bccy super-pal jim p. of 1st-line and i had a little correspondence about silvia's brew 'stat this morning. one thing he told me was extremely interesting -- that the life of this tiny device is factory-rated at 2-4 years.
and yet i got nearly 7 out of it! so i guess i either take good care of silvia, or i got really lucky one day with the italian workman who built her at the rancilio factory outside of milan in jan. 2000.
one of the things i like about rancilio -- besides the reliability of their machines! -- is that they are a family company. they are still run by members of the rancilio family, even as the company has grown into a global concern.
(silvia rancilio, the daughter after whom this little machine was named, still participates in running the company. i've been told that like many northern italian ladies, she is lovely, private, and family-oriented, but obviously i've never met her.)
this matters to me, i guess, because family companies are an italian tradition, which is appealing, but also because i think that the family will care more since it's their name on every machine. rancilio doesn't allow factory tours, but i have often thought of writing them with a letter to give to the person who hand-built my silvia; as i understand it, they are still largely hand-made things.
my silvia, who as long-time readers remember was featured in the new york times, and who has sat in my kitchen for years as a member of my own family was built by a real human being, not some japanese assembly-line robot. i often wonder who that person was; if they know how much i enjoy what they built.
i have to say that i don't know as much about carlos expobar. he was built in valencia in april 2003, i believe, but that's the end of my knowledge.
expobar's slow-loading and nearly content-free website just doesn't offer me much insight into who they are, which is a pity. but carlos is an excellent value machine and runs rock-solid without effort -- plus never underestimate the value of his self-backflush, which is an awesome, awesome feature.
devoted readers remember that i adjusted the p-stat on carlos to set it at the inei model for espresso. the italian standards differ from what we are used to in "third wave" shops in subtle but important ways, such as temperature in the cup.
as a result, coffee from silvia is noticeably different than from carlos, esp. in the same blend, such as the batdorf dancing goats. my husband loves that coffee, and i like it too.
it tastes lovely when properly made, is easy to work with, not too finicky, brews well in a rather wide temperature band, all that. in contrast, some famous espressi are quite hard to dial in, require an exact temperature for good results, or are best in a quite limited age range.
after a couple of years now drinking between the machines, i may happen to prefer the strict italian style in most coffees. but again, not all the american espresso blends i am privileged to sample are designed to work in this model.
it may actually be easier to produce a good espresso on carlos than on silvia, all things considered. that's not to say the learning curve on either machine for a newbie isn't steep, but that carlos is less picky about the grind.
on the other hand at his temperature, less-than-really-fresh coffee screams its age in the cup, i find. . .