I believe that if you want to become your own barista, you are free to try and experiment as much as you want.
I mean, if you love coffee, you will also love learning how to make it.
But to do that, you need the proper equipment. And that’s what Rancilio promises we’ll get: a professional-grade espresso machine perfect for home use and passionate coffee lovers.
But does it live up to the expectations? That’s what we are about to find out in my today’s Rancilio Silvia review.
The company was formed by Roberto Rancilio in 1927 in Milan. The brand Rancilio was famous (and still is) for producing durable, reliable, and high-quality machines.
A Quick Preview
It is clear that the Silvia is not your average espresso machine. This model comes with lots of features and might be suited for different users. Our task today is to figure out whether it will be suitable for you. So, let’s start by looking at the main features of this model:
- stainless-steel construction;
- high thermal accumulation boiler;
- lead-free alloy brewing unit;
- 30-minute automatic shut-off;
- ergonomic portafilter handle;
- moving steam wand (chrome-plated);
- works with portafilter adaptors and pods (not included with the purchase);
- 15-bar pressure pump system;
- works with ground coffee (no integrated grinder);
- cup warming tray;
- water reservoir: 64 ounces;
- 2-year warranty;
- weight: 30.9 pounds;
- dimensions: 13.4 x 11.4 x 9.2 inches.
This isn’t the first version of the Silvia that the company makes. And I have a feeling this machine isn’t the last version either. People at Rancilio strive to improve, this is clear. And each new model comes with new design solutions, corrections, and advanced functionality.
Design and Appearance
The first thing you are going to notice about this espresso machine is that it looks like a piece of professional equipment. And there’s a reason for that. You see, the Silvia by Rancilio implements commercial-grade parts of high quality. This means this home coffee machine is as close to real professional equipment as it could be.
Now, this model has a stainless steel body in a calm silver finish. It isn’t too tall or bulky and can easily fit into pretty much any kitchen interior. The front panel has three control buttons and a steam regulating knob. And this is where we can spot the first flaw: those control buttons don’t have clean icons (or words) on them and feature just images, which may seem too vague to those users who don’t have much experience with espresso machines.
The portafilter has a large black handle. To me, it does not stand out from the ensemble. Additionally, it has a rather ergonomic shape, which makes it quite convenient to hold in your hand and operate when tamping and making espressos.
The steaming wand also looks quite organic. It features a special movable design, which allows users to adjust it in various ways and articulate it in all directions. The wand is commercial-grade and chrome-plated, with a single hole. It works with both milk and water and allows for different beverages, including milk-based cappuccinos and diluted Americanos.
Keep in mind that because the Silvia is very nicely made (and features professional-grade parts), it will not work well with cheap coffee grounds. If you really want the best results, don’t try to save money on your coffee. Also, consider investing in a good burr grinder. Pre-ground coffee doesn’t taste that well.
One of the coolest features of the Silvia is its cup warming tray. Now, if you are a coffee lover like me, you realize how awesome your beverages taste when served in a warm, pre-heated mug. The Silvia’s warming tray is placed on top of the machine and can accommodate up to six espresso cups.
Overall, this model has a very sleek appearance. It looks and feels professional and very nicely made. And its clean lines and simple (yet elegant) exterior will fit nicely into your kitchen space, I am sure.
Now, moving on to the internal design, which is even more important. As I’ve already said, the Silvia uses commercial-grade parts and materials. The boiler is internally heated and made of brass. It powers the steaming wand as well and has a capacity of 12 ounces.
There’s also a three-way valve, which reduces the moisture (and excess pressure) after you’ve made a shot of espresso. This does a couple of things. First, you get a dry coffee puck in the portafilter, which makes the cleaning process a bit easier. Second, it reduces the stress on the other parts of the brewing unit, which can prolong its lifespan.
Performance and Functionality
The next thing I want to mention in my Rancilio Silvia review is the way this machine performs. Because it is designed for home use, I expected this model to be smooth and relatively user-friendly. Did it manage to meet my expectations? Let’s see.
To warm up, the machine takes around 3 minutes. That’s a very good result, especially when we take its boiler’s size and material into consideration. Because there are three separate thermostats, each espresso shot is hot and smooth, without any burnt flavor. The thermostats regulate the heat levels quite effectively, I should say.
Now, in terms of functionality, the Silvia has a lot to offer but may not be enough for some users. This coffee maker implements a 15-bar pressure system, which is perfect to make great espressos. It’s also very reliable:
I made multiple beverages during the day every day and had no problems with its operation.
However, when it comes to its features and functions, it may disappoint some users. Let me explain.
Even though this is truly a professional-grade machine in terms of quality, there are some things it lacks. There’s no display, no brew temperature adjustments, no steam temperature controls, no pre-infusion function, and no coffee volume controls (which means you cannot brew double espressos in one setting).
