I unboxed the Silvia just three nights ago. It's the heaviest kitchen appliance I own, and it feels every bit of its 35-plus pounds. Numerous references inside the CG and HB forums mention how Silvia is "built like a tank." Cliche, perhaps. But I agree. In fact, it's a bit of a problem. More on that later.
I've owned a Gaggia Coffee Deluxe, the infamous KitchenAid Pro Line and a Francis!Francis! X3. If your experience in home espresso rests with single-boiler units, the warnings about the Silvia are absolutely true: you'll most likely be frustrated out of the gate, even if you have most of the basics down: good tamping, good water, good grinder and fresh coffee. It's almost as if Rancilio builds a tough-love component into its units so as to forge a bond between machine and owner. It's a silly thought, but it makes a lot of sense.
Twelve shots in, I pulled just one double that didn't qualify as a sink shot. Some shots gushed; others simply choked the Silvia. Finally, on the 12th shot, I pulled a passable double, making careful notes along the way of what didn't work but how each shot progressed in different ways and regressed in others.
Now, about temperature surfing. It's not exaggeration. It's true. Please know this going in and be ready to follow the good advice of those who go before you. Right now, I have no plans (or money, really) to PID the Silvia. Besides, I'm just enough of a geek to enjoy the vagaries and nuances involved in making good espresso. So, I surf. I won't explain the process here, but Mark Prince's excellent 7-minute YouTube tutorial on pulling a shot on the Silvia will give you what you need to know. Watch it, watch it again, then watch it one more time. It will help.
I'm pulling consistently good doubles now, three days into ownership. The Silvia has exposed my crappy (and pretentious) tamping routine, my dosing and my lack of patience, and all three of those things have improved steadily in three days.
Before I get to something resembling a bottom line -- as much as one can offer after just a few days of ownership -- here are some quick notes about the overall package:
-- I got the machine from Whole Latte Love. I placed the order over the phone and got my best deal that way. I won't go into particulars, but I'd advise folks to phone in their orders. Shipping was quick and it arrived in great shape.
-- WLL was kind enough to throw in a pound of its "Monaco" espresso blend. A great gesture, but be warned: the stuff is abject crap, oily and over-roasted. I knew it would be: anything without a roast date usually is. Because I have a sense of humor, I actually pulled a couple of doubles with it. Blech.
-- Another review on another machine here on CG called the inclusion of the standard plastic tamper a "cheap provocation." True, that. Most likely, someone arrives at the Silvia because they're serious about coffee and good espresso. These plastic tampers are sort of insulting. They're the Apple earbuds of the espresso machine industry. Do yourself a favor and get a good tamper.
-- The Silvia looks tremendous on the counter. The stainless steel is gorgeous, the rocker switches are tasteful, satisfying and tactile. The portafilter is heavy and sleek. I love this machine. My lone nit, so far, is its weight. The relatively big brass boiler, the brass group head and portafilter -- all things that contribute mightily to the Silvia's performance -- all mean that the Silvia is heavier than most other single-boiler units. The Silvia is also sort of tall compared to other machines in the class -- about 13.5 inches -- meaning that while it fits on the counter, most folks won't be able to fill the Silvia's reservoir without pulling it away from under the cabinet. That's where Silvia's weight makes it a little kludgy. The workaround is to simply fill it up max. That way, you're not having to pull it out every day (assuming you're only drinking a couple of doubles.)
-- A note on shot-to-steam-to-shot-to-steam performance. Because it's a single-boiler machine, it's no production unit. In one 5-minute stretch, I tried to make back-to-back lattes and the Silvia simply seemed to poop out on the second milk steaming. I did this on purpose, having read how the Silvia usually needs a moment to compose itself (bringing water into the boiler and getting back to temp) between drinks. It's true.
The bottom line: I'm thrilled with the Silvia and it has met all my expectations for better and worse. I did an unhealthy amount of research going into this, and it has helped manage those expectations. If you're looking for cafe-level pulls straight out of the box, you're likely in for some buyer's remorse. But wait it out, and keep working. You will be rewarded, sooner or later -- assuming you keep working and follow some of the great guidance in the CG forums. Silvia's reputation as a "teacher" is true.