Rancilio - I'd be willing to bet that the majority of CoffeeGeek readers know the name, and the most famous machine from the company, the Silvia.
Well if you don't, then this First Look aims to change that with a detailed introductory walkthrough on Rancilio's venerable, best selling home espresso machine, as it is today in its latest incarnation.
Even if you do know the Rancilio Silvia, you may learn a thing or two about the machine by reading this first look, because earlier this year, Rancilio made their newest revisions to this home espresso machine.
These changes constitute the latest revision in a machine that was first introduced in late 1997 as a prototype gift machine meant for Rancilio's best importers and vendors - something the company didn't initially intend to sell. Since that time, the Rancilio Silvia has become the best selling espresso machine above $300, and has far outpaced most of the market, including most commercial machines in terms of numbers sold.
For a long time I've resisted doing a Detailed Review or even a First Look for the Rancilio Silvia, because, well, I've already done it, once upon a time. Back in 1998, I started what was then the only Rancilio "fan" website that existed online. The fan site was a initially a subset of an old, old version of the CoffeeKid website. It was made up of dozens of pages, including full detailed reviews by several Rancilio enthusiasts I asked to give their own take on the machine, as well as my own humble review. The (in)famous "Cheating Miss Silvia" page was created, as were tips and tricks on how to get the most out of the Silvia.
I left the pages online up until around 2002, when CoffeeKid.com got a major overhaul. By that point, a whole slew of fan sites showed up online, and more have propagated on the internet today, including Randy Glassí Espresso My Espresso website, Rancilio and the PID, and Technocosmís Silvia Page just to name a few. Many of these enthusiasts and consumers were surpassing my knowledge and understanding of the machine, including both Andy Schecter and Greg Scace, who were the first people to PID (temperature control) their Silvias... and let the record show: they were the first people (and consumers, to boot) to show the espresso industry the way to temperature stabilize commercial machines - in my opinion, every company pursuing the temperature stability route via PID owes a nod of thanks to these two consumers, and their very public tinkering with their Rancilio Silvias. And I happen to know at least one company fully immersed in PID technology today has shown their gratitude, albeit in a private way, to these two pioneers.
But I wildly digress. Because of all this information available online by 2002 and 2003, I decided it was time to retire most of my Rancilio Silvia pages on CoffeeKid, save for a few of the most popular. And besides, I didn't own a Silvia any longer by that point - I had sold it, and upgraded to a Pasquini Livia.
Today, the Silvia has changed quite a bit in some regards, and remained rock steady same in other ways, and Rancilio North America wanted me to take a fresh, objective look at this machine. In some aspects, I was quite nervous about doing it. After all, the Silvia is easily the most discussed, digested, inspected, and hacked espresso machine on the planet. What could I say about the machine that wasn't already said? How could I write a First Look, much less a Detailed Review, without inserting foot in mouth over some feature (or issue) that someone else has already completely discussed and demonstrated?
But... (you knew that was coming), this is a "new" Silvia in many regards. And as long as CoffeeGeek has been around, I've always felt something was missing in terms of some official Silvia coverage. So when I was contacted by Rancilio and they told me about all the new features, including a new drip tray, a new OPV (adjustable pressure control) valve, an upgraded boiler, and even a new pod adaptor kit, I figured it was time, and the heck with any repetition - sure there's lots of info out there about the Silvia, but it's all over the place. Maybe I should just try to do my darnedest to compile all the best (and worst) in one place. And here's the result, or at least the first part - the First Look.
Rancilio North America supplied us with this test machine, but we'd also like to recommend 1st in Coffee as your potential vendor for the Rancilio Silvia if you decide to buy one. Their service and offerings are always great, and they've been a great supporter of the CoffeeGeek website.
Because so many Silvias have been sold over the years, eBay is also a good option, as is our forums, where Silvias tend to turn up every few weeks. But note, the used price is usually fairly high - Silvias generally have very good resale value.
Lastly, this First Look is going to be a bit different. I really am still trying to shy away from reviewing the equipment, but I'll be going more in depth in this First Look than I probably will with any other I publish, either before or after. In a way, I'm trying to do one of the most seminal machines in consumer espresso history justice, by really going deep.