Boiler, grouphead and body are all built like a tank.
Negative Product Points
Cheap OOTB portafilter, 14g basket & plastic tamper doesn't cut it with this machine. Order some good stuff and throw these out as soon as you open the box!
Many folks rate this machine after having owned it for a few weeks or a month, and of course, any decent machine will make a decent espresso for the first few weeks. I was just reflecting on this equipment and decided it was high time to write a "long-term road test" review.
As for mileage, my wife and I have owned this for just shy of 3 years. With few exceptions, we both have had a latte every morning for the duration. We have, of course, also used the machine to pull shots for ourselves & guests rather frequently (usually 4-6 shots). So, my Miss Silvia has currently produced approximately 2500 shots.
The boiler and compressor still run good as new. The insides of the machine are still as if they had been removed from the packaging yesterday. There is only one speck of rust in the entire machine: the drip tray has some trivial oxidation in the welding joints at the 4 vertical edges of the tray.
I removed the rubberized coating from the tray, which gives it a cleaner brushed steel look. (It began to come off around the edges a bit after a few dozen cycles in the dishwasher anyhow.) I was also fortunate to buy one just after they continued putting the Rancilio badge on the face of the machine, rather than the sticker.
As mentioned in the "cons", the portafilter & 14g basket that comes with the unit is totally inadequate. I bought a LaMarzocco portafilter w/ rubber grip and 21g basket and it really makes the shots come alive. A cheap 21g crotchless portafilter didn't really impress me, but it is good practice in tamping even pucks. Silvia's pump IS strong enough to push through a pretty tight 21g puck, but it does take about 30 seconds to pull the shot.
I also augmented the standard equipment with a 57mm flat-face aluminum tamper. This really has more to do with the LaMarzocco basket than Silvia, but it does make a perfect seal around the walls of the basket and lets me pack an almost perfectly even puck every time.
The reservoir is very easy to remove and throw in the dishwasher, but the rubber feed tubes will need some TLC after a year or so, and every year thereafter. They get buildup inside even when using only Brita-filtered water in the machine. This process took a little creativity; I removed the tubes from the machine, my wife and I pushed some yarn through with some stiff electrical wire then, for lack of a better term, "flossed" the tubes. We then rinsed them out with boiling water from the teapot. It did clean off the walls very effectively but it was somewhat involved. For the use we get out of the machine, it's well worth the time.
One thing I must note to Silvia's detriment is that I never got quite enough steam out of her to really froth the milk. I replaced the standard nozzle on the steam wand with a 3-hole nozzle and that helped; with the 3-hole nozzle it does an OK job on a half cappuccino bowl per heating cycle. But that's a bit frustrating considering the espresso is sitting out there getting cold by that point. I usually don't have froth so it's somewhat immaterial for me. And, after all, this is a home machine with a baseball-sized boiler.
Overall: with 2500 shots behind her and tricked out with a few higher-quality accessories, I still pull fantastic shots from my Silvia. She has no significant signs of age or wear. Even in another 3 years, I can't imagine this Silvia showing her mileage! This is a very durable machine and makes some great espresso. This kind of quality and performance is a steal for less than $500, in my humble opinion. Unless you're after a more flashy unit, or perhaps something with more bells & whistles or electronics, it's hard to imagine a machine better than Silvia, especially for the price!
Very good. Good price, quick shipping and responsive customer service from 1stincoffee. I'd definitely recommend them, and I will go back to them for more equipment if I ever need it! :)