Gaggia Espresso,Rancilio Betsy,Krups.Brasilia Club
With a little bit of effort will produce a very good to excellent shot of espresso.
Positive Product Points
Water reservoir is over 3 ltrs and is easily removed to fill or can be filled in place.Machine heats up quick in under 2 minutes. Seems to have a very accurate thermostat. When not in steam "mode" the steam knob will activate pump and produce hot water at steam wand.Very nice for Hot Tea, Cocoa or an Americano. Has some type of pressure release valve allowing removal of the portafilter after pulling a shot without waiting.
Negative Product Points
Outside of the machine will flex as you lock in the portafilter. Automatic controls pretty much useless. Cup warming area doesn't do a lot of good. Comes with crema enhansing baskets. I received the normal ones,simply by asking for them. It does not have a true 3 Way valve. Which would allow one to backflush the machine.
This machine has been a real pleasure to use so far. I chose the SL-90 over the Rancilio Silvia due to the claims of the SL-90 having a more accurate thermostat. I wanted to avoid the "temp surfing" use of the Silvia.There is also a simple modification that allows one to adjust the brewing temperature of the Solis. Using the baskets that normally ship with it will produce a frothy, fake looking crema. I suggest using the normal style baskets and using the proper grind and tamp. My first few uses of the machine produced some fairly nice looking but slightly sour shots,also they were not as hot as I would have liked. A quick call to Baratza confirmed the modification spoken of in the alt.coffee newsgroup. After the modification the shots lost their sourness and they stayed hotter while drinking.
I did some simple temperature checks by cutting a styrofoam cup down to only a 2 oz. capacity, stuck an instant read thermometer in and held it up to the grouphead.
The machine goes from brew to steam mode in about 45 seconds, sometimes 30. You push a button to activate the machine's thermostat to allow it to heat the water hot enough for steaming. This machine is easy to get a nice microfoam with. When not in Steam Mode turning the steam knob on will activate the pump, and hot water will then come from the steam wand. This is very handy for pre-heating cups, making hot tea ramen noodles etc.
This feature also makes it easy after steaming, to flush out the water in the boiler,which after steaming is now too hot for espresso. The machine will not allow you to pull another shot until this water is flushed from the boiler. The pump will not run and it flashes the ready light.
The machine is set to deliver different pre-programmed water volumes. selected on the front panel. from around 1.25 oz up to 5 oz or so. Maybe it works with the baskets that ship with it and a light tamp. I haven't had much luck. Thankfully there is a manual mode, push a button to turn the pump on , push again to turn it off.
Purchased as a refurbished machine from Baratza,the Soils importer for the U.S. The first machine was shipped by mistake to Florida. They (Baratza)promptly shipped another one 2nd day air and credited me the original shipping charge. Of course UPS forwarded the first machine to my correct address and it arrived the day after the other one did. YES I am going to send back the extra one, its waitin' on its return label. Bartza's cutomer service is great. If you call, either you will speak to the person you ask for or you will receive a return call from them. Sometimes within 5 minutes. I have yet to read or hear any negative comments about them.
Three Month Followup
I sold the Solis SL-90 not long after this review. Not because there was anything really wrong with it,it was "upgrade fever". I purchased a used Brasila Club, this is a machine that retails for close to 750.00. It is a well built machine as far as weight and has copper tubing where the Solis uses more plastic. BUT the Soils has much better control over boiler temperature, and even seems to recover faster between shots and steaming and vice versa. If I had it to do over again, the Solis would still be on my counter. It really is an excellent little machine, If Solis would put the SL-90's "guts" in a enclosure like the Rancilio Silvia (Stainless Steel) add a comercial style Portafilter and leave out the automatic dosage control. IMHO they would rule the consumer espresso market.