Works well, looks nice, picky about water hardness and no descaling, also may cause cancer and birth defects...? Quick Mill has no customer service.
Positive Product Points
- Temperatures seem pretty stable / reliable. - Quick recovery Time - Can steam and brew shot at same time (if coordinated enough!) or one right after the other - Looks nice - Solid built
Negative Product Points
- Pricey - Comes with a scary warning saying there's something in it that causes cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm (which apparently a lot espresso machines have, but I'd like to know what exactly it's referring to, lead? etc.) - NO support from manufacturer although espresso stores that sell it are much better with their customer service. - Mine leaks a bit of water UNDER the drip tray (instead of INTO it) from the 3way solenoid valve tube (remedied by repeatedly slightly bending the tube forward so it spits into the drip tray rather than on the ledge) - Steaming seems more powerful some days than others, I think the longer it warms up the better it works. *update, nothing to do with warming it up, more to do with building pressure... let steam disperse until it starts recharging, after its done recharging your ready to steam and it's at the max pressure. - Micro foaming milk is a bit tricky, but that could just be me. (I think it was related to the power issues, seems better when using my pressure surfing technique) - Requires soft water (3 grains or less), and recommend never to descale. (May cause more issues than resolve?) - Water reservoir could be larger, but it's ok. - Steam wand gets really hot, don't touch it :)
Disclaimer: I'm a pretty picky person I suppose, and I don't normally make 1000+ dollar purchases so when I do, I'd like to think I'm getting a good quality product, using quality/safe materials, and that everything should work pretty well. Overall I think my review seems rather negative, I just want to say I do like the product and have enjoyed using it. Other reviews seem to point out all the positives but don't have much of these negatives Iíve experienced, so I'm focusing more on those since we already know its strengths.
Health/Safety Concerns: I decided to get a Silvano because it had a PID pre-installed, it can steam and brew at the same time or one after the other, also because it has a copper boiler, rather than aluminum. I read copper has some health benefits, while aluminum may cause Alzheimerís and other health issues. I'm into health and try to avoid exposure to chemicals as much as I can, so I was pretty surprised when I took it home and realized the box has this big warning about it having something in it, which they do not disclose what it is, that causes cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm. People on the forums (and the stores) basically say it's just some BS law that California tried to implement but they messed it up, now everything has that warning on it. But there must be something in it that they decided they had to put the warning on it? I'm thinking lead, because I read some copper can have (hopefully small) amounts of lead in it, so I'm going to get the water from it tested for lead, as well as my blood!
Quick Mills Non Existent customer service: So, I tried emailing Quick Mill to ask them about the health warning, they haven't gotten back to me. I emailed them multiple times, I tried emailing their Canadian office, as well as their Italy one, and NO RESPONSE at all. So that definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. Thereís also no phone # for them. So, I get the feeling they don't want to tell me what they put in their machine. Is lead exposure slowly making me stupid-er? Am I going to have disabled children as a result if I keep using this machine? And then Quick Mill can say, ďWell don't say we didn't warn you, look at the box! ď. They lost some points, especially in the overall rating because of their poor customer service, and mystery materials used that may cause cancer and birth defects.
