A bit finicky but produces very good espresso most of the time.
Positive Product Points
Really solid, good-looking machine. Strong steamer. Takes some user skill to get the best results but worth the effort.
Negative Product Points
Can be annoyingly mercurial with grind/tamping requirements, at least when switching among different beans. Supplied plastic tamper is cheap and the diameter seems too small for the portafilter basket. Sounds like a commercial air compressor when itís brewing.
Iím pretty new to the home-espresso thing but I wanted a manual machine where Iíd be forced to learn how to do everything myself with no shortcuts or gizmos, and I read many online reviews saying consistently good things about Silvia. I was expecting a learning curve and Silvia did not disappoint. Armed with my new Mazzer Mini, I figured Iíd have all the tools to get it right and it would just be up to me to learn how.
Set-up was straightforward. Everything feels completely solid, from the casing to the portafilter(s) to the grouphead. I filled the tank, warmed it up, bled the steam wand a couple of times, pulled a blank shot, and was ready to get started.
Using the Miniís pre-set grinding position my first few attempts were a bit off, but not by a lot. The included lightweight plastic tamper makes it tricky to find the right pressure (I intend to buy a real tamper). After some so-so early attempts, I tweaked the grind setting a bit and figured out an effective tamping pressure and within a week I was getting closer to a 25 second 3 oz. double shot. Crema was getting thicker and better.
Then my first pound of beans ran out and I thought Iíd try another kind from the same local coffee shop just for variety. Silvia did not like the new beans. With all the same grind settings and tamping pressure, Silvia was gagging and wheezing for two days trying to squeeze out a shot in less than 40 seconds. That said, after I gradually ratcheted up the coarseness of the grind I pulled the two best double shots Iíve done yet, followed by a similarly good triple-shot this morning using the naked pf that 1st-Line included for free, so things are looking up again. I havenít made a really serious effort at temperature-surfing so far but thatís next on my Silvia to-do list.
Portafilter-wise, Iím having better luck with the double basket than with the single. The protruding screw head on the dispersion screen seems to cause some fit problems with a loaded, tamped single basket, more so than the double. Again a better tamper might help. I just started trying the bottomless pf but I love it alreadyóitís oddly mesmerizing to watch while itís brewing and I had about half an inch of crema after my shot settled.
So far the milk foaming is consistent. Great pressure. I bought the 3-way steam tip from 1st-line for $5 just in case but I havenít felt any need to try it yetóthe single tip does just fine.
Iím pleased with most everything about Silviaís aesthetics and functionality. The drip tray is reasonably capacious and easy to remove and clean. The solenoid valve is even more essential than I expected, and I will likely start backflushing eventially. Steam wand is reasonably adjustable and all control switches are straightforward and work well. The reservoir could be easier to access, and an external water level monitor would be nice, but itís not such a big deal.
Iím assuming Iíll eventually get a better handle on some of Silviaís eccentricities and what she demands from different beans (and temperatures). I accept that I have a good bit to learn still, so for now Iím willing to grant Silvia the benefit of the doubt when sheís in one of her more fickle moods. Overall Iím very happy with my purchase so far.
Ordered from 1st-line, Came with a free 3-shot naked portafilter. It arrived in 2 business days. I have not had to call their customer support to bother them yet.
Three Month Followup
No problems. Getting better at temp surfing (thanks in no small part to CoffeeGeek's new First Look posting for Silvia) and getting notably more consistent results. Bought a Reg Barber tamper, which has made the tamping factor more consistent too. And I did eventually install the 3-hole steam tip, which I think makes a mildly positive difference. Since backflushing apparently voids the warranty I plan to wait until I've owned Silvia for a year before trying thatóso far standard cleaning methods seem to be holding up well. Still very happy with my purchase.