Tempermental, Inconsistent machine that will force you to perfect your technique or go insane trying.
Positive Product Points
At times this made the best espresso of my life - but I couldn't consistently duplicate it. Great frothing pressure. High quality parts.
Negative Product Points
Difficult to achieve consistent results. Water reservoir difficult to access. Manufacturing defect had to be fixed upon arrival. Inneffective cup warmer.
I originally owned a Starbucks Barista and wanted to upgrade to the next level. After much research on this website, I purchased a Rancilio Silvia / Rocky combination from Whole Latte Love. It was the best of espresso, it was the worst espresso. At times I wished that I hadn’t returned my Starbucks Barista.
I spent 1 month fighting with Silvia…alternating between making both the best espresso drinks of my life…and the worst espresso drinks of my life. I found that minute deviations (grind setting, quantity of bean, tamping pressure, etc) with the Silvia / Rocky package resulted in the huge quality differences from shot to shot. I spent countless hours with Whole Latte Love support, and 3 cans of Illy beans, trying to adjust my technique to get consistent results.
With the Silvia / Rocky combination, I found that you had to get the grind setting, quanity of bean, and tamping pressure exactly correct each time or you would get terrible results. You couldn't compensate for a courser grind by applying a heavier tamp. Silvia would simply reject the entire effort and either product no coffee, or terrible coffee. You simply have to get every step exactly correct or the results are undrinkable.
I also found that applying the "golden rule" with Silvia was not always effective. I would often use the correct amount of beans, grind, and tamping pressure, but the resulting 2 oz of coffee was weak and bitter. I found the only way to get "Italian style" creamy espresso was to make less than 2 oz of coffee in about 18 - 20 seconds. Any brewing past 20 seconds resulted in weak, bitter, American style espresso.
Finally, the return period was coming to an end, and I realized that Silvia was driving me insane, and I hadn’t made a “until death do we part” promise to her, so she got returned.
Once it had become apparent that my relationship with Silvia was souring, I ordered a Gaggia Classic and Gaggia MDF from Sur La Table (where you can return anything at anytime for any reason). I had both the Silvia and Gaggia Classic side-by-side for about 2 weeks. I found that while the Silvia occasionally outperformed the Classic, the Classic was much more consistently making very good espresso and cappuccinos. You can read my separate review of the Gaggia Classic on this website.
I have mentioned 3 machines in my review above.
I bought the Gaggia Classic and MDF grinder from Sur La Table's website. They do not sell these items in their stores. Their website had the same price as everyone else, but they also were offering free shipping and a lifetime return policy (anything can be returned at any time for any reason). Sur La Table took 3 weeks to deliver the Gaggia equipment from the time that I ordered it on their website. Sur La Table was a poor online experience as they don't communicate with you at all during the 3 week delay to tell you the status of your order. Also, they accidently charged my credit card for shipping, even though it was supposed to be free. It took 20 minutes with Customer Service to fix this.
I bought the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky grinder from Whole Latte Love. They were much better at customer service and they got me the machine in only a few days. However, they only offer a 1 month return policy (2 year warrenty on parts/labor). I had to pay $35 in shipping fees to return the Silvia / Rocky.
I bought the Starbucks Barista from a local Starbucks shop during their annual sale. They offer a 2 year return / warrenty period. Their telephone support was fantastic and they would simply ship me replacement parts every time something broke. Items can be returned directly to any Starbucks location.