Rancilio Silvia Review
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|Pros||Great taste, allows for endless experimentation||Excellent espresso, can achieve near-perfect microfoam, relatively easy to use for a semi-automatic machine||Great taste, cafe quality lattes and cappuccinos||Great espresso, impressive milk steaming performance, compact design||Good espresso and milk steaming, quite inexpensive|
|Cons||Expensive, requires skill to use effectively, no built-in grinder||Pricey, requires more effort/practice than fully-automatic machines||On the pricier side, requires some effort and a learning curve||No built-in grinder||Doesn't quite achieve cafe quality results, somewhat slow, no built-in grinder|
|Bottom Line||A great machine for experienced baristas, but it will leave most newcomers frustrated||A cafe-quality machine that manages to still be friendly towards beginner baristas||A perfect choice for those that don't mind putting in a little work to get the best tasting shot||One of the smallest machines we've found that can achieve cafe-quality results||Offers good taste and overall quality at a far below average price|
|Rating Categories||Rancilio Silvia||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Barista Ex...||Breville Bambino||Gevi|
|Espresso Quality (40%)|
|Ease of Use (30%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (15%)|
|Milk Quality (15%)|
|Specs||Rancilio Silvia||Calphalon Temp IQ||Breville Barista Ex...||Breville Bambino||Gevi|
|Dimensions||9.2" x 11.4" x 13.4"||5.6" x 14.5" x 17.3"||13.2" x 12.5" x 16"||7.7" x 12.6" x 12.2"||13" x 10" x 16"|
|Milk Frother||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand||Steam Wand|
|Measured Water Tank Capacity||68 oz||94 oz||67 oz||47 oz||42 oz|
|Cost per Shot||$0.49||$0.45||$0.47||$0.45||$0.45|
|Lifetime Cost per Shot||$0.81||$0.70||$0.76||$0.58||$0.50|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price||309||235||277||118||51|
|Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price||183||141||165||70||30|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rancilio Silvia is among our top choices for experienced baristas, as it puts a great amount of control in the user's hands. However, the lack of user-friendliness for those that are new to the nuances of espresso is something to consider and the main reason this machine didn't score higher overall. The Silvia also does not include a grinder, so you'll have to contend with that before you're able to make drinks. Generic coffee grinders generally cannot produce a fine enough grind for espresso, so you'll have to get a grinder that is meant for making espresso.
The Silvia produced some of the best espresso in our testing, equaling the quality of some of our award winners. 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 is also high quality and makes great-tasting steamed and frothed milk.
Ease of Use
The Silvia 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 unless you have a patient coffee pro buddy that's willing to teach you. 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. That said, when used well, the results are spectacular.
Ease of Cleaning
The Silvia was also one of our least favorite models to clean. You must clean out the portafilter and wipe off the steam wand after every use, like all semi-automatic machines. Where it gets a bit more annoying is the drip tray. It is quite shallow and offers no indication of when it is full, which can result in some surprise flooding. We ended up emptying the tray after almost 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 instructions, so we had to find a tutorial online.
The steam wand on the Silvia is professional grade. It can make thick, luscious foam and creamy, microfoamed steamed milk. Though it takes a bit of practice it can make a latte that will make a trip to the coffee shop unnecessary.
The Silvia is pricey and you'll also need to buy a separate espresso grinder. Because of this, it 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. If you're coming from that world, this machine is almost a steal.
The Rancilio Silvia is a great machine for a very specific user: one who already has experience pulling espresso shots and wants to be able to experiment with their technique at home. If you're a newcomer to espresso and want 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 something a bit easier to use.
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