Steam: Someone in another review here mentioned the steam switch is located inconveniently at the back, but that's just the master power for the steam thermo block, it's not something I (and I assume most people) would need to access very often, either you like milk drinks and use steam and keep it on, or you can keep it off and save power if you don't use the steam wand. It's a nice touch that they added the ability to turn it off and save energy. The steam on/off switch is conveniently placed on the front of the machine. When deciding to purchase this one I was a bit put off by it not having variable steam power control (like a knob to adjust steam power) it's either on full blast or off. But based on how I used my Via Veneto (previous machine) I usually put the steam up full power anyway. I think my old via Veneto had a bit more steaming power (but it really depends on the timing, which was a mystery to me, and the other machine ran out of steam, the Silvano can keep steaming). I have yet to master Micro foam, although I didn't quite get it on my previous machine either, but I felt I was a bit closer, although I probably practiced with my previous machine longer to be fair to the Silvano. I have gotten pretty good results a few times, I think it helps to tilt the pitcher to the right side while steaming. There's a bit of a weird metallic smell that comes from the steam wand, so I usually run it for a minute so the metallic smelling/tasting steam and water don't go into my milk. Hopefully inhaling the steam vapour isn't harmful. The demo one at the store the steam seemed to go for a few seconds after you turned the switch off, mine seems to die down allot faster after turning the steam off. Hopefully it's not an issue that develops over time, they might have had an older version of the machine as their demo maybe. The steam wand bakes on milk and gets really hot, you need to wipe it down with a moist towel, and I got some bar towels I wash frequently for that job. With my previous machine it had a plastic wand, so I didn't have that issue (although the top tube part was still really hot). It would have been nice if they had a NO burn wand. I've been told you could purchase and install another type of wand from other Quick Mill machines if you'd like. I might do that eventually. But I think the replacement wand is around $80!
Water hardness Issues: I was a bit worried since it recommends to NEVER descale and I have relatively hard water in my area (as I believe most places do). I didn't have to worry about it with my cheap stainless steel boiler machine previously.
Water Hardness: My solution, for now: At Espresso Planet where I purchased my machine, I also got a 'best water technology' filter which is like a Britta pitcher filter system, except its designed for coffee/ tea, supposedly filters out lime (and calcium I believe) which causes mineral deposits / scale. The sales person assured me it's safe to use with my espresso machine, and it's similar to the system they use on their commercial machines. Although I was a bit skeptical since it claims to add magnesium to the water, which adds to flavour, but to my understanding magnesium is another mineral that could cause scale buildup!? However, I did test the water hardness using the test strips that come with the espresso machine, as well as a more sensitive test, designed for testing aquarium waters hardness levels, and with a fresh filter it does actually lower hardness to acceptable levels. Around 2 grains of hardness! Not bad. (You want it 3 or under according to the manual, my tap water is probably around 6 or 7 unfiltered) But the filters don't last too long, they're supposed to be changed every month, and it's $30 for a 3 pack, so $10 a month. When the filters get a bit older and don't remove as much minerals I add in some reverse osmosis water which you can get cheap at some grocery stores (although it's not very good for you to drink, it may leech minerals out of your body) and if you use pure reverse osmosis water supposedly the coffee tastes pretty bad. I'll probably use some cheaper no name Britta type filters with R/O water later on to save money. Remember too soft = bad tasting coffee, too hard and the machine might have issues (hopefully after a long long run!). Hopefully this is helpful to people.
Brewing Espresso: The machine works nicely, heats up pretty fast, stays hot due to the high amount of heat retaining metals. It's solid and heavy as others have said, the drip tray is HUGE. I think the drip tray is as big as or bigger than the water reservoir! The PID is easy to use, and It can do F or C, I use F because you can adjust it in finer increments (1c jump is larger than a 1f jump). When I set my PID to 197, it seems to stay around 196 usually, it doesn't have decimals so I cannot tell, maybe itís at 196.9, and trying not to go over? Usually I'll do it a degree higher just in case. So if i want 198, ill set it to 199. You could customize the PID if you want though, and set the offset, and how it adjusts / estimates the temp etc. But I think I'd have to use a device to test what the actual temp is vs. what it says on the display, which would be interesting to do. Brew pressure is also adjustable so for those who like to play around and tweak things it's a good machine for that.
