If you like rich, thick crema and delicious coffee, even if a first-time espresso machine buyer, this machine works.
Positive Product Points
Rich, thick, yummy crema from the first shot. Feels like solid, heavy construction but at same time not too big and bulky. I don't have a lot of counter space but it fits. I find the machine easy to use. I'm not a big bells and whistles person, K-I-S-S works for me, and I find this machine to be simple and straight-forward to use.
Negative Product Points
The stainless steel back casing was rattling, put a mini wood shim in and it's stopped.
I haven't owned this product long enough to go into details (will most definitely do the 3 mo. follow-up review) and my ratings re: quality etc. aren't based on experience with similar products but I did want to get my opinion out here for others who may be doing what I did--reviewing, reading, wondering what machine is best.
I owned a Krups steam "espresso" machine for 14 years which as we all know is not even close to being in the same class as Siliva and Silvia-type/price products and many of the reviews made me a little and sometimes a lot nervous as many indicate experience in espresso machines would be good to have with Silvia. I have zero experience with "real" espresso machines and wanted to let others like me know not to be nervous if considering this machine. I can't compare ease to other machines but I can tell you I haven't had a bad shot yet :-) And to those folks with loads more experience than me and therefore a much more refined palate than a Krups steam "espresso" machine, my review will not be for you :-) With Silvia, I'm getting excellent coffee with rich, thick crema on 30-40 second pulls--yes, too long, working on that--but still to me every shot has been oh so delicious smelling, beautiful to look at and yummy to drink. I'm guessing to the more experienced home barista some of my pulls would be bitter, but not to me.
So for those of you who might be like me, don't be afraid of this machine. It was a huge decision for me and scary given the amount of money (I purchased a Rocky grinder as well and so can offer no opinion if you buy Silvia but don't have a decent burr grinder) and scary given the fact that I really like my coffee and didn't want to plop a bunch a money down and not have really good coffee. Going from a $50 Krups to a $600 Silvia was TOTALLY worth it. Just hope Silvia lasts as long as the Krups did--will keep you posted on longevity.
I was nervous setting up my first espresso machine and made sure to read and re-read the different sets of instructions I found--not so much the official instruction pamphlet that comes with Silvia, although I read that too. Also the instruction pages that Stefano's Espresso sent plus the stuff I picked up here at CoffeeGeek and elsewhere (thank you all!) because I didn't want to damage the machine unknowingly.
As far as all the talk about temperature surfing goes, again, I am not experienced enough to talk about that except to say again to others like me, I'm getting great coffee and crema from this machine without worrying about all of that. I am the only one using the machine, so I'm not trying to pull multiple shots in a short period of time which I understand can make a huge difference in temperature in single boiler machines so if you're doing something like that, listen to others not me.
Cleanliness appears to be next to godliness as far as espresso machines go so that does take me a bit more time in the mornings than the Krups but the coffee is totally worth it.
I greatly enjoyed and am still enjoying my experience with Stefano's Espresso and Kathleen. Knowledgable, kind, no feelings of being rushed or pushed into anything. I had questions, they had answers. I placed my order, Kathleen called and e-mailed both to make sure she reached me offering advice and suggestions and even said not to buy an item or two because I didn't need them. I didn't know enough to know what I needed and she explained and advised and when I over-bought she let me know. I don't know many retailers who stop their customers from spending money at their stores so that honestly was really appreciated. I called with questions after opening the box and Kathleen returned my call within 30 minutes. I missed that call, called her back and she picked up right away. I just e-mailed today with another question, that's how comfortable those folks made me feel about after-service. My order was shipped next day and arrived exactly when they said it would. Really well packed. I had called a couple other places but wasn't impressed by the folks on the phone, attitude, price raised because low stock, things like that.
Three Month Followup
I am extremely happy I purchased Silvia and Rocky. While I don't have any experience in home espresso machines (except the Krups steam "espresso" maker), I have had quite a bit of experience with "professional" espresso machines--not in coffee shops but fine dining restaurants waiting tables including an Italian place that prided itself on its Italian made espresso maker. So I've made quite a few espressos with bigger machines and the Silvia machine is producing equal quality espresso. The espressos Iím making are as every bit good (and often better) as those I have gotten at professional and/or quaint coffee shops.
As everyone here realizes, coffee quality is also dependent upon your bean of choice, your grid, and freshness of the coffee. I know loads of people will gasp in horror when I say I buy a few extra pounds of whole bean coffee at my local shop because I don't enjoy having another errand to run every week, so I buy a few pounds extra and, close your purist eyes :-), I freeze the other pounds. I've tried keeping those extra beans in an a sealed, dry, dark, cool place, but you know what, to my taste buds the frozen and then thawed beans taste better. I like a lighter roast so perhaps that makes a difference in freezing as I donít have loads of oil on the outside of my beans to get broken down and ruined by the freezer.
But I digress, this review isnít about bean storage, itís about the product and I remain extremely happy with both Silvia and Rocky. The espresso is fabulous and for those of you like myself you enjoy steamed milk in your a.m. coffee, Silvia rocks on that aspect as well. As some folks mention regarding Silvia you donít always get consistent results but I personally havenít always gotten consistent results at coffee shops either--with the same barrister making my latte. I think pounds tamped, humidity vs. dryness, hot vs. cool, and a myriad of other aspects I donít even know about affect each shot. So, while I donít have experience with other home espresso makers, Iím finding Silvia to be as consistent (or inconsistent depending on your view) as other shots IĎve had.
I also remain especially pleased I purchased these products from Stefano's Espresso as they've continued to be exceeding helpful and prompt regarding my questions, requests and orders. They have the parts needed--all the parts, the teeny, tiny parts, the big ones, and they repair--just like an east coast place some of us may know about but in my opinion Stefanoís Espresso is faster, better and WAY more pleasant--and while Iím east coast and theyíre west coast, the extra in shipping is more than worth it!