Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Ease of Use
The Rancilio Silvia is an expensive, yet reliable semi-automatic with manual settings that may be too much for a beginner to start with. That’s why we recommend the model for seasoned users with a passion for espresso alchemy.
Do you love drinking coffee? Did you get the highest marks in chemistry class back in grade school? If you answered yes to these questions, then you’ll love our Rancilio Silvia review.
This classic semi-automatic is one of the most respected machines in the biz, and you’ll soon find out why as we break down all of its features and ability to pull a mean shot of espresso.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Design Overview
Before we jump into the design of this coffee cult favorite, it’s best to start at the beginning and immerse ourselves in Rancilio Silvia history. Jump into your time traveling coffee pod and let’s head back to 1927.
The Rancilio brand finds its roots in Milan, Italy when Roberto Rancilio earned respect in the industry for designing reliable commercial coffee machines. To this day, the Rancilio brand continues that legacy on a global scale.
The Silvia made its debut in 1997, and it’s the brand’s first line of espresso machines designed for the home and office.
This is a rugged machine, built to pump out shots of espresso for years to come without batting an eyelid. Rancilio stayed old school with the overall design and controls, so one thing is clear: you must know your stuff to get the best out of the Silvia.
Every level of the operation is manual and you most certainly won’t find any modern, convenient features that are offered with other high-end home espresso machines.
We’ll get into the features and controls later on, but just so you know- you’ve got to be ready to experiment to achieve your perfect cup.
The Silvia is slim, elegant, and outfitted in stainless steel. There is also the Rancilio Silvia black espresso machine, but it’s not plastic- it’s a limited black painted stainless steel edition.
The Rancilio Silvia dimensions are 9.2” x 11.4” x 13.3” and it weighs a whopping 30 lbs, so even though it looks compact, you may not enjoy lugging that thing around your kitchen.
6 Rancilio Silvia Versions
During your online research of the Rancilio Silvia, you might have noticed that there are different versions of the machine. This brand does not sit idle, instead, it has consistently upgraded the Rancilio Silvia parts on an almost yearly basis.
Each model is only slightly different from the last, so don’t feel like you’re missing out. Before purchasing your machine, check the manufacturing year to confirm the version.
We’ll pinpoint the Rancilio Silvia model differences below. Back into the time-traveling coffee pod, we go!
Rancilio Silvia V1
Manufacturing Year: 1997-2005
In 2000 they upgraded the portafilter to match their commercial machines. In 2002 they switched from stainless steel heating to copper heating parts and in 2005 an expansion valve was added to the design.
Rancilio Silvia V2
Manufacturing Year: 2006
With this version, they added a chrome plastic cover to the brew group. They also redesigned the drip tray.
Rancilio Silvia V3
Manufacturing Year: 2009
A few minor upgrades were added, including a redesigned filter holder emblazoned with the Rancilio symbol, an improved steam wand for frothing, and an upgraded rotary knob for a more seamless extraction.
Rancilio Silvia V4
Manufacturing Year: 2014
The stainless steel heating element was made to screw onto the boiler instead of being welded on. This saves time and money, because if a part burns out, you can just replace that single part and not the entire boiler.
Rancilio Silvia V5
Manufacturing Year: 2016
This version has a few significant upgrades, including an automatic standby mode, lights on the main power switch that indicate the machine’s status, and an insulated boiler for a more quiet operation and less energy consumption.
Rancilio Silvia V6
Manufacturing Year: 2020
This is the latest model that we are focusing on for this Rancilio Silvia review. There are a few feature upgrades from the past versions, which we will cover in greater detail in the next section.
These improved features include a stainless steel steam wand, an included tamper, and a new set of Rancilio Silvia buttons.
Silvia Rancilio Features
Remember, this espresso machine is not for the faint of heart. It’s going to challenge you to learn how to be a master of all things manual because truly good espresso is ultimately not decided by an automatic machine, but by the steadiness of the human hand.
64-ounce water tank
We approve of the size of Miss Silvia’s 64-ounce reservoir. It’s large enough to produce enough coffee for an individual who drinks coffee all day, for a family of coffee drinkers, or an entire office setting.