High expectations: I was sort of expecting it to make espresso / cappuccino like at the high end cafe's but maybe I was expecting too much. It's close I suppose, but not perfect, then again it could be my method. I couldn't really tell if there was much of a dramatic taste difference between this and my $100ish Saeco Via Veneto, also same with my Vario grinder vs. my Kyocera hand grinder, both seem to do a fine job. Although the expensive equipment is nicer/ more enjoyable to use, gives more consistency and gives you more control over the variables, such as temperature control (or changing grind setting between different settings, for the grinder). People have told me the Via Veneto is not a bad machine especially for the price, I guess they're right, you don't have to spend so much money to get good coffee, but if you do spend more at least you should get a nicer, more enjoyable, more consistent and hopefully a more durable machine.
I was also expecting the 3 way solenoid valve to leave the pucks dry, but it seems less dry than my Via Veneto without the 3way solenoid valve! Usually i get soggy pucks with this machine, and when trying to knock it out some coffee sticks to the basket, which is kind of annoying, I have to rinse it out well, and/or sometimes get my towel dirty from coffee grounds, itís just messier than and not as convenient as having a nice solid puck. The 3 way valve does seem to work because you can do back flushing with it, and I haven't had any portafilter sneezes (I discovered about portafilter sneezes the hard way with my previous machine, the fun of having an explosion of hot coffee grounds go all over the place! :)
I also noticed, there was usually a little bit of water UNDER the drip tray after using the machine, I found thereís a tube behind the drip tray area, which lets out the water from the 3 way solenoid valve when backflushing and releasing pressure from brewing a shot etc. It is positioned in a way that maybe half or 3/4 of the water goes into the drip tray but the drip tray isn't flush with the back of the machine and there's a little gap (it cannot go in any further!) so the other half or 1/4 of that water misses the drip tray and goes underneath it. It's just a little inconvenience I have to wipe under the drip tray after each usage. I emailed another person who has the same machine and they said they didn't notice having the same issue, another person said he did have the same issue but used his finger to pull the tube in the right direction. I tried that trick, it seemed to help a bit, Iíll keep trying to adjust it. It seems like the tube is pretty solidly in place. I can bend it in the right direction but it springs back.
A weird test: The water coming out of the machine tastes allot better than the water coming through my old via Veneto, that's one reason I wanted to upgrade, and for the better temperature control, not having to guess what temp the machine is at and when it's best to brew the shot. The taste could just be because it's newer, hopefully it stays that way (decent tasting), the water from my old machine was pretty gross, and I realized I could taste it in the coffee. Extra Accessories: I tried using a ridgeless VST 22g basket, it seemed to fit in the portafilter holder, but wouldn't lock into the machine at all. Luckily I was able to exchange it for an 18g ridgeless VST basket and it fits just fine (a bit tighter than the stock one). Apparently the 22g VST basket does work with a bottomless portafilter holder though.
Anyway, that's my pretty detailed review. I have mixed feelings about the machine, I like it, but I'm concerned about the safety and materials and lack of response from the manufacturer mostly. I'm using it for now, but not sure if I should keep it for the long term or try to sell it. I do want to keep it, but I donít want to risk my health.
They set up a little demonstration for me and let me play with the Machine before buying it, which was nice. But really I had already decided to get it before I arrived at the store based on previous research and others reviews. They were very nice, I got it on Boxing Day, another place had a no tax deal and they were able to match it, so I basically got the equivalent of the American price which I was happy about. (The usual Canadian price is $1100 plus tax would have been $1243) They also threw in some accessories and discounted 10 percent on the other accessories. I would recommend purchasing from there, no problems and they had pretty much everything I wanted (natural-ish backflush detergent, Rattleware 58mm tamper, tamp stand, 12oz steam pitcher, water filter etc.).
Three Month Followup
I'm not sure if my machine was like this from the beginning, It might have been, but I might not have noticed it at first. I found after about 45 seconds of steaming (or however long it takes to get 4-5oz of milk to about 150f) the steam power dies down significantly. I can tell because it looses its ability to swirl the milk and the sound changes. It tends to die down in pressure just as the steam power light comes back on.
