No regrets - excellent machine for the money and intended purpose
Positive Product Points
Nice size for home use Very good build quality for price Reliable Very good espresso
Negative Product Points
Quick background: I have been using the Silvano for approximately 10 months and this is my first higher quality espresso machine. I spent several weeks researching machines (and grinders) ranging in price from about $600 to $1500. I had been mainly enjoying various pour over brews, press pots, and auto drips (Brazen for about a year now) for the past 10-12 years with locally roasted coffee, but for some time I had been wanting a decent home espresso set up. Since I was not certain how dedicated I would be to making espresso at home I was not all that keen on spending more than about $1500 for machine, grinder, and accessories. After researching I felt that this price point would provide a competent set up for a number of years.
Pre-sale information and communication from Chris' Coffee was top-notch. My phone conversations were informative and email messages were returned promptly both before and after I received my machine and grinder (purchased a Vario at the same time). Machine was packed very well and everything arrived in pristine condition. The instruction manual provided with the machine was helpful as is the video that Chirs has on their web site.
I have been using the machine daily for 10 months to make anywhere from 2-8 double shots per day. I have had no issues with the machine - build quality is excellent I think for this price point. The pour over design has not been an impediment, and I find the side access for the water tank extremely easy to access and refill. I refill the tank every couple of days and clean with hot soapy water every week to 1.5 weeks. The drip tray is certainly large enough for my purposes - empty about once per week.
The built-in PID is a nice feature on this machine. Early on I checked the temperature of the water exiting the group head through the styrofoam cup method. While not the most accurate of methods, through several runs it was clear the repeatability (precision) was high enough to put my mind at ease that the set temperature was within a degree or two of the reading. More importantly the PID reading can be used to ensure the temperature has stabilized at the set point when beginning a shot. I do not typically make lots of back-to-back shots, but the several times that I did the machine was up to the task and temperature stable when I was ready to pull the next shot (about 2.5 to 3 minutes or so).
I have been ordering espresso blends online from various microroasters and it has been fun to explore the various blends and how temperature influences taste in the cup within a certain blend. I feel that the shot quality from this machine is very good and obviously influenced by proper technique and grinder choice. Several months ago I picked up a Pharos hand grinder from Orphan Espresso to supplement my Vario. If one is not against using a hand grinder for espresso the Pharos is a great choice, but the Vario has been really ideal for my home use. I will do a separate review at some point for the Vario, but I have been very happy with its performance and grind quality - it has been a joy to use.
My one concern when I purchased the machine was the hybrid dual boiler design with the thermoblock for steaming. For my purposes the steaming capability has not been an issue. I particularly like that the thermoblock can be turned off when not needed to save some energy. I am making about 50-75% milk based drinks (I drink about half straight and half cortados or capps and my wife solely drinks capps). I never make any milk-based drinks larger than about 6 ounces. I found it easy to learn how to steam on this machine and for me the results have been predictable and consistent. I use a 12 oz frothing pitcher with about 4-5 oz of milk and it usually takes bout 35-45 seconds from start to finish to complete the process. I know that other dual boilers and HX machines will steam milk faster, but the 35-45 seconds is not an issue to me and the quality of the microfoam is very good compared to what I have had at topnotch cafes. If I entertained more I could see where having more steaming power for larger quantities of milk would be advantageous, but for my purposes the steaming ability of the Silvano is very good.
I have my machine on a timer so that it has the ability to warm up for about 45-60 minutes before first use - this has worked really well and been seamless. I leave the portafilter loosely placed in the group head at night so that it is ready to go in the morning with the machine. Shortly after receiving the machine I purchased a bottomless portafilter (Rancilio from Chris'), some VST baskets (15 and 18 initially and 20 and 22 more recently), and Espresso Parts HQ baskets (14 and 21 g). I have mostly settled on using the 15 and 18 g VST baskets - dosing and distribution definitely appear to be more important when using the VST baskets comported to stock or the EP baskets. I do find the taste different from the VST, and more to my liking for most blends, but the reality is that the differences are fairly subtle (but present nonetheless).
Maintenance thus far has been straightforward and involves washing the water tank and drip tray, as I already mentioned, and cleaning the group head. I typically backflush the machine every day or every other day with plain water before shutting down and about every month with espresso machine cleaner. I have also been taking the dispersion disc and group head screen down for a full cleaning about once a week or two. This is a relatively simple process and ensures the group head and gasket are cleaned on a regular basis.
Overall I am very happy with the Silvano for my purposes. I would not hesitate to purchase this machine if your intended use pattern is similar to what I outlined above. I would also highly suggest calling Chris' Coffee before your purchase so they can help determine if the Silvano is the correct machine for your purposes.