Its a no brainer for the home barista without a doubt.
Positive Product Points
For someone like me who is really just getting heavily into espresso, but has been a lifetime coffee drinker, this machine has been a dream. The ability to make espresso and steam milk at the same time along with the PID takes alot of the guess work out. You only have to focus on the grind and time. On day one i was able to dial in my beans on the Vario and pull a half decent shot. A great machine if you like cap's or lattes i think. The machine is quite intuitive even for an espresso novice. Not to mention it looks great in my kitchen.
Negative Product Points
I havent really experienced any things to point out as negative, but i could see if you wanted to make alot of milk based drinks or use a large frothing pitcher it could take a while. The steam power isnt as high as the high end machines. Then again for the price it does a great job. So overall i guess thats more of a nit pick. i couldnt be more pleased with the value at the end of the day.
I spent alot of time researching and reading.....well coffeegeek mostly, but many other sites reviewing, learning, and trying to understand what i really needed versus what i wanted versus what i could afford. Temp surfing didnt look like alot of fun, and with limited time in the morning (always running late ) being able to be sure the machine was up to temp and ready to rock was the key to me justifying the cost over single boiler dual use machines. If you added a PID to the rancilio Silvia for example you are at almost the same cost as the Silvano without the dedicated thermoblock for steam. The unit is quite compact for the smaller kitchen most of us have also. Ironically, one of the items i considered least important in my purchase was looks, and Silvano turns out to be one sexy gal! I havent had much time behind the portsfilter yet, but i can tell i will be saving my $3.50 per day at starbucks or peets (west coast) and make my drink at home with more attention to detail and alot better tasting than the chain stores.
My new Hero is Mackensie at Chris's coffee. i was quite a needy customer, and she was very patient, very helpful and had alot of good advice. i have seen ALOT of Chris Coffee reviews that were great, and I couldnt be happier with their service. i will never look at another espresso shop for my needs. Mackensie and Chris's coffee has earned my loyalty.
Three Month Followup
After 3 months i feel like i know what i am doing much better, and feel confident with the equipment. i am not sorry at all about my purchase, it has been worth every dollar. The PID option is golden. The ability to steam and brew at the time is golden. If it were not for those features i think i would not enjoy/use the machine as often as i do. i especially like having a machine at home which allows me to experiment with different roasters, beans, temps, grinds, and anything else coffee that im curious about. i have found that when using a new bean it is best to talk to the baraistas and get an idea of what temp and duration they use to start off and work out my own prefernces from there. Coffee goes through alot of trouble to find its way into my grinder so i figure its only fair to minimize the waste and bad shots dialing in the grind. Having the PID is essential for temperature consistency and is as important as a good grinder for grind size options. The steam and brew option defentiely helps when you're entertaining. You can get a good rhythm going. All and all, everything i read here on CG has been spot on. Spend the money on a good grinder first and foremost. PID and seperate steam is worth the extra cost in my opinion.