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Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

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  • Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

    Hi guys,

    A few months ago Robusto posted Silvia eye cast over Sunbeam. This is in many respects my own version, but coupled with a little practical experience. Its not intended to be an in-depth comparison of the two machines but going through the normal operations does lend itself to comparison with ones personal experiences here and there.

    Since I started at Epic Ive seen the 6910s they use for the Sunbeam training sitting out the back, and last weekend I had the opportunity to use one at a friends place. Im a Silvia owner so I was interested to see how it stacked up compared to what Im used to.

    Aesthetically, my impressions have always been that the Sunbeam is an impressive machine. It looks sturdy, the group area has a big surround around it which heats up quite quickly, it has separate knobs for the separate hot water and steam wands, both of which are ball-jointed and noticeably thicker than Silvias, it has a brew pressure gauge which the Silvia also lacks (albeit with no numeric scale), the portafilter is unoffensive though not as solid as Silvias and the baskets are big and without any curious profiles. I also liked the visible water tank level.

    So I was very much looking forward to giving the machine a workout when I stopped at my friends place (the machine it should be noted was still on the factory settings, but this is probably the fairest way to evaluate a factory machine). When you start the brew pump you get a few pulses of the pump which squirts a bit of water from the group, which is their version of pre-infusion (not great but better than nothing), and the volumetric pump takes care of the rest. Or you can run it in full manual mode.

    I then moved to the impressive steam wand, still feeling like it was a decent machine. Opened the knob to bleed the wand expecting the flood of steam Im used to from Silvia, and ... nothing. Then a sound which was horribly reminiscent of a $150 Breville - dnk ... dnk ... dnk ... dnk as water was pulsed into the steam thermoblock. There seemed to be a microswitch on the knob which clicked to engage the pump - obviously trying to give a boiler full of steam feel by having the knob, but unfortunately without the boiler full of steam. The steam which eventually came out was fairly dry but the volume was atrocious! I stretched all the way to 65 degrees with a reasonable whirlpool and still only got just passable latte milk. The volume didnt feel that much more, if any more, than what Ive experienced with other thermoblock machines in the past. The knob may as well have been a switch, as flat out isnt nearly enough. The same happened with the hot water knob and the start of the brew cycle - dnk dnk dnk dnk.

    So that side of the machine was a thorough disappointment - it felt like popping the bonnet of a Ferrari and finding a lawnmower engine inside.

    Interestingly my friend pointed out that some rust had started appearing on his machine, not the first report Ive heard of this. He showed that a magnet would stick to the side and front stainless panels but not to the jug. This indicates a high component of ferrous metal in the supposedly stainless steel panels, and he also noted that the undersides of all panels including the drip tray were polished surfaces. This means polished is the normal finish for this rust-prone stuff and the brushed finish simply provides more areas for water to collect and start eating it away. Tried the magnet on the Silvia and it dropped straight off, indicating true stainless panels.


    So my thoughts? It certainly has potential; there are some things I prefer to the Silvia, particularly the thick ball-jointed steam wand, the espresso quality was good and I reckon itll take larger cups under the group. But there are some areas where corners have been cut, and it shows - as far as assembly materials and performance goes (especially on steam), the Silvia is streets ahead. The Sunbeam looks more modern than the Silvia in its aesthetics, i.e. having some shape and not just a rectangular box, but the Silvia would in my mind be more the no-fuss workhorse.

    The Silvia fits into a well-established niche in the market - it makes no pretentions about what it can do. It claims to be a commercial quality single boiler machine and its exactly that. The Sunbeam is not as simple. For $600, the features it sports are normally seen on machines three times its price, so its a bargain for the features, but it doesnt execute those features nearly as well, though nor should it be expected to. The Silvias been around for a long time, Id guess it was designed in the early 90s, and Rancilio could do with giving it more of an overhaul than just a new drip tray pattern, e.g. visible water tank level, improved steam arm and a steam wand that doesnt drip.

    All up, I still think the Silvias the winner, but only because the Silvia will give you a better chance of producing commercial quality drinks than the Sunbeam, particularly when it comes to milk texturing. It may take a bit longer, but at least it can be done. Personally Id rather pay $700 for a Silvia and get a HX later, than try to get one machine to do both, but not quite achieve either.

    Final note: Everyone has their own priorities, so there is no one perfect machine. These are just the observations which led me to ultimately form my personal opinion.

  • #2
    Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

    Thats quite a well-rounded, thorough and objective review, Greg. Unlike me, youve used both to do your evaluation.

    Ive seen but have never used the Sunbeam.

    However, I nonetheles had formed my opinions, and your post has confirmed my suspicions and doubts.

