Our next stop on the journey on the home Espresso ladder is with Rancilio. Now on their sixth generation of the Silvia, this machine has clearly stood the test of time, with hordes of people still recommending it in its respective price range. But how does it stack up with the machines we’ve already looked at so far, and is it right for you? Let’s find out.
I don’t normally talk about unboxings, but the Silvia came with so much protective film that it required me to loosen some screws to get it all off, which I thought was at least worth mentioning.
Once de-filmed, this is a handsome-looking machine, especially in the special edition black finish we went with. I also like how the power cord is routed out at the bottom, leaving a very clean look on the back of the machine, which is good if you plan on placing it on an island or anywhere else where it will be seen from all four sides.
The Silvia is a very sturdy build, straddling the gap between consumer and prosumer level machines. The 31-pound weight means you don’t need to hold the machine when locking in the portafilter and the brass group head has a very professional feeling.
The machine has a sturdy central metal frame with thinner sheet metal making up the majority of the outer shell.
There are some plastic parts on the Silvia, such as the portafilter handle, steam knob, and water tank lid but the plastic used feels noticeably higher quality than those found on something like a Gaja Classic Pro.
Another thing worth mentioning is that this is the first machine we have featured so far that comes with an actually nice tamper.
All of this is to say that the Silvia looks and feels like it belongs in the price bracket it falls in.
The Silvia sports a full-size 58-millimeter portafilter, a 0.3-liter brass boiler, a single-hole steam arm, a two-liter removable water reservoir, and front-mounted switches for power brewing, steaming, and hot water that will exit through the steam arm.
A green indicator light shows when the machine is powered on, and an orange light shows when the boiler is working on getting up to temperature.
I was slightly disappointed with the functionality of two areas are the cup warming rack and, oddly enough, the drip tray.
The top of this machine simply doesn’t get warm enough to heat your cups up much past room temperature, so if you want to preheat them, you’ll need to fill them with hot water from the steam arm.
The drip tray was an odd design, to say the least. Instead of being a single piece that slides out like on most other machines, the top grate lifts off to reveal a shallow pan.
This not only reduces the capacity but also makes it difficult to remove when very full. Not exactly sure why they went down this route.
Starting off with Espresso, this is a very capable machine. The brass group head warms both itself and the portafilter very quickly and effectively. Let this machine warm-up for 15 to 20 minutes, and everything will be piping hot and ready to go. Well, except for your cups.
One noteworthy inclusion on this machine is the ability to adjust your brew pressure. There’s no need to cut any overpressure valves or otherwise avoid your warranty, and the process is right in the instruction manual and very easy to do.
Being a standard 58-millimeter machine, it’s also very easy to find aftermarket precision filter baskets, shower screens, and other accessories to improve quality further. But straight out of the box, assuming you pair it with an equally capable grinder.
We come to one of the most impressive parts of this machine and one possible downside, depending on how you currently structure your workflow.
Steaming power on the Silvia is extremely impressive, equaling or even slightly exceeding the power found on the Rocket Appartamento.
Some people may even opt not to open the valve all the way while learning how to properly texture, but let her rip, and the Silvia will provide more steaming power than you’ll ever really need.
When wide open, the Silvia reached the standard 60 degrees celsius in just under 26 seconds. Steaming capacity was also very good thanks to the 300-milliliter boiler, allowing me to steam enough milk for multiple drinks at a time if needed.
However, that larger boiler has one notable downside. Because this is still a single boiler machine, you need to wait for it to transition between brewing and steaming temperatures, and the larger the boiler is, the longer that process takes.
On the Silvia, this transition takes about one and a half minutes which many people will note is too long to leave your Espresso shot sitting, waiting out for milk. So you’re forced into the alternate workflow of steaming first, cooling down the boiler, and brewing second.
Some people will argue that this is the correct process as steamed milk will generally keep better than a shot of Espresso.
So this is less of a downside and more of a workflow change that might actually yield better results if you are currently someone who brews first and steam second.
Who Should Buy This Machine
The Silvia is a great option for anyone looking for a well-built machine that will last many years if properly taken care of.
It’s benefited from a history of slow iterative improvements to the product line and offers fantastic Espresso quality and consistency from shot to shot.
The standout feature for me was the steaming power allowing you to quickly create latte quality milk for one or multiple drinks at a time.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a machine that can make lattes faster or with better quality than the Silvia without first shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars extra for a heat exchanger or dual boiler unit.
This explains why the Rancilio Silvia has held such a crowd favorite position in this price bracket for so long.
The Rancilio Silvia with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels is coming in at circa $835 from 1st In Coffee and the Boiler Dual Pro Pro version at $1690. For me, the standard version is adequate for first-time users and a good place to start with your first Espresso coffee machine.
1st In coffee offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, together with a 2 years warranty. They also offer free shipping in the mainland US and over $20 of free gifts to go with it. Click here to purchase