There is no filter or connection for a direct water line. These are tiny inconveniences that will mean you’ll need to descale more often. You can cut down on descaling by using distilled water instead of tap water.
No integrated Coffee Grinder
The Rancilio Silvia e v6 2020 espresso machine does not come with an integrated grinder– but that’s standard for most high-end espresso machines.
Because of this, you’ll need to spend some extra time researching grinders, not to mention it’ll cost you an additional $100 or more on top of the already hefty price of the Silvia.
There are plenty of high-quality burr grinders on the market, but the recommended best grinder for Rancilio Silvia is the Rocky Espresso Grinder.
Pro Tip: Oftentimes the grinder has a huge impact on the overall taste of the espresso. Cheap grinders cause inconsistency of flavor or can burn the beans, so opt for quality- it’s worth it!
Rancilio Silvia Boiler System
The Rancilio Silvia coffee maker keeps to its old school charm with a single, insulated copper boiler that heats up quickly and keeps the temperature steady.
In other words, this is a world-class boiler system that when used correctly will produce perfect espresso shots. Emphasis on “used correctly.”
This is where Miss Silvia will make you work for her affections. There is no visible PID, which means that you must “guess” the right temperature without any guidance.
Since this is a single boiler and not a dual boiler that brews and steams simultaneously like the BES920XL, you have to wait until the boiler has reached a specific temperature, shut off the heating, then pull the shot.
If you want to steam milk, you’ll have to do that separately, which takes even more guesswork and time.
There is a good bit of experimentation involved, which is why we don’t recommend the Silvia for rookies. Once you do get accustomed to the machine, then the espresso is delicious, and you’ve earned your stripes, so to speak.
Rancilio Silvia PID
If you want a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine with PID, you aren’t going to find one.
Instead, to make temperature control less of a hassle, you could invest in a PID retrofit kit, which lets you fully control the boiler. It’s going to cost you though. You can expect to pay over $200 for this added convenience.
Milk Steaming Wand
Practice makes perfect with the steam wand on this espresso machine, but after a few wonky drinks, your patience will be rewarded with a rich crema that is as good or better than your local cafe.
The Rancilio Silvia semi-automatic machine boasts a powerful steam wand, and it’s no doubt one of the highlight features. The biggest worry with the milk frothing system is overheating the milk, but this isn’t a flaw of the machine, it’s simply a matter of learning how to do it properly.
Remember- Miss Silvia wants to build a lasting relationship that requires you to learn how to work together as a team. To have her at her best, you need to put in the hard work and learn her ways.
Cup Warming Tray
You might find the cup warming tray on top of the Rancilio Silvia to be unspectacular, but actually, this humble tray plays a crucial role.
Espresso aficionados know that if you brew your espresso into a cold cup, the heat loss is significant, changing the temperature of the drink and making it cooler than it should be.
The cup warming tray allows you to brew right into a toasty mug, eliminating this issue and improving your overall espresso experience.
Brew Unit & Controls
There’s nothing futuristic about the control settings of the Rancilio Silvia. You won’t find any fancy digital screens or notification centers. Instead, you get the old-school knobs, levers, and switches that this brand is known for.
The controls are easy to use, but it’s learning how to control the temperature that takes practice. Unless you purchase the retrofit PID, then this will make the learning curve scary steep for newbies.
On a good note, this is a top-tier machine that won’t let you down. If any parts break, it’s easy to swap them out for a new part instead of replacing the entire machine.
You get exactly what you need to keep the Rancilio Silvia semi-automatic espresso machine in tip-top condition. This brand is known for building reliable, durable coffee makers, so with the proper care, you can expect the Silvia to last for over a decade.
Here’s what comes in the package:
- Two porta filters
- Water hardness testing strips
- Plastic tamper with rubber plug for back flushing
- Cleaning brush
- Water softener
- Coffee measuring spoon
Pro Tip: The tamper is made of plastic, and we found its performance to be lackluster. You might want to replace it with a heavier metal tamper.
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine Setup & Operation
The process for setting up and using the Silvia is pretty standard if you already have experience with using semi-automatics. Once again, if you’re new to brewing specialty coffee then it might be a different story.
