half the price of the rancilio rocky, and probably 65% as good as one. that makes it a value. just be ready to work with it.
Positive Product Points
-good for the price -good customer service from starbucks -quiet for its class -good burrs for its class
Negative Product Points
-clogs on its finest setting, [this may improve with age, though] -kinda cheapo plasticky feel -range of grinds not great enough
got this for free...sorta...i accumulated enough credit on my starbucks duetto visa card to pay for it. it's not a bad deal if you like starbucks. while not my favorite, i travel for a living and at least find them everywhere and consistent.
anyway, naturally i read all the reviews of this solis166/barista machine before purchasing it, even though i was going to get it anyway since it was going to be free, [see above].
what i've found so far in the two weeks since i bought it, [23 nov 2004]:
1]not as staticky as some folks have experienced. a little bit, but not bad. maybe they switched to a slightly different plastic formula the way an earlier reviewer thought they might. and i live in a pretty dry climate, southern california...though i am 2 blocks from the ocean.
2]the finest grind setting choked my starbucks barista espresso machine. so i use the second to the finest, and sometimes the third from the finest setting. both grinds yield crema on my espresso machine, but i'm still experimenting.
3]the coarsest setting seems to me to be just not quite coarse enough for my french press, though i do use it that way...i just wait after pressing, and pour carefully to avoid sediment.
4]i have seen little or no powder/dust...something i cannot say about my modified delonghi, and each setting produces acceptable, though not perfect consistency. in fairness, i've never tried an upper echelon grinder, so i don't know from experience that they do any better, either.
5]i like to dabble in turkish coffee at times, though rarely. turkish needs to be _super_ fine, i think. not sure if the finest setting is fine enough. i'll let you know after i've tried it.
6]also, when i'm grinding for espresso, [2nd or 3rd finest setting], it "extrudes" out in clumps, the same shape as the chute. i do use dark, oily beans, so this may explain it a little. anyway, i end up "fluffing" the clumps with a fork before putting the grind into the portafilter.
at first, from the very first load of beans, the grinder would clog when grinding on its finest setting. i had to constantly poke at the burr to get it to feed at all, and it would take at least a couple of minutes just to grind enough to fill the portafilter for my barista espresso machine. [don't do this. it's not safe for you...but i'm a wild man who lives on the edge] i haven't tried the finest setting since that day, but the machine seems to be "settling in" a little, and maybe i'll try it again soon. i also clean it meticulously after each use...because i suspect this habit helps ward off clogging. it's a pain, and i'd rather just grind and forget about it and only clean it once a month or so.
up at the top of the review, when they asked me if i'd buy this grinder again, i said "no". but that's not the whole story. the only reason i said that is that the next grinder i buy will be something like the rocky. i'm very satisfied with this grinder for it's category and for the price.
overall i'm happy with it. i can make it suit my purposes and i consider it near the top of the cheap/inexpensive burr grinder category.
no surprises. bought it at a starbucks store. they gave me a free half pound of beans with it. that was nice. i don't know if they do it automatically or not.
Three Month Followup
as i had hoped, it no longer clogs when grinding on the finest setting. in fact, on it's finest setting it just begins to bog down the barista espresso machine without choking it. i'm taking this as a good thing. by the same token, i'm not expecting it to grind fine enough for turkish coffee, which seems to require almost dust-like grinding. since it will now grind on its finest setting without clogging, i'm upping the usabilty rating to an 8, [from a 6] since i now not only don't have to find the "sweet spot" in terms of how fine it will go without clogging, i also no longer have to clean and unclog it every time i use it. it's been a while since i did french press with it, so i will again soon. last time it was only marginally coarse enough. we'll see and i'll report back after i do.
One Year Followup
ok, this is really a 4 and a half year follow-up...
for the past 2 years, i have relegated this grinder to pretty much _only_ espresso use. i have since become one who roasts my own beans, and i try to roast to a full city now, which is not as dark and oily as a french or italian because i feel this makes better espresso. why do i bring this up? because at this point in time, the grinder is no longer quite able to grind fine enough to produce a 20 second pull with a full city roast, timing out at about 18-19 seconds. i have discovered that lighter roasts allow for longer extractions, so my next roasts will be a little lighter. i suspect the burrs are getting dull, but after 4 1/2 years, i do not consider this a detractor, as one can not expect precision cutting tools to remain sharp forever, right?