Very well design machine for home use, would be better if it was cheaper. But as a whole, I find I have no regrets from buying it compared to a HX machine.
Positive Product Points
Double Boiler Temprature control Volume control Steming power
Negative Product Points
Need to be plumbed in or hooked up to a Flowjet Price Plastic body (issue for some, not for me)
OK, upon arrival, plan any were from 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on your skill, all parts on hand, and how the machine will be hooked up; directly plumbed in or Flojet. I went the Flojet side. Based on my calculation I'll average one 18L jug every month at most based on 2 to 4 cappuccino a day. The parts needed are pretty easy to install for a flojet setup, and as long as you have all the parts and a full bottle you should be up and ready in 15 minutes if you read the manual online prior or 30 minutes other wise. A good tip is to have some one help you lift the machine out of the box, it's quite heavy.
The machine it self is very nice. The group boiler has priority for the 15 amps setup or the econo mode, while the 20 amps have both going at the same time. It's pretty easy to switch from 20 to 15 or vice versa on the recent model, just a hassle to remove the screws to get access to the switch. Also you may need to change the end plug, the wire from the machine looks to be fine and quite beefy, so no problem their.
For noise level, the flojet makes more noise than the S1 and it only kicks in when it need to draw water (not as often as you might think); as a whole to machine is very quiet. The best part is you can leave this machine on all the time and just shut off the boiler if you’re worried about power consumption. The boiler only takes about 10 mins to arm up, just make sure you flush the wand first and you’re ready to go.
For a cappuccino, it used to take me about 8 minutes to make one with a Silvia, now it takes me about 1 min with the grinding and tamping, 2 if I need to chose which cup to use or slow down to try latte art. For steaming milk, I would say the S1 has more steaming power than the Silvia. If your entertaining guest often, then you'll find the S1 can keep up even with a fast barista on a 15 amps model.
The group head is composed of two metal plates a bit like a bottom of a basket. It makes it easier to clean and is a nice improvement from the Silvia screen. The whole group head for cleaning is pretty straight forward and simple when compared to the E61 group heads, and a lot easier to clean/change the gasket. The machine comes with a spare gasket, and the two screens so their is some added value their.
Calibration of the machine is very simple. For the volume, you can pick 2 setting - the one cup, and the two cup button. You decide how much water will go through before the machine stops the pump. As for the temperature, the calibration is very easy and you can get any temperature from 85 c to 130 c with fine turning to the 1 c.
Once the machine is calibrated for the volume dosing, the machine is quite easy to use. All you need to do is dose and tamp the basket, and slide in the PF. The clearance between the PF is just right to fit in a Bodum glass double wall 13 oz Pavina glass if you use a Naked PF from ChrisCoffee (which is very nicely done compared to the hack job of a naked PF I had from espressoparts for the Silvia.)
One last feature is the hot water dispenser. While for me it's not really going to be used unless I start drinking Americano, but it is a nice feature for those that get it directly plumbed in to their house. The wife or other house mates/family will appreciate the hot water dispense for convenience. Only issue is that it does not reach 200 C from what I have seen (probably due to safety issue and potential law suits from customers getting burned), so tea drinker may complain due to the temperature not been high enough (but really, who cares, I drink coffee not tea).
Over all, the machine saves me time every morning and evening when I want to make a cappuccino. As far as the crema quantity, I have noticed an increase from my Silvia, but it's really the thickness that I have notice and the longer duration of the crema. Over all the machine will last me at least 10 years if not a life time, but it is still pricey, takes quite a bit of space counter space, and takes some planning for power issues. At least the machine can fit well under a cabinet while still holding some cups on the cup warmer (which actually does its job really well unlike the Silvia). I can fit 3 cappuccino cups, 2 13 oz Pavina glasses, 1 7oz Pavina , and 2 3oz Pavina on the cup warmer (2 7oz Pavina if you stack them).
Bought from ChrisCoffee, defenetly would buy from him again. Got a Flowjet system with the machine. Machine arrived at home in 2 business days. Very nice service, and promp response from them.
Three Month Followup
Still love the machine. Although I still have issues of the price despite the fact the machine is paid for already. I do use it every day and the flow jet system is a dream. The plastic body is not really an issue; the machine does not get stained or dirty very easily.
I have not changed the water temperature very often (about 10 times), however it is very simple to do. The one thing I am still impressed with is the amount of crema that is always present from using this machine. I haven't seen anything like it in local restaurent or coffee shops (mostly because I use freshly roasted coffee).
One thing I would change of my initial commentary is the hot water. It is defenitly boiling water and it does easily reach the 200 F range.
One regret is that I do not have the machine hooked up to a 20 amp to get full use of it's pentential (maby when I buy a house I'll get one installed). It's not really an issue, but it would be very nice to have.
End result; if you can afford it - buy it, you get what you pay for and it is defenatly more affordable then the GS3 that is due to come out soon.....
One Year Followup
Well, I still use it almost every day (some weekend it's not used) and love it. The flowjet setup is very nice. I go thru a jug about every second month or so.
The only down side is that I found out I was allergic to milk and I specifically bought this machine for the steam capacity. It steams milk like nothing else.
Machine is still working in great shape. Haven't had any issues with it. The tray get's cleaned once in a while, just use a good bristle brush for cleaning dishes and the coffee residue is easily removed in soapy water.
End result, I've had my machine for over a year and believe that I am going to be in the money (cost of machine vs. buying cap or espresso drinks) in about 2-3 months. Just wish I had a better display setup for the machine, the back is covered up by a wall.....
It's low maintenance machine that anyone that can tamp coffee can use. It will probably have to be added to my will since it has a chance of out-living me!