The Silvano is a well-built, good-looking machine with essential features (PID, pump pressure gauge) that allowed this well-read beginner to make great drinks in a short period of time.
Positive Product Points
Solidly built with essential features in what I consider to be a high-end machine. Easy to use for both brewing and steaming. Makes impressive espresso and cappuccino while looking good on the counter.
Negative Product Points
Finish seems to mar more easily than expected when wiping machine down or using the cup warming surface, but not a big deal. Steam wand could be shortened slightly to allow it to swivel freely over the entire drip tray rack.
I'm new to espresso makers, ran a quick gamut of entry ($100) and mid-level ($500-$600) machines and found the reviews lamenting poor reliability/durability to be true. Thank goodness for Bed, Bath & Beyond's no-hassle return policy. Finally sprung for the Quick Mill Silvano and even though I'm frugal, well ok tight, I don't regret spending the money. The learning curve with both the Silvano and Baratza Vario grinder was relatively short due to my prior obsessive research. Was pulling enjoyable shots after 5-6 attempts, mostly working out the grinder setting. Water reservoir is easily visually checked for water level and is easy to fill. Warm-up is quick enough. I could pull a shot at :15 but find myself putzing around and letting the boiler-PID temp stabilize to :20-:25 or so. The PID and pump pressure gauge were key features that helped me get over my price resistance. The Silvano is priced at the level of a Rancilio Silvia with an added PID, however the Silvano also a pressure pump pressue gauge which isn't available on the Silvia. Having a separate boiler and steam thermal block which allows simultaneous brewing and steaming is a significant functional advantage for the Silvano over the Silvia in my opinion. PLENTY of steaming power. I like the look and feel of the switches on the Silvano better too. There is a separate dedicated steam block power switch on the back of the machine that can be switched off (separate from the steam activation switch on the front) allowing reduced energy usage when not needing the steaming function. Steam arm works well but could be a bit shorter to improve clearance over the entire drip tray. Stout grouphead and portafilter which retain heat remarkably well. Drip tray rack and drawer are also solid and easy to clean. Its important to note that i've only had this machine for a week, but I'm very satisfied with my purchase so far. For me that's pretty high praise.
Chris Coffee gave good advice and answered email inquiries quickly. Shipped next day. Recommended vendor. Also happens to be the exclusive importer of this particular machine in which they had a hand in re-designing.
Three Month Followup
6 month followup: I'm still impressed and satisfied with the Silvano. Would buy again.
One Year Followup
Still loving my Silvano. Consistently making very high quality drinks that impress everyone, most importantly myself! Great shots and endless steam. Simultaneously if so desired. The machine has been mechanically reliable so far and, looking under the hood, is stoutly built. The surface finishes, especially the cup warming surface, do indeed mar more easily than I expected from stainless steel when wiped clean with a wet dish cloth that no doubt contains very small residual bits of finely ground espresso from cleaning around and on the machine. Not a big deal - I consider it patina. A double-walled steam wand would be a nice option to have available some day (Chris Coffee & Quick Mill - make it 1/4" shorter while you're at it so it always clears the near-end of the drip tray when swiveled :-) ). I have now come to be surprised and quite disappointed in the low quality of the drinks so many coffee houses put out for $3-5 a pop and am happy to get back home where I know I will have consistently high quality cappucinno. I still rate this machine a 9 overall which is very high praise by my standards. I consider it a high-end (and high priced) machine but I have to say even with my frugal disposition I'd cough up the cash and buy it again. Along with the Baratza grinder I bought at the same time.