Summary of the five C's
If you're an espresso lover who has decided to buy your own equipment, the first question you probably asked yourself is "How much am I willing to spend?" After some initial investigation, the next question you asked was probably "Does an espresso machine really cost that much?!?" While the cost of quality espresso gear may come as a surprise to the newly initiated, it's worth understanding why it may be worth increasing your budget. For the purpose of the reviews you'll read on HB, the main considerations are the five C's: Capability, Consistency, Convenience, Capacity, and finally Construction.
What initially distinguishes the class of an espresso machine is its basic capability, namely can it brew espresso and steam milk at the same time. Entry-level espresso machines typically have a single boiler that serves as both brew and steam boiler (the so-called "single boiler, dual use" espresso machine); such espresso machines have a switch that controls whether the boiler is brewing (approx. 200°F) or steaming (approx. 255°F). The next class of espresso machines, prosumer or semi-commercial, can brew and steam at the same time for small groups, say 4 to 6 people. Commercial equipment represent the third class of espresso machines; they have the capacity to brew and steam rapidly enough to serve a line of latte/cappuccino/espresso lovers.
Before returning to the Silvano, if you haven't already read it, I recommend skimming How to choose an espresso machine and grinder at the "right" price the better understand the decision criteria underlying this review.
Quickmill Silvano at home
With that brief introduction, we finally reach the requisite "at home" photo:
Quick Mill Silvano evaluation model courtesy of Chris' Coffee Service
The Quick Mill Silvano is well-proportioned for modern kitchens; allow approximately 22" of counterspace for the espresso machine and grinder. If you have extra space, the steam wand extends to the right for conveniently maneuvering it into the milk pitcher, but you can also position the wand forward if space is tight. The Silvano fits easily under standard cupboards with enough clearance for cups. Depth-wise, the Silvano demands very little, requiring a mere 13" for the machine itself and a few more inches for the portafilter handle when in use.
Operationally, the three toggle switches on the right are where the action starts:
- Top switch - three positions are 0 (off), 1 (pump only) and 2 (normal operation). Position 1 is handy for the first-time setup since it powers the pump but not the boiler, assuring that you'll correctly fill the boiler without risk of burning out the heating element. The green light next to it glows when the switch is in position 1 or 2.
- Middle switch - brew switch for the pump. Left = off, right = on. The amber light next to it flickers as the heating element turns on/off. Expect it to be on continuously for a few minutes when the machine first powers up, then blink every few seconds thereafter as the electronic temperature control (PID) operates.
- Bottom switch - steam switch for the thermblock and dedicated steam pump. The Silvano's thermoblock steam unit is unique; I'll cover it in detail later in the review. Left = off, right = on. The amber light glows when the thermoblock is heating. Expect it to turn on for 20-30 seconds after steaming.
Not bad for a second attempt, despite poor photography skills...