Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


Starbucks FAIL

I admit it. We're addicted to caffeine. Trimethylxanthine. Freshly pulled espresso with a layer of coda del topo crema.

Nearly 12 years ago we made a major appliance upgrade, dropping $175 at Starbucks in early 2001 for their "Barista" espresso machine:

This "Barista" model was based on the "Vapore" brand from Italy, and for years we have relied on the pre-tamped, filtered "Espresso Pods" you see in the foreground of the Barista. A package of 12 (regular or decaf) has always been $4.95, or less than 45 cents per pod after taxes.

Unfortunately, the introduction of the recently-released "Verismo" system has made finding my old Barista pods a challenge. Having tried the Verismo espresso at a store demo, I was very impressed: perfect coda del topo stream of delicate light-brown crema, cascading into a perfect shot of espresso.

However, I was reluctant to make the plunge due to the steep price point: $1.07 per pod after taxes -- compounded by the fact that each Verismo pod only produces one (1) fl. oz. (+/- 10g).

Now those of you who know a fluid ounce is just 29g must be marveling at that variance, but it is exactly what we observed at home once we bought the system. Starbucks sweetened the deal by tossing in FOUR boxes of pods with the purchase of the system.

And for the first week, we were quite pleased -- I even took it to a neighbor's party, burning through a good portion of our inventory.

But then we started to see the "warts" on this system. Pods inserted into the top slot and then mechanically inserted into the brewing housing would slip and fall (unused) into the internal waste bin. The Latte pods (which I did not sample during the earlier demo) tasty tinny and bitter. And we noticed the variance in the final product volume -- which was ALWAYS less than expected. In fact, it took 3-4 pods to replicate a grande latte.... (>$3.00 each -- not very different from the price at Starbucks, and I'm not getting any "stars" on my GoldCard!)

When I called the dedicated Verismo service center, they told me that the faulty feeder mechanism is a "known issue" and refused to exchange my system for that purpose. They also said that if I wanted to return my system through them, I would have to PURCHASE a new system, plus shipping, then use their provided return label to ship my old system back -- and only after their receipt of the old system would they credit my account. Yeah, uh ... not.

So yesterday I cleaned our Verismo, repacked it in the box (which CINCHOUSE saved, despite my initial enamored state), and took it back to the Starbucks where I bought it. And we're now back to searching for Barista pods....