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Solis SL-70 - Jim Fradkin's Review
Posted: December 10, 2004, 5:00pm
review rating: 8.0
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Solis SL-70
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More About This Product
Arrow The Solis SL-70 has 25 Reviews
Arrow The Solis SL-70 has been rated 7.21 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Solis SL-70 reviews have been viewed 113,152 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
MW Madden 9.00
Steve Boothe 8.50
James Schulman 8.50
Fr. John Abraham 8.29
Mike Prince 8.20

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 5.6
Manufacturer: Solis Quality: 3
Average Price: $379.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $350.00 Cost vs. Value 8
Where Bought: Whole Latte Love Aesthetics 3
Owned for: 1 year Overall 6
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: No
Similar Items Owned: Saeco Via Venetto
Bottom Line: For the first eleven months, the SL-70 made great lattes.  After that, one thing after another broke.
Positive Product Points

When it works, the steamer and steam wand allow you to make any kind of foam you like, from silky microfoam to merengue-like peaks.  Easy to surpass the Starbucks latte.  Quickly reaches boiler-ready and steam-ready  temperatures.  Takes very little space on the kitchen counter.  Easy to refill, easy to see water level.

Negative Product Points

Mine had various electrical and other problems, at first minor, but after eleven months, severe.  See details below.  In my opinion, the silver-and-black color is ugly.  Would be prettier all-black.

Detailed Commentary

When I bought my SL-70 in Nov. of 2003, I loved it.  It made delicious lattes, as good as the best anywhere.   I recommended the SL-70 to two other friends, and they both bought one.  One of my friends received a broken, new SL-70.  It consistently blew the circuit breaker when she turned it on.  She called Baratza (the U.S. distributors), and they replaced it with a new SL-90, postage paid both ways.  She has had no other problems.

My experience has not been as happy.  After three months, the ready-to-brew indicator light on my SL-70 burned out.   (I notice in this forum that Stan Malyshev had the same problem.) Neil at Baratza misdiagnosed this over the phone as a bad thermostat.  He sent me a new thermostat, with no luck.  But the machine still made delicious coffee, and I hesitated to send it out to repair such a small thing.

Eight months later, with a month to go on the original warranty, I thought to myself, maybe I should have that indicator lamp replaced.  (Big mistake!) I sent it to Baratza, they replaced the indicator lamp, and they sent it back.  Fresh out of the box from Baratza repair, I plugged it in, turned it on, saw the indicator light glow for a moment, and then my circuit breaker tripped.  I reset the circuit breaker, plugged it in again, and this time (and every subsequent time) it blew the circuit breaker while it was still turned off.

I called Baratza, and told them the machine was more broken now than before! They swore to me that no machine ever leaves their repair shop without being tested and in good working order, and whatever defect it has now must have happened in shipping.  They insisted that I ship it back to them again, at my own expense!  On its second visit to Baratza, it got a new boiler heating element.

Each round trip, from my home in Virginia, to Baratza in Washington state takes two weeks.  After two round trips and more than a month, the one-year warranty has officially expired.  The machine arrives on my doorstep, ready to use.  It only remains useable for two weeks.  Then the steam becomes weaker and weaker, until it can no longer steam even 10 oz. of milk.  (I wonder if this is the same problem Debbie Boiano reported in her review.)

I call Whole Latte Love, give them a piece of my mind.  I tell them the warranty has expired, but I haven't actually gotten a year's use out of it, since it has been in transit to and from the repair shop for the last month. They call Baratza.  Josh, the Baratza service manager, graciously offers to fix it again for free.  Again I have to pay one-way shipping.  He also suggests that the problem might be scale build-up in the steam valve.

Hmmm.  Scale build-up...   That doesn't seem likely, since I've been using distilled water and CleanCaf.   But who knows?  Before packing the machine up for its third cross-continental trip, I descale it, twice.  This doesn't fix the steam problem.  But the machine develops a new problem.  The on/off switch breaks.  It no longer clicks, it just flops silently back and forth.  I move the switch to the off position, and it turns off.  But after a minute, while I'm standing far away, the SL-70  turns itself on, pump going.   Then after a few seconds, it turns itself off again!   (It's plugged directly into the wall.  No timer.)  I'm so mad, there is steam coming out of my ears.  (But unfortunately, not enough to froth milk.)

In conclusion, my SL-70  has had a broken lamp, a short circuit, a broken heating element, a steaming problem, and a broken toggle switch.  If the steaming problem turns out to be scale, then that was my fault.  But everything else is due to poor electrical components or poor service from Baratza.

Buying Experience

The people at Whole Latte Love are helpful and friendly.    I have not had an entirely positive experience with Baratza.  I don't know of anybody else who repairs the Solis.

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review rating: 8.0
Posted: December 10, 2004, 5:00pm
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
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