Great value, convenient, easy to use, just push a button for good espresso to great Cafe' Cremas. Not for espresso purists, but more than adequate beating most across the counter shots!
Positive Product Points
A great machine for super convenient "the machine does it all" very good espresso to cafe' crema style coffee. Ok, you get to drink it! Fantastic for entertaining or small office. Low intimidation factor for new users. Show 'em once, let 'em at it.
Also great for I'm not awake yet, just press the button.
Don't have to brew a full 'pot' for a decent brew. Could be great for single coffee drinker household. The rest of a 'pot' isn't sitting there burning up or getting cold or getting stale in a thermos. There is no rest of the pot!
Want a weaker 8oz single dose cup for your friend who's not used to real coffee? Turn the dial and press the button for a single cup. Want your cup stronger 5oz per dose coffee. Turn the dial back and press the button. You get the idea. Simple and flexible.
Brew size selected is consistent pull after pull for selected volume.
Negative Product Points
Big & plastic, but I understand the necessity for keeping the cost down. Stainless steel costs way more than plastic! Does not look cheap though, in my opinion.
First 'cup', ie dose, mostly from previous grind/bean. When making a grind or bean change should dump 1 or 2 doses if you want it just right. Manual states it takes about 3 to 4 'cups' before a change fully takes effect.
Lacks a doser by-pass. Ie, grind your own to by-pass beans in hopper. However, according to Baratza a new model is in the works, maybe a year away, with the doser by-pass feature.
There's no way to clean the bottom end of the grinder without taking the machine apart. Per manual it's 'self-cleaning'. Discussed with Baratza. Which means new grind pushes out old grind. They didn't want me to take apart the eval' unit to see exactly how much grind hang there was. A warranty thing! They did fax me the complete schematics including wiring and parts blow-ups for review.
Brew size selected is inaccurate, doesn't take into account 'puck suck'. In other words, 10 1oz pulls by volume dial yields 7oz total brewed not 10oz. 9oz on dial yields 7.9oz beverage. No biggy though, adjust dial accordingly, it is consistent.
Can't pull a true double shot. 2 dose equals two single pulls back to back.
If you're coffee style is primarily one bean at a time and you value convenience over ultimate 'potential' perfection, this could just be the unit for you.
Bean hopper holds about 2/3# roast, 300gr per manual. Water tank holds 1.8l or about 1/2 gallon give or take. Puck discharge holder holds 15+ waste pucks. Amble size drip tray, only had to empty ever 2 or 3 tanks.
This machine excels in the double long lungo (2 to 2.5oz single dose pull) to strong coffee range. Cafe' Suisse / Cafe' Crema beverage range. Not surprising, made in Switzerland where research indicates Cafes serve Cafe' Suisse / Cafe' Crema style beverages not Italian espresso strength.
It makes good ristretto, espresso, and lungo. Beats 98.3287691% of the across the counter shots I've encountered. Of course, fresh home roast helps hugely! The crema produced is enhanced and not quite as plentiful, thick or long lasting as I can produce with Miss Silvia. No real surprise. You can only control grind not tamp, SM5k does the rest. SM5k produced about 70-80% crema compared to 90% with Miss Silvia. (2 to 3 day rest home roast 100% arabica, I don't do robusta.)
As you increase shot volume, crema decreases as expected. A 5oz pull by volume, Cafe' Crema, yields 4.5oz beverage with about 60% initial crema quickly settling to a nice layer. Max volume setting, above 9oz, yields 8.9oz beverage that's rather weak to my taste with almost no crema, duh. 9oz water through single dose (about 7gr) would be weak any brewing method!
I had some fellow home roasters and non home roaster coffee fiends over to evaluate the SM5k on their own. I roasted up 9 different 1/2# finished batches ranging from a 3 diff' Kona, Brazil, Columbian, Uganda, Timor, Australian, Galapagos Island for play. All labeled in separate jars sitting next to the SM5k. Roasted 3 days in advance. Showed 'em the basics once, left manual out for perusal, let 'em at it! One fantastic unit for entertaining. I didn't have to pull the shots. I could focus on the Luau bbq finishing touchs. I did get pulled in to do some Miss Silvia - SM5k comparisons. That, and a non coffee fiend friend asked for a Milky Way! (After Miss Silvia and I made it for her, using one of my preferred espresso shots of home Vienna roasted Daugherty's Estate Kona, she asked what time I opened in the morning. <gr>) The before Luau White Chocolate Kona Mocha freezes I made were a big hit too. Point is, I could make specialty drinks and attend to 'Q' while others brewed their own, as they wanted it, simpy by setting the volume dial and pushing the button on the Solis Master 5000. Even adjust the grind a bit finer for playing with espresso shots rather the Cafe' Crema range.
If our kitchen was bigger (and coffee toy budget bigger! <gr>) I'd love to have both Miss Silvia and the Solis Master 5000. No, I won't be replacing Miss Silvia. I firmly believe she can do any brew the SM5k can do. She can do some the SM5k can't (true double shot) and can do some better, IMO, specifically in the stratospheric espresso search for perfection. But, if only I could have both.
Did I mention convenience? Well, I make a beverage 2 to 3 times a week. A 64oz (yes 1/2 gallon) White Chocolate Kona Mocha that I put in 3 Sobe' bottles and chill. It's my 'road warrior' don't leave home without it bev'. I use 5 double espresso shots with Miss Silvia as the base. I've made it three times now pushing the button 11 times on the Solis. (first shot dumped for grind clear, dumped in my mouth for a 'Monkey' cup!) Time it takes equal. I can pull 5 doubles with Miss Silvia in the same length of time it takes the SM5k to pull 11. Finished product virtually identical in taste. Let's see, about a 7-10 minute non-stop 'Barista Dance' with Miss Silvia or push the button 11 times on the Solis Master 5000? If I had both I'd always make it with the SM5k. (After that statement I just hope the Rancilio Family isn't too well 'connected' if you know what I mean. Miss Silvia is spitting daggers!)