The Rancilio Silvia espresso machine is a beautiful piece of brewing equipment. The espresso we produced with it has been far superior, never sour or bitter if you use the right amount of coffee and tamp it properly, with the ability to make microfoam.
We also love its heaviness, good looks, quiet operation and metal steam wand. If you want great espresso and a reliable machine, you can’t go wrong with the Silvia, although it does take a bit of time to learn the proper technique; you’ll be very happy soon enough though.
Do note that although the Rancilio Silvia is an excellent machine, you will only get the results you are looking for at home if you invest in a burr grinder of at least the Rancilio Rocky or Gaggia MDF quality, and grind right before brewing and use beans roasted within weeks. The pump puts out a solid 9 bar, which means most grinders cannot get the coffee fine enough. A burr grinder of that quality is the only way to go. This makes the grounds fine enough and a shot will take about 20 seconds to make; any less time for a shot and it means that your coffee is too coarse.
Furthermore, you need to use high quality, fresh beans (1-3 weeks from roast – optimally more like a week or two, but we know this is not realistic for many) to make the perfect espresso with the Rancilio Silvia. You will be disappointed if you use old beans or especially, pre-ground espresso. This will result in no crema, and flat tasting espresso. Note that the vast majority of vacuum-sealed beans you find at the local supermarket or cafés (Starbucks/etc) are many months old. While they may work okay for a couple days, they will go stale very quickly. There are plenty of great places to order fresh whole bean espresso from and we highly recommend that you do so.
The Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is all stainless steel and cast iron which gives it a very polished finish. It has a 3-way solenoid, which is exactly what you need in high end coffee machines. The 3-way solenoid lets pressure escape from the basket when you switch off the pump so that the coffee grounds fall out of the portafilter handle in a solid little disk instead of a soupy mess.
The Rancilio Silva Espresso machine also features a patented ergonomic 58mm porta filter for superb extraction, which are the same porta filters used on Rancilio commercial machines. The single boiler of the Silvia has the largest volume capacity of any home machine in its class – holding 0.3 litres (12oz) this chrome plated brass boiler produces a lot of steaming power and remarkable recovery time between shots. The two quart water reservoir can also be removed or filled from the top any time during the operation, which we found particularly useful.
Furthermore, the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine features an articulating stainless steel steam wand that allows for a complete range of motion for steaming perfect latte quality milk. You can also control the steaming power with a steam knob, which is really useful during the process. The Rancilio Silvia also comes with a 7 gram coffee scoop, a plastic tamper and two filter baskets (single and double).
We know that it takes practice and patience to become competent with this step up, which is why we also recommend getting a digital precision scale which allows you to weigh the exact amount of beans before putting them in the grinder. This takes care of the dosing variable, and the only thing you need to adjust is the grinder – either courser or finer – depending on the coffee age and type, etc.
Once you have mastered the technique to making consistent espresso and milk frothing using 3 or 4 day old great quality home roasted coffee, you will know that you have discovered one of life’s best kept secrets.
A helpful tip before using the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine is to understand how to use silvia temperature surfing to manually control the brewing temperature. Temperature surfing involves brewing at the best temperature possible on the machine due to the 15 to 20 degrees variant between the coolest point and the warmest point for brewing in the boiler.
To counteract this, you need to “trick” the boiler to turn on and bring it up to the highest temperature for boiling. To do this, you need to make cold water come to the reservoir into the boiler, thereafter which you will see the boiler light turn on. After 30 seconds when the light goes out, the boiler is at the optimum temperature and you can start brewing that perfect cup of espresso.
The Rancilio Silva Espresso machine is a popular traditional style semi-automatic espresso machine that is built to last for a long time. Overall it is a beautiful machine constructed on a linear iron frame and stainless steel side panels designed to blend into the kitchen surroundings with its modern polished finish. You will also need nothing short of a great coffee grinder and great coffee beans to use this espresso machine.
Finally, we would add that although there is a learning curve on using this machine, you will soon discover that in perfecting your coffee brewing skills and going through the motions, achieving the perfect cup of espresso is all worth the effort. If you are serious about making the best coffee at home, we thoroughly recommend getting the Rancilio Silvia. Happy brewing!
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