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Solis SL-70 - Ethan Hartman's Review
Posted: April 28, 2007, 11:52am
review rating: 0.0
feedback: (2) comments | read | write
Solis SL-70
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More About This Product
Arrow The Solis SL-70 has 25 Reviews
Arrow The Solis SL-70 has been rated 7.21 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Solis SL-70 reviews have been viewed 116,736 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
MW Madden 9.00
Steve Boothe 8.50
James Schulman 8.50
Fr. John Abraham 8.29
Mike Prince 8.20

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 7.4
Manufacturer: Solis Quality: 7
Average Price: $379.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $350.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: Don't remember Aesthetics 4
Owned for: 1 year Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Gaggia Classic
Bottom Line: Best-in-class steaming makes this unit a compelling value.
Positive Product Points

Possibly the best value in espresso under $1000.  Real espresso and unbelievable steam power.

Negative Product Points

A few flaws out of the box -- pressurized baskets and 53mm size.  And it's ugly compared to the competition.

Detailed Commentary

I've used this machine for a couple lattes every morning for a little more than a year, with the occasional guest coming over.  This machine is legit, and I haven't yet experienced the reliability problems some people mention.

I have, however, come to some conclusions about the machine.  First, and most importantly, the espresso quality is not quite as good as a 58mm machine.  I'd had a sneaking suspicion for awhile, but recently I did a direct comparison, using the same grinder and coffee with a Gaggia Classic.  The espresso with the Classic seemed more expressive of the single-origin Yirgi I was using; the aroma jumped out of the cup and the flavor seemed creamy and balanced.  With the SL70, the coffees always seem dominated by chocolate and roast notes, and the aromas a bit muted.  I think that this may be related to temperature, but the difference was unmistakable.

A couple other minor issues: I had a bit of trouble getting a non-pressurized basket for the machine.  It took a month or so, and that really handicaps the machine.  Also, the pod adapter basket has a tendency to trap water inside it, making the pods even more watery than they need to be.  And yes, it's ugly and plasticky.  A Rancilio or Gaggia looks better on the counter; or a Francis Francis, if you're really into looks over performance.  Also, I really do miss the 3-way solenoid, which I didn't expect to.  The pressure relief really speeds up pulling multiple shots (even just two.)

However, this machine seriously outclasses all the competition in one aspect: steaming power.  It's a night and day kind of difference.  The micro switch kicks on the boiler while steaming and you don't lose power at all.  This is why I bought the machine, and the first time I used it I was amazed, especially coming from the Gaggia, which is frankly underpowered for steaming.  The thing just cranks out the steam, and makes beautiful, latte-art microfoam very easily if you've got the chops.

When you weigh it all out, it's a bit hard to come to conclusions.  This is absolutely the winner if you're a latte/cap drinker.  If you're a total espresso nut, you should probably buy a Gaggia if you're OK with the aluminum boiler, or a Silvia if you want to spend more money.  However, for me, the price point combined with the best-in-class steaming capability sealed the deal.

However, there is one more thing to consider: at some point, I will PID this machine if possible.  At that point, it's a whole new ballgame.

Buying Experience

No problems.  I think it might have been a link from "onsale.com" but I'm not sure.  I believe that all the items ship from Cafe West Distribution, and they do a good job.  I think the item was triple-boxed.

Three Month Followup

I've had this for more than one year, actually, but I recently found out something very important about this machine: most of these machines come from the factory with their over-pressure valves set far too high.  The pump on these units is capable of 19 bar, nearly twice the ideal brewing pressure, and the over-pressure valve would open only rarely before I adjusted it.  It's a necessary adjustment.  For instructions see this thread: Click Here (coffeegeek.com)

One Year Followup

Some people have apparently complained about corrosion or reliability issues with this machine, but, even several years on, I have not encountered any, knock on wood.  I recently had the machine open, and everything was ship-shape; just something to take into account if you're thinking of buying a secondhand unit.

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Posted: April 28, 2007, 11:52am
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