The Audry is a good solid serious "starter" machine capable of better than average shot quality. If you can live with its style, Audry will remain a sentimental possession, even after you upgrade to higher performing machines.
Positive Product Points
Matched with the right grind setting on the Rocky, and fresh beans, this machine has been capable of solid espresso with reasonably thick crema! Not God Shots, but rich and medium in body. The portafilter is 58 mm, holds temperature well, and is very sturdy. The machine is solidly built, and the controls are easy to use. Very reasonably priced for the performance that can be achieved.
Negative Product Points
The machine's most controversial feature is its unconventional, artistic appearance. Some people will probably favor the newer, more commercial looking Silvia, with larger water capacity. The Rialto/Audry has the same engine, but is more art deco in appearance. The steam is acceptable, but the wand won't satisfy aspiring microfoam experts. The water tank is awkward to refill when the machine is located in a space with height restrictions. The drip tray is very small, forcing use of separate containers to catch water flows.
Geting rich, aromatic shots with thick, long-lasting crema is a daily reality with this reasonably priced machine. Getting to this performance requires a fair amount of initial grind-setting trial and error, and the best possible beans. This is critical, as with most machines. With the wrong beans or grind, any machine disappoints. Using Chicago area's Intellengentsia as the source, and any one of Black Cat, Berkeley's Blend, or un-advertised Trotter's Blend (developed with and for Charlie Trotter), along with regularly tweaked grind setting, yielding 2-4 mm of semi-tiger-striped crema can become a daily reality. As beans age, the grind setting has to be made finer by 2 Rocky knotches over the course of a month. The shot results are best realized from freshly roasted beans no older than a week or so. Results are still satisfactory up to about 4 weeks, provided the beans are stored in pressurized cannisters.
The daily operating process may seem complicated to some at first, but eventually it becomes quite natural. Rancilio's condensed instruction sheet is actually useful. Simultaneously with morning turn on, the lines are flushed and prep'ed by a simple turn-on sequence. The main valve is opened all the way, while the top and bottom switches are activated, flowing cold water from portafilter and steam wand. I use separate containers to catch this flow. Then the main valve is closed, and the machine allowed to warm up. This takes about 20-30 minutes. Prior to a first shot, best results are experienced when pre-filling the espresso cup with hot water through the empty portafilter. This stabilizes the portafilter temperature and warms the cup. The final steps involve grinding the beans, dosing the grind up to the line into the portafilter (using the larger double basket), tamping strongly, locking the portafilter in place, and pressing the lower switch. Best shots take 25 seconds from switch on and yield about 2 oz.
Before turning the machine off, it is helpful to wipe the grouphead off with a damp rag, removing excess grind debris, and then flushing hot water through the empty protafilter. Gasket life is improved by removing the portafilter from the machine when its not in use.
This machine is very solidly built, and could conceivably last a lifetime. Serious users will likely seek (as I have) to move up to higher-performaning machines within a few years. It should be thought of as a serious "starter" machine for those "starters" unwilling or unable to spend more than $500-$600 on an initial serious machine/grinder package. Once the shot making process is learned, practiced and enjoyed, shot quality limitations will tempt upgrading.
This was a present.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
Okay, this machine's appearance will only appeal to some. I've actually gotten used to it, and matched with the Rocky Grinder, at least in my discrete kitchen cabinetry niche, think it looks quite okay. Performance-wise, the Audry shares identical working guts with the Silvia. If "shot quality" at a "reasonable price" has more priority than "machine appearance", this machine may be the one for you. It has performed well. When using freshly roasted, top quality beans (e.g., Intellegentsia's Berkeley's Blend, Trotter's Blend or Black Cat), and a grind setting that has been varied to achieve about a 2 oz shot in 25 seconds, 2-4 mm of tiger-striped crema results over a medium bodied shot. Results improve using a pro-quality tamper, but never quite reach those possible with higher-level machines. For me, it was a great starting point. I've moved up to the Elektra Microcasa Automatica, but have held onto both the Rocky Grinder and the venerable Audry.