Hi espresso lovers! Anyone out there stuck with a Starbucks habit that is costing them thousands of dollars a year?
Perhaps now would be a good time to reconsider handing small fortunes over to the big coffee chains and saving yourself some serious cash, while also doing yourself the huge favor of learning the appreciable skill of brewing espresso at home with the help of an espresso machine like the Rancilio Silvia.
Yes, the Silvia could very well be a game-changer for you if you’ve never had a machine like this in your home. Many consider this to be the love-at-first-brew espresso maker where you won’t be needing another one for at least one more lifetime.
The Silvia by Rancilio is a quality, semi-automatic, entry-level espresso maker for the home which is widely considered to be a capable, long-lasting and durable machine, right up there with the Gaggia Classic, another quality espresso machine designed in Italy. The two units have often been compared, and we will in fact be mentioning the Gaggia Classic a number of times in this review, since they are highly comparable machines.
That said, there is plenty to discuss with the unique Rancilio Silvia and it will be the main focus of our review. For starters, the outside casing of the Sylvia is always made from brushed stainless steel, and we think it looks very elegant.
Rancilio built this machine to be top-quality from the get-go, using internal parts made from copper, steel, and parts like they use in their commercial machines.
With the Rancilio Silvia, you can pull up to eight shots a day without any problem whatsoever, as many users report, and this practice can go on for years. This is truly a professional machine. Many buyers report having been with the Silvia for up to a decade, and that’s longer than most romances these days.
Here is a video showing the Rancilio Silvia in action, doing what it does best – pulling shots!
The Silvia has a history and a reputation in the coffee biz, and is seen by coffee geeks as a true classic.
Rancilio, the Italian company who proudly makes the Silvia, has made many classic pieces of coffee equipment including the Rancilio Rocky coffee grinder (read our review of the Rocky here). Rancilio has always managed to out-do each new model of the Silvia so that it is better than the last.
The boiler of the Silvia is an internally heated, brass, 12 oz capacity 952 watt unit.
On this latest version of the Rancilio Silvia, what they have done differently is they have changed the boiler slightly.
If you look at the inside the boiler, the new boiler Rancilio uses has a different heating element than the old boiler, which had a copper heating element, while the new Silvia boiler is made from stainless steel.
This boiler is actually great for steaming milk-based beverages back to back.
With both new boiler and boilers from previous models, the actual body is always made from copper. As the new boiler internals are made from stainless steel, this is a distinct advantage of this unit over its predecessor as it makes it more impervious to burning out.
The boiler is an important piece of gear for this machine, and the boiler itself costs several hundred dollars on its own, but one of the perks with the new Silvia boiler unit is that you take the heating element out and replace only that if need be, saving the body of the boiler itself.
3-Way Solenoid Valve
This machine also has a three way solenoid valve which takes the excess pressure and moisture off after you put your shot.
This makes it easier to get the dry coffee puck out of the porta-filter, which is handy, and it also reduces stress on other mechanical parts of the unit.
Underneath the drip tray, if you reach under you can feel the solenoid valve located there.
Here is a video showing a look inside the Silvia as it gets repaired.
In terms of a potential drawback, we think that the drip tray could stand to be bigger, but that would mean changing the dimensions of the model itself. As it is, many would argue the Silvia is a convenient, compact size, making this is a small complaint overall.
Over the years the hole patterns in the grates have changed. Also, the handle in the porta filter changed slightly, and wouldn’t you know – the knob has changed too! None of this is bad news though, and we are fans of the current design.
Currently, the Silvia uses a commercial size / weight 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter, just like the Gaggia Classic (there we go mentioning it again). The Silvia has a thermally stable brass group-head as well, which is another key reason why this machine is superior to its competition.
Rancilio Silvia VS Gaggia Classic
One thing the Rancilio Sylvia lacks that the Gaggia Classic has is a visible water level indicator, which would have been nice to see on this model.
The Gaggia classic also has the advantage of being cheaper than the Silvia. (Click here to read our Gaggia Classic review)
The Gaggia Classic can also use ESE coffee pods out of the box, meaning you don’t need to own a grinder with the Gaggia Classic unless you want to use one; you can just use the pre-ground pods.
That said, we always recommend a good burr grinder, as that’s where a lot of the mystery and really the quality comes from when it comes to the taste.
In the past the steaming wand only used to move left and right but now with the current model of the Rancilio Silvia, the steaming wand can articulate in all directions which is an excellent feature.
Another key feature is the commercial grade single-hole steam wand, which does require some practice to use well, but ultimately the results you get from it will be amazing.
Because this is a single boiler machine you’ll want to do one thing at a time whether that’s brewing or steaming. Brewing is done at around 200° and while steaming is done in about 280°. Remember to purge the water in the line first and wait until it turns steam. At this point you will be ready to begin steaming.
Despite being a single boiler unit the Rancilio Silvia is a powerful machine that can easily steam anything. Getting a good foam going with your steam wand isn’t hard, but you need some good technique to do it right. Since this is not an anti-burn steam arm make sure you wipe it off right away.
Laser Film – It’s Not Paint
Some people think that the drip tray when they buy it has a layer of paint on it, but this is just a laser film that you should away can peel away to reveal the actual metal drip tray underneath, which is made from nice polished stainless steel. The lid also has a laser film on its so watch out for that.
On the actual laser film, you will find that it actually contains useful information on how to use the Rancilio Silvia.
Also included in the package for the Rancilio Silvia is a plastic tamper. This is something which you might want to upgrade though, since we never recommend sticking to those cheap plastic tampers. This unit comes with a scoop as well.
Latest Rancilio Silvia Manual Improved
The manual for this espresso machine has been constantly improved over the years so that this edition is probably the best one.
Also included is a certification written in Italian and which indicates that the unit has been tested and it is ready to produce some excellent quality espresso.
The Rocky Makes A Great Companion To The Silvia
This machine is an excellent companion to the Rancilio Rocky coffee grinder, which we mentioned at the beginning of this review, which is available now and which some say is the best grinder out there, although it is by no means cheap in any way.
Click here to read our detailed review of the Rancilio Rocky, and you should see why people are calling this one of the best burr grinders available today.
The Rancilio Silvia and the Rocky coffee grinder have the same design and look great next to each other on your kitchen counter.
It is a price-y pair, but in many was you could say its the ultimate tag-team of grinder and espresso machine.
To wrap things up here, we think that the Silvia is going to be the only espresso machine you’ll be needing for many years to come. The price tag is high, but you definitely get what you pay for
On top of that, not only is it durable and can stand the test of time, many would say it brews the best espresso. This really is an outstanding until and we highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get into home brewing. 5 STARS!