The Rancilio Silvia looks sleek and modern. Its chrome finish and clean lines make this model look like it’s a piece of professional equipment. At the same time, the Silvia is quite compact, which means it does not require too much counter space and can easily fit into any kitchen without occupying too much of it.
Basically, you get your regular espressos and milk steaming. The customization is minimal, and you will have to go through a serious learning curve if you aren’t an experienced home barista.
Because the automation is this machine is minimal.
Additionally, the boiler is responsible for both espressos and steaming. And as you probably know, the temperature for water steaming and coffee brewing has to be different. But with one boiler, you cannot adjust the temperature of each component. This means you will have to either steam your milk first (then wait for the water to cool down a bit and brew coffee) or settle with a mediocre-quality milk foam (which, when steamed after the brewing process, would probably not be hot and fluffy enough).
I am not saying that this machine cannot make good milk-based beverages. I am not saying that it cannot be controlled either. I’m just trying to warn you that the Silvia is not the most user-friendly model, which means it is more suitable for experienced users rather than beginner baristas.
If you are as passionate about coffee as me, you will probably find this part of my Rancilio Silvia review to be the most interesting. Now, let me tell you this right away:
This machine makes a great cup of coffee. Well, a great shot of espresso, to be more exact.
Probably, the best feature of the Rancilio Silvia is its internal design. This machine was built to last, that’s for sure. This also explains its price: while being relatively limited in its features (the Silvia offers only the bare necessities), it isn’t the cheapest model in its category. But the quality of its build is definitely worth every penny.
If you use fresh coffee and practice operating your machine, you will end up with a rich, full-bodied beverage every time. The Silvia brews espressos at the optimal temperature, which means coffee doesn’t taste burnt and reveals its flavor to the fullest. I am sure that if you got to drink a shot of espresso made with this machine and then one made at a coffee shop, you could hardly tell the difference.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Now, you probably realize that regular cleaning and proper maintenance will keep your machine operating smoothly. Besides, this will ensure the freshness and the pure taste of your coffee.
When it comes to the Rancilio Silvia, the cleaning process is not that complicated. After every use, you should wipe the exterior using a soft damp cloth. Don’t forget to wipe the steaming wand as well. Sounds very easy, doesn’t it?
While the Silvia makes delicious espressos and can foam milk quite nicely, it isn’t the most user-friendly machine.
The only small issue you might face is the drip tray. It is quite shallow and does not have an indicator that would tell you when it’s time to empty it. Therefore, chances are you might face an unexpected flooding from it. Or you can empty it after each use just to be on the safe side.
You may be wondering now, “Is this enough?” No, actually. You will also have to do a more thorough cleaning once in a while. There is one important internal cleaning process you need to do every three months or so – descaling.
Descaling involves a special solution and requires you to run a couple of cycles with it. Surprisingly, I didn’t find any instructions in the manual concerning this procedure. However, there are many tutorials online, so you are all set. Just don’t forget to run some water through the steaming wand as well. And get ready to spend around an hour to finish the descaling process.
The Good and the Bad: OverviewHere’s the deal: I believe that only by looking at both pros and cons (side-by-side) you can get a clear picture of what certain product is. When you know the good and the bad, you can make a weighted decision. So, let me help you with that. Here are the strong sides of the Rancilio Silvia:
- makes excellent, rich, full-bodied espressos;
- superb build quality and commercial-grade parts;
- sleek and professional looking;
- makes great milk foam (once you get the hang of it);
- relatively easy to clean;
- flexible steaming wand;
- warming tray on the top;
- large water reservoir;
- powerful pump system;
- three thermostats for temperature control;
- large boiler;
- durable and reliable;
- ergonomic portafilter handle;
- portafilter supports different adaptors;
- automatic shut-off;
- three-way valve.
- quite expensive, which might be a disappointment for some given this machine’s limited automation;
- not very user-friendly, as it requires a relatively long learning curve if you don’t have that much experience with barista-style machines;
- quite a small drip tray, which seems unsuitable for such a large water reservoir;
- the water reservoir is made of plastic;
- the brewing and steaming temperature cannot be controlled, which means you will need to spend some time learning how to adjust to such a system to get the best quality beverages.
There’s one thing the Silvia lacks – automation. And while this little flaw is insignificant for more experienced users, beginners might find it hard to get used to this espresso machine. If you don’t have that much experience with barista-style coffee makers but want to buy this machine anyway, get ready to go through a learning curve.
- already have some experience working with barista-style espresso machines, or…
- have an irresistible desire to learn how to make coffee using such a machine;
- want something extremely durable and reliable;
- don’t have a limited budget;
- appreciate great quality espressos with a rich and strong flavor;
- don’t mind investing in (or already own) a grinder;
- appreciate the freedom to make milk coffee-based beverages as well;
- don’t need much automation or some extra fancy customization features.