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Solis SL-90 - Marco Anglesio's Review
Posted: June 19, 2006, 3:43pm
review rating: 0.0
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Solis SL-90
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More About This Product
Arrow The Solis SL-90 has 26 Reviews
Arrow The Solis SL-90 has been rated 7.98 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Solis SL-90 reviews have been viewed 111,397 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Rick Waits 9.50
Rohan Durrant 9.50
Rob Novak 7.87
Mark Thacker 7.66
Mark Prince 7.63

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.6
Manufacturer: Solis/Saeco Quality: 7
Average Price: $449.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $160.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: EBay (Cafe West) Aesthetics 9
Owned for: 2 months Overall 8
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: Krups 2300+
Bottom Line: A reliable source of good-to-excellent espresso.
Positive Product Points

Very good looking machine (I have the newly released white-silver colour scheme, which I believe to be better than the older black-silver one), great fit&finish.
The quality and intensity of the espresso are excellent.
Substantial machine. It's bigger and heavier than it looks.
Extremely good prices ($160 including shipping) can be found on eBay

Negative Product Points

The water tank hose came loose during shipping and it's hard to figure out how to disassemble the machine and reconnect it.
Solis pressurized filter much more finicky with respect to grind and tamp than Krups or DeLonghi pressurized filters.
Built-in tamper well-nigh useless.

Detailed Commentary

I was originally looking for a Gaggia Espresso/Coffee or an Innova/Ascaso Arc when I bought this machine. On the other hand, my bids on both of those easily got blown out of the water, but late at night I managed to win the auction on the SL90 for a price I could afford without squandering my savings.

Original impressions are that it's a very handsome, visually attractive machine, perhaps a bit "gadgety" on the faceplade, but definitely a european modernist design.  You might be a little cool to it if you're not into modern design and prefer a more classic-looking machine.  

The espresso (I usually drink straight espresso, only occasionally cappucino) has a much darker, more stripey crema, as opposed to the light tan produced by the Krups and by Saeco/Starbucks machines. The SL90's pressurized filter won't produce good crema out of mediocre beans (or, at least, I couldn't get it to), unlike, for example, my old Krups machine, or a Saeco/Starbucks machine, and the espresso is more than properly intense to my tastebuds. Maybe it's because I'm using the better beans, of course.

The grind I used for my old Krups machine was far too coarse for the SL90. I've since moved my capresso infinity grinder two stops finer and it appears to be more or less dialed in. Playing with the flowmeter also takes a little time. Unlike many SL90 owners here I don't keep it in manual mode, but prefer a "4" or "5" setting for single shots. The extensive dialling in (extensive for me, at least) docks a point for usability. Now that it's set up, I find it difficult to see how it could possibly be easier.

As for the "god shot", well, no. I do occasionally pour with a shot glass rather than a conventional thick-walled demitasse cup, and you do get a guinness effect, but you don't get scads and scads of crema. What you do get is a decent amount and quite reliably. I plan to pick up the non-pressurized filter basket from QCS in Burnaby, BC, and I'll see what difference that makes, but I'm not hyper-motivated to do so because I'm not sure how much better *I* could do.

I suppose that this could be a good choice for an espressophile. I'm not personally averse to throwing a bad shot down the sink. I think that many espressophiles would disqualify it on aesthetic grounds (53mm portafilter, electronic controls, lack of 3-way solenoid, pressurized standard filter basket...). It's more a machine for someone who loves espresso but doesn't want to worry themselves to death over it. (And here endeth my editorial comment in defense of the SL90. Flame away.)

Pucks are reasonably dry once the pressure abates, but you can get a powerful espresso sneeze if you open the portafilter too quickly. Not quite as good as a 3-way solenoid, much better than many 2-way.

My tea-drinking girlfriend appreciates the hot water flow; I even make my occasional morning oatmeal with the hot water tap. The steam is amazing, which makes it a pity that I don't use it more often.

This machine will at the very least slow my upgrade fever. I'm not sure what a new machine could offer me, even without paying a big upgrade premium.

All in all, recommended. Doubly so for the price.

Buying Experience

Ebay. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. This time (The Coffee Doctor, otherwise known as Cafe West, the new North American Solis distributor), very good. Maybe a little slow responding to email. Excellent packing and shipping. And damn cheap for a nearly-new, flawless machine. It tops cost-value for this reason.

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Posted: June 19, 2006, 3:43pm
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