I took it back to Espresso Planet to have it tested / repaired if necessary. The person who sold me the machine and seems knowledgeable about the equipment said it didn't sound like it was normal behaviour because thermoblock machines are generally known to not 'run out of steam'. We tested it and he wanted to keep it overnight to get a 'technician' to take a look at it and run more tests. I'm not sure what exactly they did. He wrote a note saying poor steam performance or something along those lines, and the technician after 'testing' wrote that the steam bank power was TURNED OFF, and that was issue... (Yeah that wasn't the issue!) So nothing was changed, or resolved. We tested the demo Silvano as well at the store and found similar behaviour! So i think it's a design thing. I believe, if they could change when the thermoblock starts re-charging so it comes on a bit earlier it COULD potentially provide more steaming power. But it seems to come back on only after it's too late and has lost its power to steam milk effectively. I make some cappuccinos with 4 oz of milk usually, and it dies down just as I get the milk up to temp sometimes before it, I find its best to release all the steam and then let it 'recharge' and then actually steam the milk. So I'm kind of temperature surfing with the steam... if I wanted to Temp surf I would have stuck with my Via Veneto or gotten a Rancilio Silvia .
I emailed Chris Coffee about it, and they actually sent me a replacement of the 2 sensors on the steam bank. I tried removing the previous one but they're stuck on there pretty good, and I'm not sure how the wires are connected (there's a plastic wire protector covering it). So I don't want to break it and make things even worse. I called Espresso Planet to see if there's a way of removing the wires properly, or I just need to PULL harder. But they recommended NOT changing anything myself. They said I could come in and have it tested (what did they do the first time!?) or have the parts replaced by them but they don't think it would make any difference because if the sensors weren't working the steam wouldn't be working at all.
I don't think I want to drive there again and leave my machine AGAIN. So I'm going to leave it like this and wait to see if anything else happens to my machine where ill need to take it... or if I'm ever in the area.
The Stainless steel body is high quality stainless steel but it does scratch easily, the drip tray and cup warmer on top have lots of mini scratches, just from having porcelain cups on them, or moving the cups around a bit.
Other than that, it's still making some good cappuccinos, when I use good coffee at least :)
Oh and good news on water softening concerns: I found Thermos brand 'Krystal pure' britta pitcher style water filters work well to remove minerals from tap water, and are dirt cheap. I wonder if they're actually good at removing chlorine fluoride and aluminum and other crap they add to our drinking water as well.
One Year Followup
Well, it's still working alright! It's not so shiny and pretty anymore though. I seem to get pretty good repeatable results, the temperature control seems to work pretty well from what I can tell.
The tip of the steam wand has a rubber gasket that became slightly warped and it was loosing steam pressure /spitting out of the poor seal, espresso planet was nice enough to send me a few replacement rubber gaskets, which were a lot smaller, but I still managed to squeeze it on and it seems to work to create a better seal.
I think they gave up on or never really tried to improve the steam performance issue where the steam power seems to run out of steam prematurely. So I still have to do the steam temperature/pressuring surfing technique in order to get the power to steam the milk properly and get a nice microfoam. Sometimes I'll be lazy and skip that step and if I try steaming without timing it right and pressure surfing, a lot of the time it makes a loud screeching noise (which is related to it having lower power) it takes longer to get the milk to the right temperature and fails to make a nice microfoam, so it does make a big difference.
I also found the steam wand does spit out some water and that ends up in the milk and the resulting cappuccino. I doubt it has MUCH effect on the drink over all, but I noticed it and thought I'd point that out as well.
For those who didn't read the part about temperature/ steam pressure surfing: It seems for best results with this machine, wait for it to warm up as you normally would, but before your ready to brew your shot, let out all the steam until you notice it looses pressure or the light for the steam bank comes back on (indicating that it's recharging) once it goes back off it's at full pressure and will have it's most pressure and you'll be able to steam milk more effectively. Usually after letting the steam out and it starts to recharge, ill grind my coffee and prepare the shot, by the time it's ready the light had already gone off.