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Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
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ethom
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Pittsburgh
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS Oscar, Silvia broken :o(
Grinder: Vario
Drip: Bosch
Posted Sun Nov 25, 2012, 10:59pm
Subject: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

Hi all,
I'm new to the Coffee Geek site and looking for some help from you who are so passionate about coffee and the equipment to make it.
After having decided, after much research, on a new Gaggia Classic on sale in November at $349, I looked at used machines on eBay and in a nighttime fit of excitement, bid on and won a Rancilio Silvia (a V2 from what I can tell).  Many reviews of the Classic referenced the Silvia as the class standard making the extra ~$80 sound worthwhile (at least in my state of enthusiasm at the time).  
Here are my questions:
  1. Which grinder should I pair with the Silvia?  The Gaggia MDF is available for $199 new through November at least and a refurb Rancilio Rocky can be had now for $269.  I'm preferring a doser-less model to grind just what I need making the Rocky look like a better bet.  Plenty of more expensive and better grinders are out there, but will they deliver the value of the added cost?
  2. Should I forego the Silvia, which I know can be fussy, and go straight to an HX machinelike the Expobar Office?  Iím new to high end coffee making (using a DeLonghi pump model with a Braun grinder modified to get the finest grind possible from it), though Iím very familiar with good and great coffee - having the good fortune of a job that has taken me to Europe many times where I gained a taste for great espresso and cappuccino.
    Am I missing other considerations?  Iíve paid for the Silvia, but suppose I could just put it back on eBay and hope to recoup most of the money.
    Many of you have gone through upgrade-itis and while I can be very patient with learning and tweaking, in the end I really want to be able to wake up and pull a good shot without too much trouble.
    I look forward to sharing my experience and continuing to learn from you all.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,479
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Mon Nov 26, 2012, 7:11am
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

HI, welcome to CG.

The grinder is more important than the espresso machine, if you have done a lot of reading here, you will no doubt have read this many times. It is TRUE, the better the grinder, the easier it will be to get good espresso.

Rocky USED to be the value grinder but he has seen better days, today, the Vario offers the good price/value deal. The Precicso is the least most here would say to go with.

The issue of doser or not is an entirely personal one and has NO effect on the quality of the coffee brewed. It is a convience  thing, not a quality of the coffee thing. We have members on both side of the issue. Please do a search on the topic and you will find likely months worth of reading opinions on the topic.

Will higher cost grinders provide better grinding and performance to price value..... YES! In my humble opinion, the curve starts to flatten out at about $750 for new grinders or about $450 for used commercial grinders. From there, you are paying more but the gains are smaller. Commercial grinders are made like brick outhouses and will last in the home for all practical use, a lifetime (yours) consumer grade grinders can grind as well as entry level commercial and sometimes a little above (I refer to the Vario here, not lessor grinders) but there is a lot more plastic in them rather than metal though there is a size factor to think about also, commercial grinders are large, think the size of a Mr Coffee drip coffee maker.

Sylvia can make great espresso BUT like ALL SBDU (Single Boiler Dual Use) machines, the temp can swing wildly over up to 20 or more deg F unless you put a PID on them. Even then, the small boilers just do not have a large volume of heat in reserve to get optimum performance in brewing espresso. HX machines tend to have MUCH larger boilers so there is a much larger volume of hot water and metal to even out the swings. Think Egg to Bowling ball in mass, not a perfect analogy but it gets the idea across.

How you use the machine and how many drinks of what type are made per day, week on a regular basis as well as entertaining need to be taken into account when purchasing an espresso machine. I have had several machines and I currently have 3 commercial espresso machines, a Sylvia with PID that I rebuilt (for work but it goes with me on vacation) a Mypressi and several other brewing methods for coffee.

I tend to pull 4 double shots per day with the occasional steamer for my wife. I would rather warm up my single group commercial machine than the much more efficent power wise Sylvia when brewing at home. I find that the commercial machine is MUCH easier to use and be consistent with. The trade off of power used to result in the cup, makes it worth it to me. YMMV!

