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Rancilio Silvia - Joe DP's Review
Posted: May 10, 2008, 9:01pm
review rating: 8.9
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
Rancilio Silvia
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More About This Product
Arrow The Rancilio Silvia has 230 Reviews
Arrow The Rancilio Silvia has been rated 8.55 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow Rancilio Silvia reviews have been viewed 1,690,926 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Chris Clark 9.13
Ed Lawless 9.00
Joe DP 8.88
Dave Borton 8.67
Eric Larson 8.62

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 9.4
Manufacturer: Rancilio Quality: 10
Average Price: $629.00 Usability: 8
Price Paid: $495.00 Cost vs. Value 10
Where Bought: wholelattelove Aesthetics 10
Owned for: 1 year Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I love coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: none
Bottom Line: Best home espresso machine in its class with “legendary” status and capable of providing quality espresso to rival machines costing 2x as much.
Positive Product Points

- 30 lbs of heavy duty components such as 12 oz. brass boiler, attached brass grouphead, brass 58mm commercial portafilter, three-way solenoid valve, quality switches, and stainless steel with no inferior/plastic parts.
- Brushed stainless steel matches stainless steel kitchen appliances.
- Simple to use and capable of providing exceptional espresso.
- Durability has been proven over the past 10 years.
- Extensive product information, reviews and parts available over the Internet.

Negative Product Points

- Requires user to do research and invest some time to learn Silvia's nuances to get the best out of her and obtain great consistent espresso shots.
- Requires investing in and installing a PID (programmable temperature controller) to prevent the temperature surfing routine.

Detailed Commentary

Background:  

    After tasting some great espresso's in Italy, my goal was to make the same great espresso at home. My initial total budget was $500 for both the machine and grinder to generally use on the weekend for 2-4 espresso's and 2 lattes a day. After much  research, I quickly realized that my total budget would have to increase to $1000 to get a quality machine such as a Rancilio Silvia, Rocky doserless grinder and accessories that would satisfy my needs and expectations.  So I placed an order with wholelattelove.com for a Rancilio Silvia and Rocky essentials package deal along with a Reg Barber tamper and anxiously awaited its delivery.


Initial Impressions:

    Upon receiving and unpacking Miss Silvia and Rocky, it was apparent that the equipment exudes quality and has components derived from commercial equipment. They look perfect on the counter alongside each other and match the rest of the kitchen stainless steel commercial appliances. So after some admiration, I reviewed the owners manual from the manufacturer, as well as the “Meeting Miss Silvia” interactive CD from the vendor which included helpful videos to familiarize myself with setting up and using Miss Silvia.

First few weeks:

    Within a few weeks of making espresso, my initial excitement had quickly turned into frustration.   I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew and was beginning to doubt achieving my goal of great espresso.  Due to all the positive reviews on Silvia and the obvious build quality, I knew it had the potential and I therefore had to begin my steep learning curve. After much research and reading both here and on other forums, I had to not only improve my understanding of the elements of making espresso such as using fresh beans, adjusting the grind, distributing it, and tamping, but more importantly, I had to learn more about Silvia than I ever cared to know.

    Silvia's  most well known nuance is temperature surfing. Even though I had read about temperature surfing prior to purchasing Silvia, I never fully understood what it meant and didn't realize the extent of its importance with regard to the taste/quality of espresso from Silvia.  At the time, I thought it was something only espresso fanatics needed to know. I had assumed I could make good espresso without temperature surfing, but little did I know.

Next few months:

    Once I felt comfortable with practicing all the aspects of making good espresso (fresh beans, right grind setting, Weiss Distribution Technique, 30lb tamp and 25-30 second pull), it didn't take me long to realize that I needed to learn more about this temperature surfing thing due to Silvia's large temperature deadband, in order to get more consistent and better tasting shots.  I decided early on that I did not want to purchase a PID (programmable temperature controller) for three reasons: a) I didn't want to spend the additional estimated $250-300, b) I didn't want to tinker with Silvia and void the warranty,  and c) I didn't like the way it looked attached to the side with the wiring harness exposed (more on this later).  

