I have owned the SL70 for three months now and have had very little to complain about. After researching machines in this price range for some months I settled on the SL70 because of the excellent reviews here and the advice of those at Espressopeople.com where I bought the machine. I needed a machine for about $300 that would be capable of producing four lattes at a time. With some tweaking I can now manage 4-5 in a row.
I was definitely impressed with the packaging. Well, as impressed as you can be with packaging anyhow. I removed the machine and had it running within minutes. I did, I admit, read the manual, something I normally avoid. But since I had no experience with pump machines I thought I should start off on the right foot. I was immediately impressed with the heft of the PF and the overall weight of the machine. The warmer plate on top is very nice, will hold about 6 espresso cups, but unfortunately could be a bit warmer in my opinion. The water reservoir is quite large, big enough that I only fill it every few days, pulling 4-8 doubles per day. The drip tray is sufficient but would have been nice in metal and a bit larger. As for the controls, I couldn’t be happier, solid, well designed and simple, including the steam knob.
After turning on the SL70 I was up and running in about 15 minutes or half that once I learned to run a few ounces of hot water through the group head and PF. My initial shot was horrid, I under packed, over ground (blade grinder) and pulled much too quick. A few more tries and I was pulling half-way decent shots. The pump seemed quite strong and I have yet to this day found it difficult to choke the machine. After a week or so I found that I was definitely going to need a better grinder and to upgrade my filter baskets from the supplied pressurized versions to the aftermarket non-pressurized. I ordered 5 of the aftermarket filters and finally settled on a Rocky grinder. The difference was remarkable. I was now pulling 1.5 oz. ristrettos in 23-27 seconds. The crema was very rich, so much so that I rarely see any black coffee in a well pulled shot. The Guinness effect is fantastic. Really the best I have had anywhere, so far. As for milk based drinks, I usually make 3-4 lattes every morning, all at once! The steam on this machine is fantastic and produces excellent micro foam with little practice. The SL70 is ready to steam in less than 2 minutes. My pattern is this: I grind, fill and tamp (about 30lbs) as many baskets as I need, in this case 3. Prepare all my cups and my frothing pitcher with milk. I pull all three shots (since there is no 3 way valve on the SL70 there is a wait time of approx. 20 seconds before you can switch out the PF) and cover each cup with a saucer to keep the espresso hot. I switch over to steam, clear the wand of water, and steam about 10oz. milk in about a minute or so. I realize this method is a bit unorthodox , especially where pulling consecutive shots with a non-HX machine are concerned, but it works well and I am a bit less finicky with milk based drinks than I am with straight espressos.
Overall I couldn’t recommend the SL70 more. The non-pressurized filters are a must, as is a decent grinder. Pulling as many shots and making as many lattes a day as I do I have been tempted to upgrade to an HX machine, however as I have perfected my system I have found that I will keep the SL70 for quite some time as it is a real trooper. I think I would find it hard to beat this machine without going to the $700+ range.