Never really been a hobbyist before. But now that I've got a Silvia, I feel like one. That's a good thing.
Positive Product Points
Well built Makes great espresso Sure seems to me like lots of steam power
Negative Product Points
Mixed signals on how to clean
I had a Breville 800ESXL for a month, before returning it due to a service issue and moving up. I had wondered whether it was true, what I read about its pressurized basket not producing "real" crema, but I was happy with the espresso it made. Well now that I've tasted of Silvia's espresso, I would quote Gertrude and say, regarding the other machine's crema: there's no "there" there. Of course, the freshly roasted beans I use from a local roaster obviously help and I'm sure are a necessity.
In preparation for using what is said to be a touchy machine to master, I read near and far on its usage. I still feel I don't know enough about it. But as much as anything else, that says there's a lot to this machine, and knowing it well will take a while. The shots are nonetheless already a treat. My machine came with a bottomless portafilter, which I highly recommend. It's all I've used. I think without one, you'd have a much harder time determining whether you've got your grind, distribution, and tamping right. My initial shots with the bottomless were a MESS! Not so subtle messages that things were wrong even before the first taste. It's amazing to me just how important technique, added technique, and careful execution are when it comes to getting espresso right. The worst messes are now thing of the past. Occasional, ongoing, subtler messes tell me I'm a student, learning an art form.... :)
I wanted to purchase from the company I felt I'd get the best service from and picked 1st Line. While I indicated I paid $595 for the Silvia, actually I paid $905, for a package deal of the Silvia, plus a Rocky grinder, plus the two-drawer base, plus a bottomless portafilter. As I said I above, I recommend the bottomless, and this combo seems a good price. While highly touted by 1st Line, I don't think their custom user guide is anything special. If the guide had fewer of the usual consumer warnings, I'd think it was more for me, and less for them; but every Silvia tidbit helps.
On the Silvia page, the 1st Line site listed a blind filter for separate purchase, which I picked up. Okay, I think that's for backflushing. But 1st Line's Silvia instructions say, "Backflushing is not recommended ... damage to the pump". Whoa! Unless you make a request for their backflush instructions. Guess I'll have to do that. Also marketed along with the Silvia was an extra-cost three-hole steam tip, esp. for newbies. I do NOT recommend it. After a few weeks' use, I failed to get any microfoam. I never saw any swirl in the pitcher either. Then I used the one-hole that came with Silvia. Much better, much easier! Starting to get hooked on cappuccinos now....
Oh, I had a speedy delivery, and the machine was packaged with care. Also, I found out that customer service was courteous and prompt, having had to contact them for one tiny thing.