The Silvia is an espresso bombshell...tickle her in all the right places, and she'll deliver a double with crema to remember.
Positive Product Points
This unit is built. The Silvia has a nice stainless case, user friendly arrangement, and just feels like something I will love using for years to come. The construction of this machine is classic. It's heavy, built like a commercial restaurant equipment, and looks great in my kitchen.
Negative Product Points
Lousy manual. Really lousy manual. Might as well be no manual. The brochure was very nicely designed, and takes you through the initial set up, but absolutely no directions for use, never mind some tips or tricks. As I've only owned a cheapie steam unit, i.e. no crema, no tamping, I had no idea what was involved, or how crucial tamping, grind, temperature, etc. would prove to be. You read about this, but you really don't know how many miniscule factors are involved until you've pulled your 21st double and you're still getting dishwater. I referred to YouTube and CoffeeGeek for some guidance. I have learned since that there's videos on Ranciio's web site for instructions, but might as well be YouTube. I wish there was a water level indicator, that would be sweet. The plastic tamper included with the machine should be instantly discarded. This will cause some frustration. I had to buy an metal tamper that actually fits the portafilter before I got real results.
I bought this machine in combination with the Rocky doserless grinder. The Silvia came with a PID installed. I'd read more than a few reviews when I started my search for a newb-friendly espresso maker, and kept finding the Silvia to the best machine for quality espresso, manufacturer quality, and value, versus cost. The V.3 had just been introduced and there was a bit of a buzz regarding new features. As a newcomer to espresso, and leaning toward more old school technology, I liked the fact that this machine performed as well as the operator performed. I liked the idea that espresso is a craft and if you use good materials, you get good results. The Silvia has been a good machine to learn on. The nuance of coffee quality is directly reflected in how you use the machine. You have the ability to really dial in a great shot. Helps to have a great grinder too. The PID has offered some stability in boiler temp, and that's been an added bonus. I've never had to learn how to "surf" the temperature. I design kitchens for a living and wanted a decent looking machine as much as I wanted performance. I have Sub-Zero, Asko, and Viking appliances, and the Silvia fits right in. Most importantly it really performs.
hitechespresso.com was easy as pie. To be honest I found their best deal on eBay. Shipping was $24.00 for a Silvia and Rocky. That's a heavy load for $24.00. Dave at Hitechespresso had done the mod, adding a PID, and sweet, clean installed unit it is. The box was resealed with Rancilio tape, and I had to question if the box had ever been opened. I thought that was a totally pro touch. The Rocky arrived first, and the Silvia a couple days later. I would have liked them together, as I like instant gratification as much as the next guy, but there were no statements this would or wouldn't happen. Dave's sales pitch on eBay is kind of a hoot. He sounds like he might be a little grouchy, but the man does nice modifications. Kudos. He is also an authorized repair service, and offers a phone number for questions.
Three Month Followup
I still love my Silvia. I've continued to learn more about the small nuances that make for stellar espresso. I highly reco getting a naked portafilter to learn with. Much easier to get decent results in the beginning. I've since gone back to the portafilter with pants and fine tuning. Having the most fun ordering new coffees from different roasters. I do let the machine warm up for longer in the morning now. I just changed my routine, and hit the kitchen first thing to turn on the Silvia and put the milk pitcher in the fridge to chill. Now when I'm showered and dressed, Silvia is ready too.