It makes professional quality expresso but poor foam production to make latte art.
Positive Product Points
Good building. It makes good steam.
Negative Product Points
The instruction manual provided is still helpless and hopeless despite so much criticism was posted. The steam wand is not flexible enough for me to band in an oblique direction. There is only one hole in the tip instead of several
I lives in Hong Kong and the culture of coffee drinking is still very primitive. Despite there are lots of Cafe around in the city, there are only very very few cafe making good coffee.
I just finished a trip to Italy all the way from Venice to Rome. I drank cappuccino every day during the trip. That is a very memorable experience. The quality of each and every cups that I drank in every cafe were very consistent and were of superb quality. I could see latte art being demonstrated there! I was so excited!
However, after I came back to Hong Kong, I was so depressed and behaved like a drug addict - because I couldn't drink any good quality coffee again! :(
Although I have got a KRUPS machine, I actually did not know how to use it. It simply means I know nothing about making expresso and cappuccino before.
Therefore, I search through the web and found that Rancilio Silvia is a reliable and excellent product at this price range. Being an obcessive drinker, I also purchased the Mazzer Mini grinder to make a perfect match.
As a beginner, I was very frustrated about how to use the machine. The instruction manual provided is useless. I found that this is a fully manual machine so that you have to turn on and turn off the pump switch so as to control the time of expresso running out from the machine. I need to control the tamping and the grinding together in order to make a perfect 25s run. It takes me few weeks to master the techique...
Regarding to the tamper provided freely from Rancilio, just throw it away. You MUST buy a proper 58mm tamper before you can tamp properly. You can't make good expresso without a good tamping.
Now, I can make quite reasonable quality expresso on my own. I don't understand the temperature surfing technique posted in most web site. At this moment, I am already satisfy with the quality of expresso I made.
Regarding to milk frothing, it is a headache for me. After I have tasted the cappuccino made with latte art in Italy, I truly think that this is not just an art or something for visual entertainment only. It is actually an ultimate sign for an excellent cup of cappuccino. Unless you can make excellent microfoam, you can't make latte art and you can't feel that great taste of smoothiness mixed with microfoam and crema.
I have bought the video tape from David Schomer. It tells you the technique of making latte art. However, it is not that simple as shown in the video. There is still a long way for me to go to make that. It was told from the tape that we need a three holes tip in the wand instead of one hole in Rancilio Silvia. I wonder whether this is the reason why I can't make latte art with Silvia.
Anyway, there are some tips that I can share with you to make better froth besides the information taught by David: (1) switch on the steam pump earlier before you turn on the pump switch to run a cup of expresso. This helps to build up a very high pressure enough to make good frothing; (2) If you are going to make one cappuccino only, pour more than enough milk to the frothing pitcher. It will make better microfoam. If you just pour 120ml milk, you will end up in big foam with poor taste.
Nevertheless, despite I can't make latte art at this moment, the cappuccino I made after one month practice is already good enough and is far better than the ones sold in most cafe in the city. When I am lucky and can make excellent froth and expresso (I am not that consistent at this moment), I can even make cappuccino with quality similar to what I can taste from Italy!
Since I am living in Hong Kong, I need a 220V model. I bought it from Coffee For Connoisseurs, www.coffeeco.com.au. I could not find it any where else with 220V model. I have no problem buying this huge and expensive machine through the internet. It takes 2 weeks to send it to me. (I was crazy while waiting for the package...)
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
After one year usage of Silvia, I am satisfied with the expresso brewed at this price range. The most diasppointed feature for this model is the poor design of the steam wand. There is only one hole in the tip instead of 3 or 4 in other machines. It is also pointing straightly downward instead of pointing obliquely. This makes whirling of the milk in the last phase of foam very difficult. The foam generated can only make an ordinary foam like cappuccino. To make latte art? No way.