For that price, the SJ should have new burrs and be 100% operational and need nothing. Other grinders can also be had in the commercial class, often overlooked is the N.S. MDX, it is every bit the grinder of a SJ while having an easier to use adjustment system.
Take your time, used equipment is always showing up and being bought and sold both here in the Buy Sell Trade forum and online places such as Craigs list and most expensively, Ebay.
In real life, my name is Wayne P. Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
Of the grinders you mention, the SJ is the best, and the Vario next. The SJ is much better built than the Vario, the Vario is considerably neater, more user friendly and a great deal more versatile. The SJ is better -- but not by a great deal -- in the cup.
There's a thread up on H-B with a good comparison of the Ceado, Mazzer and Quamar. And yes, I recognize that these new grinders are out of your stated price range, but they should provide some reference to help you figure out how much a used SJ is worth. The Quamar is in every way, not as nice.
With any of the grinders, except the Vario, if you're not single-dosing, you'll need a grinder timer of some sort. The excellent Auber runs $100.
Ask yourself with many of the grinders deemed "appropriate" for good espresso - "how big is your kitchen?"
These 35lb+ grinders (K10's, SJ's, etc) do have one thing in common - they are BIG and HEAVY- and hard to just store in the cabinet when not in use. The mere prospect of the wife moving it to wipe the counter suddenly becomes a point of consideration.
If you are blessed with plenty of empty and large counters, then no worries, I envy you.
The best thing you can say the Silivia was that it used to be good for its price. However that was a long time ago. It's now obsolete, and is non-competitive in the senses that there are similar machines for much less money, and better machines for around the same.
Can't be temped with sufficient accuracy nor consistency to balance bitters and sours for dial-in or subsequent shots;
Takes so long to heat up to steam temperature, and then so long to steam that the espresso collapses waiting for the milk; and
Doesn't have a temp stabilized group. Doesn't have pre-infusion. Etc., etc.
Any ... substitutions close to that price?
The much better CC1 is not that much more expensive than the Silvia, and very close to the same price as a Silvia with PID. If you can't afford a CC1 or better, the best alternative is a Gaggia Classic or Baby. Neither is any better than the Silvia, but neither is really any worse, and both are less expensive.
If I'm not mistaken, SCG still offers the CC1 + Vario combination as a package for $1000USD. What's involved in getting something like that to Canada, I don't know. In any case, you should CALL (and NOT e-mail) idrinkcoffee.com and ask Slawa for the best deal he can give you on the same setup.
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