    -Robusto

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

      Greg did you use the default steam settings or was it cranked up using the programmable features of the 6910?

      There is another thread describing this tweak and the improvement it makes.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

        Originally posted by barri link=1176805558/0#2 date=1176807229
        Greg did you use the default steam settings or was it cranked up using the programmable features of the 6910?
        In the opening post I mentioned "the machine it should be noted was still on the factory settings, but this is probably the fairest way to evaluate a factory machine." I realise it can be tweaked, but so can the Silvia, albeit not as easily.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

          Hi Greg - I cant leave this alone. The fairest way of comparing the machines is to crank up the steam as per many on this forum. It is not a tweak as such because the machine is programmable. I dare say starting off with weak steam is not a bad way to learn and then to progress from there. To use the Ferrari analogy, a number of high performance motor vehicles have a valet swith which allows users of the vehicle to access only half power or therabouts. In effect the factory setting is valet mode - not necessarily for any particular purpose though. Please go back and program the steam for full power and then test again...you will be surprised with the difference. My steaming times posted on this site prove the speed and others have remarked at how well it steams when turned up - for eg Wushoes who had a Silvia before and was dissapointed with the steaming on the EM6910 before he adjusted it up.

          If the machine had a manual knob allowing only half steam power or full, you would have turned it up to full, so why not use the electronic version which takes 5 seconds to program and crank it up. The steam can be made wetter or dryer also.

          I would respect your opinion on the difference between the 2 machines steaming power once you test the two with the Ems choke/restrictor removed. For now, with respect the test is simply not fair, nor a proper representation of what the machine can do out of the box.

          Look forward to the next installment.

          Oz

          PS. I dont think that rust has been a problem with the EM with the only person who has noted it from memory was someone who put it in an office where commercial cleaners had access to the machine....there was no definitive answer to all that. I dont know anyone else with the problem.

          As to built quality, the Silvia has to have somthing on the EM for the price difference

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

            ...its not a tweak Greg - please see above

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

              Ozscott,

              No worries will give that a try. I take your point about the definition of a mod, its just a pity they didnt have that as the default setting so people who may not be bothered to change it could get the full benefit on offer.

              Time will tell regarding the rust on the stainless steel, but my concerns arent allayed by its magnetic qualities. This quality in itself suggests its a cheaper ferritic or martensitic stainless steel with a lower nickel content and lower corrosion resistance (400 grade), rather than an austenitic grade in the 300 range, such as 304.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                Mate - your are the metalurgy specialist. I have no doubt that you are right about the quality issue of the steel...but in the end once the steam is cranked up there is no wait time between pulling shots and you can steam jug after jug...so your getting almost a HX for a fraction...somthing has to miss out. Its probably long term service/finish, although it would have to be a bit abused to rust up generally speaking I would have thought, but again I would be guided by you about those matters Greg.

                Cheers

                PS. First time the steam is used in a session a purge of 20-30 seconds really gets is going hard. After that you can do jug after jug etc

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                  steam temp to max...pump to recovery to -.2

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                    Hardly! My friend suggested that and I confirmed it on http://www.azom.com/details.asp?ArticleID=470 (thanks Google!)

                    As you say, time will tell on that. As I mentioned at the conclusion of my article, Im not saying the Sunbeams no good - at that price its hard to beat with its features. Its just that my feelings are, as a Silvia owner, there are a few areas that really let it down that should be understood before people presume they do the same quality stuff but the Sunbeam does more of it.

                    Anecdotally, several other very well-trained Sunbeam users who will remain nameless find the steam even when tweaked a letdown on this machine in comparison to a Silvia, which is in turn dismal compared to top commercial machines. Its hard to give a fair relative rating of the steam on x machine compared to y machine when one has only used x. Its a good exercise if you have the opportunity to use the machines everyones discussing, and Id certainly be interested for someone else who has used the Sunbeam (modded and unmodded) AND the Silvia to offer their comparative opinion.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                      Yep - that why I said I would respect your opinion once you test with the steam turned up - I dont have a Silvia to test against, and youve been around machines much more than I, I would have thought.

                      Cheers

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                        Ill see what I can do....

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                          yeah dont drag me in to it ozscott...no offence mate. Agree with Greg re: steam. Even tweaked it still shits me. Very wet and hard to control.

                          Nice write up Greg.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                            I think the flow of steam from my Sunny compared to my Giotto is like comparing a dinghy to The World

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Silvia eye and hand cast over Sunbeam EM6910

                              I also cant get over the noise of the thing. Gregs description of "dnk...dnk...dnk...dnk." sums it up well enough for me! The Silvia makes a far more pleasant noise when brewing and I cant hear anything except for the sound of the steam when steaming!

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