Incredibly rewarding. A great way to enter the world of espresso
Positive Product Points
I'm a huge sucker for Italian design, and the gorgeous & simple elegance of this machine can not be be mentioned enough. It doesn't take up a lot of counter space, has no gimmicky plastic parts other than the cheap tamper that comes with it, and just feels like a quality machine. Fortunately, it is. I feel like you could try to spend a lifetime mastering this thing but if you just zero in on one variable at a time it becomes very manageable. The Silvia is unforgiving of mistakes, and it will make you great for that. The steam potential is also fantastic, even if it's not the quickest machine up to speed. Another huge plus is the massive support community on the internet for this machine. You could go blind reading all of the how-to this and guidebook for that websites out there. And then there's everyone on YouTube that thinks they can make the best latte art.
This is not a cheap machine (now 700 bucks) but you will easily spend more than that in a few years of trips to the local Starbucks equivalent, so save yourself the time and money by doing it better yourself.
Negative Product Points
Single boiler. But the price is right. The stock tamper is also miserable.
What a wonderful machine. I bought mine right before the price jumped up to $700 while I was in Iraq and had to wait a few months to get home and use it. It was a fantastic welcome-home present. If you wake up every day and like to try your hand at making something perfect, this is a great machine for it. On weekdays, its a great way to get focused and get the right attitude before work. On weekends, it's even more fun to be able to sit around for hours and work on your form until your bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.
A few things that stick out in my mind: - Get a Brita pitcher, immediately order a RB or Thor Tamper...or if you're feeling creative, head to your local woodshop and turn one out. I made a 58 mm tamper for this thing in a about 2 hours and it performs 10x better than the stock tamper - There's a lot of discussion about the steam wand tip; if you're getting bad results you might want to order the 3-hole tip - Cleaning/maintenance can be a bit tough, but with a machine at this price point you shouldn't have any trouble convincing yourself to take care of it! - If you just want push-button lattes, head somewhere else. If there is a hint of competitiveness, scientist, engineer, athlete, etc. in you...this is your machine. It's like finding your counterpart in a machine.
Whole Latte Love--they included a few freebies, which is really what hooked me. Pretty much every site offers this for the same $700 now, WLL threw in cups, some CleanCaf, 2 lbs of coffee, and a few other things. Look for a vendor with free shipping and the goodies to go with it.