    So I started temperature surfing (20-30 seconds after light went on) but after a few weeks I realized that by actively cycling the boiler (introducing water in) I could not consistently reach an ideal starting temperature. Upon further research, I started reverse temperature surfing and hitting the brew switch about 1 min 30 seconds after the heater light goes off (which is an estimated beginning brew temperature of 201-202 degrees).  Using the method, I found reaching the ideal brewing temperature to be much more consistent. I also adopted turning on the steam switch for 10 sec (5-7 sec into the pull) to help stabilize the temperature drop during the pull. Another key factor is letting Silvia warm up at least 45 minutes (preferably 1 hour) to ensure that the brew group and portafilter are up to proper temperature. There are techniques for reducing that warm up time if necessary by a method called “Cheating Miss Silvia” (see http://www.coffeekid.com./archived/rancilio/cheatsilvia ).  The combination of these techniques have proved successful in helping me reproduce a consistently good shot.

One year later:

    After owning my Silvia and Rocky for just over 1 year, I was at a point where I was very satisfied with the quality of espresso I was producing with her.  The only issue I had was that I felt embarrassed having to do the temperature surfing routine around guests. For the average person who doesn't understand what is going on, it does appear to be a little “crazy” and over the top.

    So I finally decided to reconsider a PID.  After much research, I decided on purchasing an Auber PID ( Click Here (auberins.com) ) because it addressed some of the issues I had 1 year earlier. It was reasonably priced at $160 shipped (the deluxe version), it looked almost like original equipment from the manufacture (OEM) with no external wires showing, and it was basically “plug and play” along with a Suyi's reputation for great customer service. I happened to find some pictures and description of the Auber PID and installation process on flickr (see  http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawnlow/sets/72157604103927428/  ) which helped me understand the simplicity of the installation and pushed me over the edge to order it.

    I received  the Auber PID kit a few days after ordering it.  I read the instructions that came with it and had some questions  for Suyi which he answered immediately.  I installed the PID kit a few weeks ago and although I have never worked on an espresso machine before, the installation process went very smoothly. I am very impressed with the form and function of the Auber PID and it looks better in person than it does in pictures. I can now read and adjust brewing temperature with relative accuracy, and  best of all is that I don't have to do the temperature surfing “dance” anymore ..............which around guests is ..........priceless.  As each day goes by, my respect for my Rancilio Silvia and Rocky continues to grow.

Disclaimer:

    Everything I have learned and applied was pioneered by others on the Internet based on there experience and testing over the last 10 years. I am grateful for them sharing this valuable information to help me and subsequent buyers better understand and utilize there new equipment.

Buying Experience

Initial:

    I purchased my Rancilio Silvia and Rocky doserless package deal in April 2007 from wholelattelove.com. They shipped it immediately and I received it within a few days. I also requested there users and maintenance guide which they emailed to me. The “Meeting Miss Silvia” interactive CD they provided was very helpful in familiarizing myself with the espresso machine, especially since it was my first. Overall it was a straightforward buying experience with no issues to require use of there after-sale customer service or technical support.

Subsequent:

    I had inquired about specifications for certain tampers they carried and the responses I received from wholelattelove where inaccurate. I had also inquired about obtaining a special order part for Silvia not listed on their website and wholelattelove was not able to provide assistance other than Rancilio's contact number. Upon calling Rancilio (which were very helpful), they informed me that the part needed to be ordered and purchased from the vendor (as I initially thought). I subsequently informed wholelattelove and they did not respond. Needless to say, I contacted other notable vendors such as Stefano's Espresso Care ( http://www.espressocare.com/ ) who was very helpful and responsive to my needs. Someone I would strongly consider giving my business too in the future.

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review rating: 8.9
Posted: May 10, 2008, 9:01pm
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