provide the grind I needed without breaking the household budget. In theory.
The Purchase: Relatively easy phone order via Whole Latte Love, well described package, arrived safely and promptly.
First two weeks of use: Without a hitch, trying to become accustomed to grind settings and determine the best match for my espresso equipment.
Next ten weeks of (non)use: In trying to be a dutiful coffee geek and thoroughly clean the machine, a little white tab snapped readily off of the main internal disc which helps determine the grind setting. Everything that I ground afterward was it bits and chunks even courser than French Press. I diagnosed the problem, explained the situation to the "customer service" at Baratza. After taking half an hour to understand what the relatively simple problem was, they suggested that I tinker with the machine a little bit more and that I could purchase a replacement internal plastic disc and install it. After I convinced them that if I was going to fix my still-under-warantee machine for them the least they could do would be to send me a free new part that I needed to fix it. They sent the wrong part. I told them they sent the wrong part. They said they sent the right part. Then they sent the right part. After I managed to install it, it broke *again* upon first attempt to clean it. Ultimately, *I* paid to send the machine back to them, they sent me the fixed machine...eight weeks later.
Last 9 months of use: Steady going, able to accomodate nearly all coffee needs that I or a guest might have. I clean it regularly and delicately. I am careful not to *stare* at the Maestro Plus too hard, in case it decides to get upset and break again after my warantee has expired.
Lesson: TAKE CARE WHEN YOU CLEAN THE MACHINE. Drink coffee *beforehand*. I think if I were properly caffeinated with one of my two morning cappa's, I would have avoided some of the hassle. The design leaves little room for error - push a little too hard here or there and *crack* you are looking at a useless and very heavy piece of modern art.
If I were to purchase the machine again (which I probably will not) I would definitely try to do it with the mindframe that it was a mid-level step to a higher quality grinder - like a Rancilio Rocky or Mazzer Mini - that would last a few years, max. But only if coffee is that important to your well being...!
Whole Latte Love : B+ good service; good explanations Baratza : C- slow and anxious service; inadequate and evasive explanations. Do not count on Baratza to understand or assist with any problem that you have with this grinder.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
Well, I managed to take good care of it, but like I might have predicted, a flimsy plastic part on the top burr broke off yesterday. I accidentally dropped it all of two feet -- from where I was cleaning it, above the faucet, to the bottom of the sink. That was enough to ensure that the only grind it can manage anymore is somewhere useless between espresso and drip.
I changed the numerical ratings, accordingly. "Usability" I rated higher, because it is imminently usable. You could use it and leave it uncleaned for months and still be able to put forth a reasonable grind for drip and french press. But its flimsy engineering just destroys its "quality" and its "value."
Ultimately this grinder is for amateurs. After two years, I'm callin' it quits, hittin' the road, and searchin' for a good time with a new Rocky or Mazzer.