Real stainless steel and a 58 mm portafilter, but questionable steaming performance.
Positive Product Points
Beautiful Professional portafilter Simple construction Has a huge following
Negative Product Points
Steam is painfully slow to come up Unreliable (for me) Still waiting for a shot to justify the expense
Everybody loves the Silvia. At least that's what you hear on line. You also hear that it takes a certain amount of skill to operate. I've also heard about "temperature surfing" and other ways of working your way around something that really should be engineered into the basics of any good espresso machine. This is not a professional restaurant coffee machine. It is something designed and marketed for home use. That means you should be able to turn it on, follow the instructions and get yourself a good cup of coffee. You shouldn't have to go to school to learn to operate a kitchen appliance. By way of comparison, my $40 DeLonghi makes a comparable cup of coffee with less fuss. Will experience improve the brews out of the Silvia? We'll see.
On the other hand there are some things that you simply can't do for $40. You can't make a 58mm portafilter out of aluminum. A wider portafilter means that you can grind finer and finer has got to be a better extraction. You can't make space for a large water resevoir. You can't build out of steel and it is very nice to have kitchen appliances that are not made out of plastic. The Silvia is as cheap as it gets for the quality of construction you get. Unfortunately, just because the unit is solidly constructed doesn't mean that the unit is going to be reliable and two weeks into using my Silvia, it just suddenly quit. It wasn't the pump and it was a complete mystery to me why it would heat up, but not fire up the pump when the switch was activated. I sent it back and it was a complete mystery to the distributor too, they sent me another refurbished unit that was newer.
Another place the Silvia seems to fall short is steaming. It takes much longer than my DeLonghi to come up to steaming temperature. Once it comes up, you have a lot of steam, but the steam comes erratically as you change adjustment. Anyone who has steamed milk knows that you are always moving that steam knob around and this is not a good idea with the Silvia.
The Silvia is enormously popular and many people have had a lot of fun with it. If something goes wrong with it and the warranty is exhausted, you'll have plenty of support in getting it going again without sending it in I'm sure. And if you want to make a career out of getting some good performance out of it, you'll have a lot of help there too. But is you just want to crank out good coffee with no fuss or vast expense, save your money for a good grinder and a coffee roaster and settle for a cheaper machine.
Whole Latte Love sells a lot of refurbished machines on eBay and this purchase was part of stand/grinder/brewer set. When the unit failed it took a certain amount of time to get a hold of somebody. Tech and customer support does not inspire confidence. I finally took my problem to PayPal for a refund and that seemed to inspire some activity in customer support.
Three Month Followup
I originally posted my initial commentary last November, about a year ago. So, I have been using my Silvia much longer than three months. This new unit is perfectly reliable and hasn't let me down yet. I have used it every morning, but lately I'm tapering off on my coffee consumption and so I use it about 3-4 times a week. I'm happy with the way it brews coffee and I don't temperature surf or anything. My only complaint continues to be the poor steaming performance. My Silvia continues to spit and cough when steaming like a rheumatic dragon. But the steam comes up pretty quickly and it does get the job done. I guess I really want a heat exchanger type boiler, or maybe an independent unit for generating steam only. If I wanted to spend more money, I'd be happier spending it on either a conical grinder or a roaster better than my FreshRoast 8.
I think the poor shots I reported earlier I due more to poorly roasted coffee, than the machine itself. I've bumped into a few really nice shots that I think had more to do with some incidentally properly roasted coffee.
One Year Followup
My complaints about the poor steaming continue to be the only problem I have with the Silvia. I still like the way it brews coffee, but real steam is causing my eyes to wander to heat exchangers. I think I could get used to cappacinos if I could get some good dry steam when I want it and right away. I think I could also get used to straight shots if I could brew some decent single shots. I've got some other small complaints. The colored lenses on two switches have cracked. That's small stuff, but I'm not going to go through the trouble of replacing them and this will certainly ding the resale value if I try to move up to a heat exchanger.