This machine will not be the limiting factor in have great home espresso
Positive Product Points
superior results, well made, utilitarian classic design, performance and value
Negative Product Points
warm up time, wait time for steam, lack of water level indicator
After months of reading review and quizzing friends, I decided, for me, Silvia was the machine to buy. It offered the basic features I needed and most importantly it appeared to offer a level of performance above anything else in its price class.
Someone in my family owns a gaggia classic which I also liked but for me the Silvia delivered better shots.
It took me a while to discover that the machine needs to be on much longer from the time the indicator lights tell you it's ready. You also need to experiment with your grind and tamping. I was amazed how different coffee beans change my shot times. I bought a stainless steel housed small digital timer which can stick to the side of Silvia, It looks fine on the machine and is a help when first learning the intricacies. However once you have everything dialed in, you will have consistantly GREAT shots. Now after reading some of the reviews from the PID installations, I'm somewhat considering that modification. There's some good information and links from some PID sellers in Ebay.
I always pull doubles and use the Marzocco 2 cup filter basket. I bought a solid metal tamper which works far better than the OEM plastic one. Bed Bath and Beyond has some cool glass and wire handle Espresso cups, the top of the wire handle where it curves toward the glass cup is exactly 2 shots. I use this all time instead of 2 shot glasses.
Steaming milk is easy with some practice, the machine will not be the reason you don't have good results.
For a quick cleaning, I pull a shot with the portafilter basket off and a small pitcher under the head, while the machine has been in the steam mode. Make sure that you hold the pitcher so that your hand is away from the steam. This however is not a substitute for a real cleaning. Take the time to run through a cleaning solution and take apart your group head, I also purchased a backflush stopper and was surprised to see the gunk that came out.
I bought the Rancilio base which really enhances the looks and provides storage for accessories.
If I had more counter space and needed to make lattes all the time, I 'd get a double boiler machine to get around the steam wait. But for me the Rancilio Silvia is perfect.