The best single boiler machine you'll get in the 400 dollar range.
Positive Product Points
The most solid home machine I've ever encountered. Everything about this machine oozes quality. Excellent espresso, AWESOME steam. Large and hot (but not hot enough) cup warmer. Long steam wand that is easy to work with. Buttons from the commercial machines. Solid brass group, very good portafilter. Big brass boiler. Possibility of using La Marzocco filters and portafilters from the rancilio pro range. The list goes on and on.
Negative Product Points
Drip tray is a bit small, needs to be emptied after each session. Portafilter in most cases need to be tightened really hard to prevent leaks. Silvia like other single boiler machines tends to run pretty hot if left on for some time - temperature surfing is required for consistent results. Bolt like end on steam wand that makes cleaning a little bit harder. Ugly sticker on the newest models.
May be a bit to challenging for some people, but will reward the patient home barista and interested ones *greatly*.
I decided to switch to Silvia when I got a good offer on a second (actually third hand) one. My Gaggia Coffee was doing great, I made both good espresso and cappas with it, but I wanted the 3-way valve, the bigger steam capacity and to be a part of the big Silvia community on alt.coffee.
I was really impressed when I placed her on the counter beside the Gaggia Coffee, and I promptly wrote a post on alt.coffee. I think it's worth reposting so here it is:
I got my silvia yesterday. Well, it's not exactly mine yet because i have just borrowed it to play with it for some days before making the decision to buy it second hand. It's about three years old, but seems to be in good order. I'm currently using a gaggia coffee so I thought it would be cool to post some pictures to compare the two.
The first tries with silvia just put drek in my cup. I tried different dosing and grind, but i was all the time troubled with leaks. I've taken out the gasket to replace with a stiffer, professional one. So until i get the gasket i won't say anything about shot quality. :)
I really hope the new gasket will stop the leaking. I've never had leaks with gaggia coffee so i will disappointed if this is a recurring problem with silvia. I read one of mark's old posts on the subject yesterday and he appearantly didn't have any problems, though posts from others showed some problems, but most were ok after some shots.
First impressions of silvia:
Looks: Wow, this machine is in another league when it comes to apperances and sturdiness, and shes a huge and heavy motha. I had to carry her all the way home because i don't have a car and i couldn't find a cab. That's like a 15 minute walk. I didn't have to go to the gym that day. Silvia looks so professional and sturdy that i'm proud everytime i look at her.
Drip tray: The drip tray on silvia is bigger and the group is on the left which gives more workspace. The only bad thing is that it's kind of low so when it's full you really have to do some clever balancing to keep from spilling water on the floor when removing it. The gaggia tray is deeper and easier to take out, but smaller and made up of plastic (not the lid).
Water tank: Not much to say about the tank really, just that it's easier to remove on the siliva, but it lacks a water level indicator. Coffee's tank is a bit more cumbersome to pull out, but you can always see the water level as it is visible in the front.
Steam and wand: Yup, the steam is definitely more powerful on siliva, but it really is satisfactory on the gaggia. The higher power of the silvia makes the milk rotate more in the pitcher which will aid in splitting those big bubbles into microbubbles. I got perfect, velvety latte art foam in my first try. I have however made this kind of foam regulary on the gaggia coffee too, and have made some nices rosettas with it (http://home.chello.no/~gauperaa/cappa23a.jpg). It's just that silvia is quicker and will probably make the milk and litte bit smoother and with less bubbles. Time will show.
I really like the size of the silvia wand. Gaggia's wand is a bit to short.
Well, that's about it for now. I'll post some more impressions and images when i start pumping out shots.
Since then I've become quite comfortable with her. My espresso is definitely better than what I could produce with my gaggia coffee. The steam capacity is way better, but that doesn't make my cappas or latte art that much better. It just means that I can steam larger volumes and do it quicker.
Cleaning is easy by doing the portafilter waltz after each session. Every two weeks I also backflush with rancilio espresso detergent (powder).
I feel I've come a long way in the last three months, but I still think that I can improve on my shots and foam. That's what I love about her - it just gets better and better. If she's replaced then it is because I want to be able to steam and brew at the same time, and be able to skip temp surfing. A HE machine with the E61 group would solve this.