Teach A Fish To Make Espresso

Whether you like or dislike Starbucks, we can all agree they are quite the entrepreneurs. If they can find another way to make a nickel they will. Coffee, ice ream, beer (Red Hook’s Double Black Stout), sugar-filled bottled pseudo coffee, and even a magazine that has nothing to do with coffee (Joe). It’s a classic corporate maneuver. Expand the empire by widening the product line. But, I feel they may have stepped on their own toe in the last year by pushing home espresso machines.

Why would Starbucks sell me a machine that would give me the power to make my own espresso drinks at home? I’m reminded of the old Chinese proverb.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

Getting the Fish

Moving from St. Petersburg, FL to the DC Metro area was coffee shock. In St. Pete, the nearest quality espresso was either in Tampa or Clearwater. In the DC metro area, there are Starbucks stores everywhere. You can’t go more than 100 feet without running into another Starbucks.

To say I went a little overboard with espresso based drinks after the move is an understatement. I was spending $30-$50 a week on lattes and espresso at Starbucks. Nothing against the independent shops, but there aren’t very many and the few I’ve been to are more concerned with projecting an attitude instead of producing a quality beverage.

Learning To Fish

Last winter, Starbucks really started pushing their line of home espresso machines. At first I was reluctant to consider the purchase, since I’d had a $75 piece of crap Salton machine a few years prior. The Salton made a gritty sludge that resembled the robusta swill served on Miami Beach. After that experience, I was convinced that I’d leave espresso to the cafes and just make regular coffee at home.

However, Starbucks persisted. They captured my attention and pulled a few sample shots from the Barista espresso machine. The Barista was a far better machine than I had expected. The sample shots had a full crema and tasted great. Impressed, I bought the espresso machine.

starbucks barista espresso machine
Starbucks Barista Espresso Machine

It only made sense for me to buy the Barista, but what I can’t figure out is why Starbucks sold it to me. Here I am one of their best customers, spending $3-$4 every few waking hours and they send me out the door with my own machine! Why would they want to empower the customer? You don’t see Jack Daniels selling home distilling kits.

Sure Starbucks will pocket a few more dollars up front, but won’t they lose a lot cash in the future? Perhaps Starbucks was betting that I wouldn’t use the machine and that I’d be back shelling out $50 a week in no time. I was betting that I’d be home making my own drinks, not ordering drinks at the cafe.

Who Won?

It’s almost one year later and, without a doubt, Starbucks lost money on me. I’ve gone from buying 2 lattes a day to maybe one a month. I’d like to thank Starbucks and their short-term greed for enabling me to make my own lattes at home; selling the Barista equipment has saved me a far more than the price of the machine.

The Updated Espresso Proverb

Give a man an espresso and he will have a buzz for an hour. Give a man an espresso machine and he will be buzzed for a lifetime. – Me


Using the Barista Home Espresso Machine – Tutorial with tips on using the Starbucks Barista Espresso Machine

Michael Allen Smith

Michael Allen Smith fell in love with coffee while attending college. Shortly after graduating college, he found himself in the Tampa Bay area far away from the good coffee he had at The Ohio State University. That is when he starting home roasting coffee. Less than a year later in April 1999, he launched the coffee website INeedCoffee.com. INeedCoffee.com has been going strong ever since with hundreds of articles and tutorials submitted by over one hundred contributors.

In 2007, Michael moved to America's coffee capitol Seattle, Washington. He has visited close to three hundred different coffee places in Seattle, Portland,Vancouver and San Francisco and met many of the top roasters and baristas in the country. Since 2009, Michael has been the Organizer of the Coffee Club of Seattle, which is a Meetup group of over 800 coffee enthusiasts. Besides the social aspect of the group, the Coffee Club of Seattle partners with local coffee professionals for educational events such as coffee cuppings, brewing demonstrations and roasting tours.

Unrelated to coffee, Michael has a personal blog at CriticalMAS.com which covers several topics including fitness, cooking and economics.