I recently went to Tuscany on vacation, and came home to realize what I think I‘ve known for a while; you can only somewhat cover the taste of bad espresso with milk. I was using a Krups 968 pump machine with a Braun blade grinder, and drinking steamed milk with a hint of coffee. (Crema? What‘s crema?)
I just bought a Silvia ($295)and Rocky ($240) from Whole Latte Love (no shipping). Now I can actually drink espresso in my own home, as a stand-alone!
I consider myself one step above novice, so I don‘t have a whole lot of experience with other machines to compare to. In reading the reviews here, I would have to agree with most of what others are saying; the grind from the Rocky is very consistent, especially with the finer settings for espresso. The weight of the machine and the quietness of the motor seem to indicate that it is well built (I haven‘t opened up the casing yet to look at the innards, but from what I‘ve read, the weight is in the burrs and the motor where it should be).
I bought the grinder with the stainless finish to match the Silvia machine. I love the way they look together. They both have a prominent place on the kitchen counter now, where before, the blade grinder had its home in a corner inside one of the cabinets, and the espresso machine was only out because it was too big to put away.
As for the negatives, the first thing I noticed when I set up the Rocky was that the beans weren‘t feeding from the hopper to the burrs. I‘m using Starbucks espresso beans which are fairly oily, but I would think that a machine that‘s strongest feature is the ability to grind for espresso would be able to handle oily beans better. My inclination (from college days with the TV) was to give it a swat on the side, which seemed to work, although when I‘m doing my early morning fix, I can see that being an issue with my happily sleeping spouse (kind of takes away from the advantage of a quiet motor, eh?).
After using this new setup a few days, the second negative has become apparent; the doser. It takes about 2-1/2 doses to fill a double-shot filter. The rest of the grounds end up on the counter. Also, alot of grounds are left in the lower hopper because the carousel inside doesn‘t reach the outer wall of the hopper, which means work cleaning and precious bean in the trash.
The last thing I noticed was that when I tried to fit the portafilter from the Krups machine (I just had to try the old machine with good grounds; the end result was better than I had been getting, but not even close to the Silvia) it wouldn‘t fit. I had to pull the filter basket out of the portafilter and set it on the fork. I don‘t even know how a person could get a basket for a drip grinder in there without taking the machine apart.
Based on the quality level I‘m coming from, these new machines are a quantum leap for me. I‘m sure that for more money, the neusance problems I‘ve listed would go away, although from what I‘ve been reading, the quality of the grind and the end product would not improve significantly, if at all. For the price, I feel like I got a great deal.