Regardless of what machine you buy and use, it will need AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR TO WARM UP! It isn't just the water in the boiler, that heats farily quickly, you need to warm up all the metal pieces of the machine too and that takes time. To this end, a HX machine needs a vacuum breaker to let out the false pressure generated in warm up. Machines such as the Oscar do not have them and thus, in stock form are not good candadates for a timer but a vacuum breaker is EASY to add and then you can use them on a timer no problem. I did this on my Oscar when I had one and it was the best mod I did to it.

Read a LOT, there is a HUGE volume of info here to get through.

Welcome aboard!

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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ethom
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Pittsburgh
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS Oscar, Silvia broken :o(
Grinder: Vario
Drip: Bosch
Posted Mon Nov 26, 2012, 9:36am
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

Thanks for your great reply.  I can tell I'm going to learn a lot here.  

Finding a used commercial grinder seems to be harder than expected.  Other then eBay, are there resources I should try?  

I did find a refurb Preciso at the Baratza site for $239 plus shipping and a used Bunn Precision Grinder from a coffee shop for $300.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,479
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Mon Nov 26, 2012, 9:52am
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

Check out Craigs list, your local restaurant supply houses, used restaurant equipment dealers etc.
You find them where you find them and they are out there but a bit of work on your end is need.
Be patent and it will happen. Time is the key to getting good deals on these things.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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ethom
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Pittsburgh
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS Oscar, Silvia broken :o(
Grinder: Vario
Drip: Bosch
Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012, 8:20pm
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

Thanks for the tips.

Looking for a respectable grinder, I scoured Craigslist, local restaurant supply stores, coffee supply sites, and the web in general.  I did find a Craigslist ad for two Nuova Simoneli grinders from a local, unspecified, coffee shop for $50 (for both!).  But the ad was posted ten days earlier and I'm sure I was too late since I got no reply from E-mail, blank stares from a visit, and forwarding info from a phone call.

I completely agree that time is the key to finding deals, but with the Silvia already shipped I'm feeling some urgency.  Your suggestion of the Baratzas led me to their site where I saw they offer refurbs for about $100 discount with a one year warranty.  I also found some positive reviews and threads around the web, including the CG review.

The Vario or Preciso may have been my choice even with time allowed (short of finding that magical ďyard saleĒ item).  I ordered a refurb Vario.  It looks like a great grinder for the money, although with a more German computer age look rather than that of a romantic old Italian cafť (cue the cigarette smoke and background strings).   But thatís where the time comes in, right?
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morfious
Senior Member
morfious
Joined: 13 Nov 2004
Posts: 251
Location: New Jersey
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia w/ Auber PID
Grinder: Mahlkonig K30 Vario, Innova...
Vac Pot: Only Espresso Please
Drip: Nope
Roaster: None . . . yet
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:15pm
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

As others have said here get the best grinder you can afford.  Or eat ramen noodles for 2 weeks and get something a bit better than you can afford.  A top quality grinder will make getting consistent espresso out of Silvia much easier.

You can also pep up the Silvia as time and cash allows.  Install a PID.  This should be one of the first things you do.  It will make getting consistant results much easier.  No more temp surfing etc.  When you install the PID splurge for the V3 steam knob assembly as well.  Makes much better microfoam and worth the $50-75 in parts.

I used to have an Innova I2 grinder (entry level stepless grinder) and could make very good espresso occasionally on my unmodified Silvia.  Now with my K30 Vario and PID on the Silvia, my bad shots are better then my good shots were with the older equipment.

The few upgrades I have made to my machine have made me not feel the need to upgrade for over 5 years.  Enjoy your equipment.  Silvia will yield you very good results, if you treat her with respect.
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ethom
Senior Member


Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 65
Location: Pittsburgh
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS Oscar, Silvia broken :o(
Grinder: Vario
Drip: Bosch
Posted Tue Dec 4, 2012, 11:05pm
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and advice.  The much awaited refurbished Vario arrived today.  Woopee!   Though, sadly I think I blew a thermostat on its partner, Silvia, this morning (but thatís another thread).

