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Rancilio Silvia Review

A great machine for experienced baristas, but it will leave most newcomers frustrated
Rancilio Silvia
Credit: Rancilio
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Price:   $735 List | $775 at Amazon
Pros:  Great taste, allows for endless experimentation
Cons:  Expensive, requires skill to use effectively, no built-in grinder
Manufacturer:   Rancilio
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Apr 6, 2017
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 19
  • Taste - 40% 9
  • Ease of Use - 30% 4
  • Ease of Cleaning - 15% 4
  • Milk Steaming - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Rancilio Silvia is very much like a professional level espresso machine, both in terms of its quality and the amount of skill that is required to use it effectively. It allows you, and in most instances forces you, to customize every aspect of the espresso making process, from grind size to shot length (speaking of grind size, it doesn't include a grinder, so you'll have to get one separately). This customization is great if you've already pulled hundreds of shots and want to tinker around to try and find the best flavor, and this machine would definitely be our top recommendation if that is what you're after. However, this model would certainly overwhelm a newcomer and likely sour your espresso experience. If you're after the best possible taste quality we would recommend the Breville Barista Express. It still requires some effort and skill, but is much more friendly to beginners than the Silvia.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Rancilio Silvia
This Product
Rancilio Silvia
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award 
Price $735 List$600 List
$546.99 at Amazon
$300 List$700 List
$599.00 at Amazon
$500 List
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Pros Great taste, allows for endless experimentationExcellent espresso, achieves near-perfect microfoam in its steamed milk, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machineGreat espresso, great milk steaming performance, compact designGreat taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinosGreat taste, exceptional lattes and cappuccinos, mostly automated milk steaming
Cons Expensive, requires skill to use effectively, no built-in grinderExpensive, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machinesNo built-in grinderExpensive, requires some effort and a learning curveExpensive, no built-in grinder
Bottom Line Makes top notch espresso if you're experienced at manually pulling shots, but this machine may flummox beginnersA cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristasOne of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe quality resultsIf you don't mind a little learning curve and elbow grease, this is the best espresso you can make at homeAn excellent choice for those trying to recreate cafe drinks at home, especially if you already have an espresso-quality grinder
Rating Categories Rancilio Silvia Calphalon Temp IQ Breville Bambino Breville Barista... Breville Bambino...
Taste (40%)
9
9
9
9
9
Ease Of Use (30%)
4
7
6
7
7
Ease Of Cleaning (15%)
4
7
7
6
6
Milk Steaming (15%)
9
9
10
9
8
Specs Rancilio Silvia Calphalon Temp IQ Breville Bambino Breville Barista... Breville Bambino...
Dimensions 9.2" x 11.4" x 13.4" 5.6" x 14.5" x 17.3" 7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2" 13.2" x 12.5" x 16" 7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"
Warranty 1 Year Limited 3 Year Limited 1 Year Limited 1 Year Limited 1 Year Limited
Milk Frother Steam Wand Steam Wand Steam Wand Steam Wand Automatic Steam Wand
Water Tank Capacity 68 oz 94 oz 47 oz 67 oz 65 oz
Cost per Shot $0.49 $0.45 $0.45 $0.47 $0.47
Lifetime Cost per Shot $0.78 $0.70 $0.58 $0.72 $0.72
Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make p list price 273 235 118 237 237
Number of Cafe replacement lattes to make up list price 162 141 70 141 141

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Rancilio Silvia is our top choice for experienced baristas, as it puts the greatest amount of control in the user's hands. However, if you're looking for the great taste of a semi-automatic machine and are new to the world of espresso, we'd recommend the Breville Barista Express.

The Rancilio Silvia does not have a built-in grinder, so you'll have to buy one separately. In our experience generic coffee grinders cannot produce a fine enough grind for espresso, so you'll have to get a grinder that is meant for making espresso.

Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Performance Comparison


The Rancilio Silvia excelled in making great espresso and steamed milk, but its lack of user friendliness lowered its overall score in our testing. Below we dive into the details of how the Silvia performed in each one of our individual tests.

Taste


The Silvia pulls an exceptional shot.
The Silvia pulls an exceptional shot.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Along Rancilio Silvia produced some of the best espresso in our testing, equaling the quality of the Editor's Choice Award winning Breville Barista Pro. When used by one of our experienced testers it produced a rich, strong shot with great flavor and just a hint of sweetness. If you tasted a shot from this machine and a shot from a coffee shop side by side, we doubt you'd be able to tell the difference. The Steam wand also high quality and make great tasted steamed and frothed milk.


Ease of Use


The Silivia's controls and general usability are not catered towards...
The Silivia's controls and general usability are not catered towards beginners.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Silvia is not easy to use by any means, and was the least user-friendly model we tested. We definitely would not recommend this machine to beginners, as the learning curve will likely be steep enough to cause a good amount of frustration. The controls all have somewhat arcane symbols instead of clear labels, and there is no pressure gauge to give you an idea if your grind size and tamping pressure are on target. That's not to say it's unusable, it just requires a good amount of skill to operate effectively. But, when used well, the results are spectacular.


If you're using the Silvia to pull a shot and steam some milk, make sure you pull the shot first. If you do the milk first it will end up shooting steam through the portafilter and making a mess, we know from experience.

Ease of Cleaning


The Silvia was also our least favorite models to clean. Each use requires cleaning out the portafilter and (if you prepped milk) wiping off the steam wand. This is more than is required for the super-automatic machines, but about on par with the Breville. Where it gets a bit more annoying is the drip tray. It is quite shallow and has no full indication, which can result in some surprise flooding. We ended up emptying the tray almost after every shot just to avoid any mess. The descaling process also took a full hour, which was much longer than any other machine. Plus, there were no included descaling instruction,s so we had to find a tutorial online.


Milk Steaming


The Silvia's steam wand was one of our favorites.
The Silvia's steam wand was one of our favorites.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Silvia's steam wand is professional grade. Its performance in our testing was equal to that of the Breville's steam wand. It could make thick, luscious foam and make creamy steamed milk with just a bit of microfoam on top. Though it takes a bit of practice it can make a latte that will make a trip to the coffee shop unnecessary.


Value


The Rancilio Silvia lists for $715 and still requires buying a separate espresso grinder. The Breville Barista Express which performs a bit better, lists for $600 and includes a built-in grinder. Therefore the Silvia is only a good value if you want the ability to control shot length and pump pressure, two things that will likely only matter to those who are already practiced baristas.

Conclusion


The Rancilio Silvia is a great machine for a very specific user: one who already has experience pulling espresso shots and wants to me able to experiment with their technique at home. If you're a newcomer to espresso that wants the great taste of a quality semi-automatic machine, or even if you're a beginner that wants to learn to pull a shot like a pro, we would suggest starting with the Breville Barista Express.

Max Mutter and Steven Tata