1- Fill the Water Tank
You’ll want to ensure the Rancilio Silvia is placed on a flat, even surface. Open the top lid and pour fresh water into the 64 oz tank. If you want to cut down on descaling, it’s recommended to use distilled water.
2. Power It Up
Hit the ON button and wait until the orange light next to the boiler button has shut off. That means the machine has reached the ideal temperature to brew espresso.
3. Coffee Grounds
While waiting for the machine to warm up (around 10 minutes), place your cups on the warmer and grind up your coffee beans. It’s recommended to dose 17g into your 58mm portafilter. Use the tamper to evenly distribute the coffee grounds for improved extraction.
Hit the coffee switch to purge the group head, then lock the portafilter into place and extract the coffee immediately, brewing between 25-30 seconds.
The espresso will start to drip, and you can grab your toasty mug off of the cup warming tray to catch it.
5. Milk Froth
Once the espresso is finished, now’s a good time to get your froth on. Start by turning on the STEAM switch and letting the steam pressure build-up for about 25 seconds. When it’s ready, the orange light next to the switch will turn off.
Purge the steam wand, then fill a milk jug about halfway with cold milk. Set the steam wand into the milk so that the tip is just below the surface of the milk.
Hold it at a 15° angle from the side of the espresso machine and start frothing! It will take a few tries to get your rhythm down to create a Rancilio Silvia crema you can be proud of. You can consult the Rancilio Silvia user manual for more detailed instructions.
Rancilio Silvia Cleaning Process
The cleaning process for the Rancilio Silvia is also pretty straightforward. But, like with most semi-automatics, it must be done regularly. That means you need to have time to keep up with the maintenance.
If you’re a busy person who rushes to work in the morning, a superautomatic may be more your speed.
These are the basic tasks you’ll have to complete manually:
- Cleaning dried milk from the steam wand
- Regular descaling
- Emptying the drip tray
- Back flushing once a week
A Note on Backflushing
Backflushing is how you clean the group head of a semi-automatic. The Rancilio Silvia comes with a rubber disc that you place inside the portafilter, attach the portafilter, then flush the system.
The Rancilio Silvia Coffee Machine Pros & Cons
- For home or office
- Excellent milk frothing system
- Reputable brand and quality features
- Recommended for experienced users who prefer manual settings
- Must purchase grinder
- No PID makes temperature control a challenge
- A steep learning curve for beginners
With the Rancilio Silvia, one thing is clear: this is a semi-automatic built for the experts. Rancilio adheres to its long and coffee-rich legacy of keeping it old school.
You won’t find the convenience factor, only knobs, switches, and levers. There isn’t a PID in sight, so you’ll have to surf the temperature again and again until you get the shot just right.
But when you do, it’s a phenomenal machine. Rancilio has a bulletproof reputation for building strong, reliable espresso machines, and when you take care of Miss Silvia, she will take care of you- for a decade or longer.
With that being said, this semi-automatic is expensive, and you’ll have to pay extra for a quality coffee grinder. If you do want a PID you can invest in the retrofit kit, but that’s not cheap either.
After all is said and done, we bow down to the Rancilio Silvia, but only because we love coffee with all of our hearts. That’s why we recommend it for:
- Experienced espresso makers who enjoy using manual settings to achieve the perfect cup of espresso.
- For the office, because this machine is reliable, can turn out multiple shots, and will last for years.
Rancilio Silvia Warranty
Rancilio grants a 2-year warranty for the Silvia espresso machine.
Rancilio Silvia Review Conclusion
A single copper boiler, powerful steam wand, cup warmer, and no PID may not be the best starting point for a newbie or if you’re in a rush in the mornings. There is a learning curve with the Silvia, but after a few trial runs you’ll get your routine down.
To conclude this Rancilio Silvia review, two things you need with this machine are love and time. If you truly love coffee and have dabbled in the art of espresso-making, then you’ll enjoy experimenting with the Rancilio Silvia and its challenging manual settings.
This is worth the price if you are willing to put into practice. The hard work does pay off and you’ll have a new skill set to be proud of, plus espresso just the way you like it.
References and Resources
- Rancilio Group, Official Brand Website.
- Rancilio Silvia User Manual.