Like Christmas, I unpacked the Vario to get a good look at it.  Well packaged in nested boxes, I found a user manual stuck to one.  But it was for a Vario-W, while I bought a "regular" Vario 885.  Did they send the wrong machine?  

Digging deeper, I saw the grinder was the correct model.  The refurb process must have a bug to work out; Oh well, I can get a manual online (and actually already had), so no big deal.  While assembling the few parts, though, I couldnít locate the fork for the portaholder, which holds the portafilter like a doserless machine.  With all these boxes, the fork part must be here somewhere.  But no, it was missing.  Maybe it was left sitting on a bench alongside a Vario user manual.  

I wrote a message to Baratza letting them know of my findings, as much to allow them to fix whatever is not working on their end as to get the missing part.  I hit send and gathered the grinder to take to the coffee stand for the morning.  Thatís when I noticed that the grounds bin, which I would need to use in lieu of the incapable portaholder, fit rather sloppily.  It seemed strange for a precision machine to have such poor fit.  Wait, with the faulty packing, could the bin be a wrong part?  Looking at pictures on both manualsí covers, it was clear that the Vario and Vario-W use different grounds bins.  And I had one for the W model.

I quickly resent my message adding the new discovery and repeating my disappointment, especially after reading such good things about the company.  To Baratzaís credit, Kyra replied within about 30  minutes, commiserating with my dissatisfaction, swearing to find out what had gone wrong, and promising to send the parts out first thing in the morning.   She also offered a trinket to help cement the apology.

I lead a production process myself, understand how easily things can go wrong, and know how much work and oversight it takes to get common tasks done right consistently.  In the end, the immediate response and promise to make it right as quickly as possible is all anyone could ask for.  

I havenít flipped the switch yet; thatís for the morning.  If you have any suggestions for getting the Vario up and running, Iím all ears.  It seems Iíve been having a streak of bad luck with this expanding venture into fine espresso and will gladly accept all the guidance you can give.
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IMAWriter
Senior Member
IMAWriter
Joined: 4 Jul 2002
Posts: 5,692
Location: Brentwood, TN
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega
Grinder: Forte, Preciso/Esatto, KyM...
Vac Pot: Adcraft SS, Yama 8 cup
Drip: Brazen, Kalita, Chemex,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600, CO/UFO combo
Posted Wed Dec 5, 2012, 12:08am
Subject: Re: Just "won" a Silvia; need advice on a grinder (and then some)
 

ethom Said:

Thanks for your great reply.  I can tell I'm going to learn a lot here.  

Finding a used commercial grinder seems to be harder than expected.  Other then eBay, are there resources I should try?  

I did find a refurb Preciso at the Baratza site for $239 plus shipping and a used Bunn Precision Grinder from a coffee shop for $300.

Posted November 26, 2012 link

That is a great price for the Preciso. I own one, and am very pleased. The bonus is that a lot of folks feel the Press pot grind from the Preciso ius actually superior to that of the Vario.
The espresso grind from the Preciso is excellent. The conical burrs produce a grind that, with certain beens emphasize the fruitier aspects of th coffee.
The more expensive Vario has much more adjustability, and it's flat burrs produce a grind similar to the Mazzer SJ, which emphasizes the lower tones (caramels and cocoa tones.) I have both grinders.
Hard to beat that Preciso for bang for the buck, especially at that price.
The SJ Im mentioned is a commercial style grinder, MUCH larger, a tank, does a great job, and can be had for around $400 used. You'll prolly need new burrs, about $50.
I owned 2 SJ's. Disadvantages in the home are that it can waste a lot more coffee, has a large...LARGE presence, and does ONLY espresso grind.

As regards machine, if the Silvia is in good shape, why not work with her a while, get your "chops' up to snuff, then upgrade once you've found your "dream machine?"

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
My Music Production web site:
www.robertjason.com
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