Best machine in this price range for small volumes.
Positive Product Points
Built to last! Brushed aluminum exterior makes it less necessary to polish it all the time. Makes some great espresso and really quick to heat up.
Negative Product Points
It takes awhile to be able to steam milk after pulling a shot. I find that by the time I can steam milk, it's a good thing I'm adding milk - I wouldn't drink that shot straight anymore. Also, unless you're interested in spending the extra time on temperature surfing, the temperature is off for making good shots.
When I got this machine, I really didn't know enough about it. I had only ever used commercial machines and I think I was expecting something a little more, well, commercial. I had heard such raving reviews that I really didn't do my research. I pulled it out of the box, filled it up, plugged it in and turned it on. I pulled a couple of shots, adjusted the grind a bit and flipped the steam button. And waited. And waited. It was probably only about 30 seconds, but in that moment it seemed like a lifetime. I finally got to steam my milk.
Now I really like this machine, but I wanted to tell about my misconceptions before I start to rave about it. It's a great machine if you're only ever making drinks for 3 or 4 people in a row (and even that takes awhile). If you've worked at a cafe and are used to commercial machines you definitely will find this machine slow.
But for $400? It's a great machine! Once I figured out how to temperature surf, I was pulling shots and making lattes just as good as any I've had elsewhere. I have people coming over for coffee all the time because it's well known that I make the best coffee in town (it's a small city and the best espresso is at starbucks). I think that the Rancilio Silvia is the best in its price range. It's the kind of machine that if you're only making coffee for 2 people at a time, it'll do you for life.
Great! Fellow CoffeeGeek. :)
Three Month Followup
See 1 year followup.
One Year Followup
Time to update this review. I've now owned my Silvia for 7 years without any problems whatsoever. I haven't had a single maintenance issue with it in that time (and it was used when I bought it). It's a great starter machine, although I am certainly dreaming of the day that I buy my next machine. You really need to have a desire to learn to make great espresso to find this machine usable. I certainly couldn't recommend anything of a lesser quality than the Silvia if you're looking at buying your first machine. But don't even bother if you're not going to invest a similar amount of money on a good espresso grinder. That being said, if you are willing to invest in a good grinder and have access to fresh quality beans, this machine is capable of making some of the best espresso I've tasted. And if you enjoy tweaking your shots, you'll really enjoy this machine.