Nothing better -- except a daily trip to Italy, perhaps.
Positive Product Points
About as serious a home machine can be for under $500.
Negative Product Points
Plastic tamper (that is smaller than PF); depth of drip pan.
I drink espresso almost exclusively -- since 1987. I have owned steamers (early on before I knew any better), and have pump machines of various quality in the office and in my RV -- Silvia is used at home. My Krups Maximo served me well for almost 15 years, but its shots always seemed to be lacking. When it burned out (second time in its long life, so I figured it was time to get something better), I checked the web and saw the popularity of the Ranchilio Silvia. Her reviews were impressive, and from my experience, I can see why she is so popular. I have yet to discover any weakness in this impressive machine. (By the way, I gave her all "9" ratings because I don't believe in giving anything or anyone a perfect score -- always room for improvement, at least that's what I tell the people that work for me). She is built rock solid (stays put when tightening the PF), she has impressive power (more than enough for home use, even when entertaining), and she is beautiful (I like it when guests stare at her). I have had excellent success pulling smooth shots with very good creme (in spite of having to use what I consider inferior beans from the chain store at the mall -- the next thing I will fix once I discover the right coffee roaster). With a little care, attention to details (timing, temperature, tamp -- be sure to read up on temperature surfing -- it does improve the shot quality), Silvia seldom "ruins" a shot (I do that). Beginners who do not appreciate the art of espresso should read all they can, otherwise, they may be disappointed in Silvia, but it's not really her fault. If you have hard water, I recommend getting Rancilio's softener which fits nicely in Silvia's water tank (the long hose connects to the softener), and it doesn't hurt to feed her water from a Brita pitcher just to cut the minerals further. Make sure you have cleaner, and a group brush. A good grinder is a must! I've used Solis Maestro and Saeco grinders (or should I say, worn them out) and now have Kitchen Aid's new Pro Line, which works great (still has one click left before I run out of fineness adjustment, but can be easily adjusted further down). A timer to turn on Silvia about an hour before the alarm goes off in the AM is great for making sure she's ready to pull that first shot in the morning. If you can't tell, I love this machine and can't recommend her enough. I pull as many as eight shots a day and maybe more, but still haven't tried foaming milk, since I'm really not into milk drinks. From what I've read, I know she'll do me proud the first time a guest asks for a cappa. If you are serious about espresso and can recite the correct proportions for a cappuccino or latte in your sleep, then this is the machine for you. Look no further -- take Silvia home! By the way, did I mention that I recommend her without reservation?
After a lot of reading reviews and comparing prices, I settled on Daily Grind in NY. They offer "almost new" machines (those returned by people who might not have appreciated the machine they bought and returned it unharmed under their liberal 30-day return policy). She arrived in just three days, boxed like the day she was made -- in fact, I couldn't find any sign she wasn't brand new! (DG says they completely clean and check every machine -- they sure do, at least in the case of this machine). I was without a machine for less than a week -- thank goodness I could finally stop going to the local coffee house where they serve what mid-westerners too often think is coffee, let alone call espresso! Yuck! (Sorry fellow mid-westerners -- I've been one since birth, so I can be a bit critical.)
Three Month Followup
Have had this machine for one year. Teamed with a Kitchen Aid Pro-line Grinder, a Marzocco double basket, a flat stainless steel 58mm tamper (replacing the standard Rancilio plastic tamper), temperature surfing 40 seconds, and using Black Cat beans from Intelligencia (Chicago), it produces exceptional shots. I am completely satisfied with Silvia in all respects. No regrets whatsoever and would recommend it for anyone who is serious about espresso.
One Year Followup
Actually, it's been three years since purchased Silvia, and the love affair continues (even my wife acknowledges it by introducing Silvia to guests as my mistress). She now has a PID control, which is great, and an in-tank water purifier, but otherwise original and working perfectly. Not a single regret plunking down the dollars for her. Getting consistently excellent shots, makes microfoam easily, although she "expects" serious attention to details when prepping to pull shots (coffee, grind, technique all have to be right). No electrical or mechanical problems. Still recommend her to anyone who asks about what machine to buy. Rugged, easy to clean, a joy to use.