Best in Class machine that will make you learn more and appreciate great espresso.
Positive Product Points
I'll start with looks: nice stainless steel. It's easier to keep looking clean than a mirror finish.
Build quality seems to be very good. You will certainly notice its weight as you try to lift it out of the box.
Great steaming capability.
Negative Product Points
The drip tray has some edges that I would consider too sharp.
Since I'm really nitpicking here because of the lack of negatives, I'd still like a mirror finish instead of brushed.
I got Ms. Silvia a month ago and I believe I am qualified to give my first impressions on this machine. I did as much homework as I possibly could have for this decision and it came down to choosing between the Solis SL-70/90 and Silvia. This is why I chose Silvia and am very happy for this decision:
First off Silvia has more written about her than most machines. This wealth of information has proven very helpful in my quest for the perfect cup. You can find articles ranging from temp surfing and cleaning to PIDing. It seems every question I have has already been answered.
Silvia does very well in the steam category. I use a 20 ounce straight sided frothing pitcher and have been very successful in creating some very nice microfoam. It seems I really caught on to that much faster than pulling a great shot. I highly recommend using a frothing thermometer and reading the frothing guide here on coffeegeek.
But what about the espresso? This gets a bit more complex, I should explain a few things.
First of all I must mention the grinder. This is "extremely" important, do not skimp on it! A very popular combination is to pair Silvia with a Rancillio Rocky grinder. It's a great combination, but I did not go that route. I did try an astra tranquilo and that did not go well. I finally settled on a Mazzer Mini, mainly because I saw that many people end up upgrading to the mazzer while they still own a Rocky. Why get a Rocky when I know I'll be compelled to get a Mazzer in the future? So that is what I did there and am very happy with it.
I also roast my own beans, this allows absolutely the freshest beans possible. Buying fresh roasted beans is also a great option and considered a "must" to many people. You WILL notice the difference; it's like night and day.
Thus far I have been able to make some good espresso, definitely drinkable all on its own. However I do like a little foam on top. You should also read about how a shot is composed of 3 parts, and the effect of cutting out the first third.
So how do I pull a shot exactly? First I grind, dose, and tamp. Lock in the portafilter and then... "Temp Surfing" is something you can do to try to maintain better consistency in shot temperature. This is done by draining some hot water from the boiler causing it to introduce cold water from the reservoir and heat it up. After a few seconds of this you pull your shot when the temperature is just about right. This process usually takes me about 1 minute.
So lets say it all went well and you got a nice pull of 25-30 seconds. Now you want some microfoam: Flip on the steam switch, this activate the boiler to produce steam. After it's been going for about 30 seconds, or until the boiler light turns off, bleed off any of the wet steam. Ideally we want the boiler on the entire time we steam. So I'll bleed off steam until the light goes on, wait about 40 seconds and create some nice microfoam. Attempt to pour nice latte art, I'm not very good at all so I wouldn't call that art yet, and enjoy.
The drip tray holds a good amount and usually doesn't need emptying until I'm done for the day. The rest of the cleanup is easy. Spots show less than on a very shiny machine.
For now I plan on sticking with Silvia for a while, it's the best in its price range and I think you would need to spend twice as much if you wanted a suitable upgrade (a HX machine). I do plan on adding a PID in the next year. I'm also planning on getting a bottomless portafilter which seems to be a nice tool for learning. And do make sure you get a good tamper, the one that comes with Silvia is useless.
That seems to cover just about everything I can think of for now. There are plenty of other Silvia reviews and I just thought I'd add one for the archives.
I think the last word would be don't get a machine and expect to get perfect results immediately. It is a learning process that requires an investment of time that will pay off nicely over time.
Fast and easy, no problems at all. Answered a couple questions I had.
Three Month Followup
I've learned a lot in the past three months. Silvia has been great, I get excellent results with my home roasted beans. I highly reccomend a bottomless portafilter also, just a great learning tool and it's fun. Overall I'd definitly reccomend Silvia to anyone that only needs a single boiler machine. I've paired it with a Mazzer Mini grinder which is as good as it gets as far as I'm concerned.
Don't expect to great results immediately if you're a novice. It took me over a month to really start getting consistent results. After two months things were pretty good, and now at 3 months I rarely get a bad shot (due to some mistake on my part). It really depends on how much you use it, a couple times per day here.