Mr. Coffee pump machine, Gaggia Espresso, Bass-O-Matic Steam Genie 3000
The Harley-Davidson of espresso machines. If you don't own one, you wouldn't understand . . .
Positive Product Points
• Definitely looks the part • Solid construction • Serviceable • Nice for entertaining (quick recovery) • LOTS of online resources/opinions
Negative Product Points
• Finicky about grind • Warm-up time • LOTS of online resources/opinions
This is my fourth espresso machine. I tend to "wear them out" after 2-3 years, with four or more doubles a day (twice that on the weekends). Having moved up the ladder from steamer to pump (Mr. Coffee) to better pump (Gaggia Espresso), I felt like I was ready for something more substantial; I was also ready to make a better effort at maintenance. Like a lot of people who buy this machine, I had read up on its lore before purchasing, so there were no surprises, really. For a single, "dual-purpose" boiler machine, this is pretty much as good as it gets.
Being on the upper end of boiler size, however, is a mixed blessing. If you are used to the smaller, higher-wattage aluminum Gaggia boilers, you'll be disappointed with the longer warm-up times with the Silvia. Yes, there are "cheats" to get it up to operating temps quicker, but the overall process still takes a bit longer for me and makes me glad Rancilio doesn't build our nuclear reactors. The upside with the bigger, heavier boiler is that once it heats up, you can pull more shots quicker than with the smaller machines (There is a whole religion based around "temp surfing" to obtain optimal temperatures. if you've read this far, you'll Google this for yourself).
Frankly, it took me awhile to get a good shot out of the Silvia. I attribute this to my aging Solis burr grinder. A good cleaning of the grinder improved things and stopped a problem with grounds showing up in the shot, but the grind is definitely a big factor. I see a grinder upgrade in my future, and you probably will, too. If you currently have a blade grinder, don't waste your money on the Silvia. I also noticed my old Gaggia double basket holds more coffee than the Silvia's. If I were ordering this machine, I'd order one of the nice, deep third-party baskets. My intuition tells me this would improve the consistency of my shots, though at the expense of more coffee, obviously. Oh yeah, the portafilter spring holding the basket is weak on mine, so it pops out every time I try to knock the puck out. I've tried to adjust it. A minor thing.
The steam production of this machine alone makes it worth the price. Amazing, really. The milk thermometer moves faster than a lot of cars I've owned. Faster steaming means you have to pay more attention to get the good foam, however. The hot water feature is nice, but I've yet to use it. I'll likely discuss this feature in a follow-up review.
One thing that is still confusing to me is the whole backflushing issue. Yes or no? There is a lot of disagreement about this important maintenance issue. Like a lot of things on the Internet, these are "religious" matters. Some sites even suggest you shouldn't leave your Silvia on for more than an hour, while others clearly indicate it's fine to run 24/7. That's part of the fun of owning an icon, though: Everyone has an opinion. There's not a lot of debate over the Mr. Coffee.
No problems. CD from WLL was informative and worth my time to view, although on a Mac it had to run under Classic. Shipping was outstanding (arrived overnight on Christmas eve). My wife says they were friendly and informative on the phone. I'll continue to order from them.
Three Month Followup
So far, so good.
One Year Followup
Machine definitely performs better after break-in period, but it is still very finicky aboout the grind. Black paint is starting to bubble under the drip tray, so be careful to keep yours clean and dry. I would definitley purchase this machine again. Accessories that I plan to buy include the deeper basket and the steam wand tip. Steam production is excellent, but I feel like I could be getting better foam with a different tip (I tend to try to steam too much milk at once, anyway). Warm-up time is still an issue for me, and this keeps me from using it every morning. I get stuck in this loop of being too groggy to turn it on as soon as I get up; my brain already has an automatic pilot function for the Technivorm, so that gets used the most. I should probably get a timer, too. There's no substitute for a properly warmed-up machine.