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Rancilio Silvia Review

A great machine for experienced baristas, but it will leave most newcomers frustrated
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Rancilio Silvia Review (The Silvia pulls an exceptional shot.)
The Silvia pulls an exceptional shot.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
Price:  $865 List
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Manufacturer:   Rancilio
By Lesley Robinson and Jason Wanlass  ⋅  Apr 16, 2024
74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Espresso Quality - 40% 9.5
  • Ease of Use - 20% 7.1
  • Ease of Cleaning - 15% 4.0
  • Milk Steaming - 15% 6.7
  • Machine Customization - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Rancilio Silvia earned it's rightful spot amongst our top-ranked espresso machines. This unit is very much like a commercial-grade espresso machine, both in terms of its quality and the amount of skill that is required to effectively use it. It offers a high level of customization for every aspect of the espresso-making process, but this premium performance comes with a few trade-offs. This machine doesn't regulate temperature very well, arrives with very few user instructions, has an unforgiving steam wand, and is simply more difficult to use if you're new to the barista game. It produces amazing espresso, and we think veteran at-home baristas will most appreciate this model.
REASONS TO BUY
Produces cafe-quality espresso
Allows for endless experimentation
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Requires skill to use effectively
No built-in grinder
Struggles to maintain temperature

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rancilio silvia
This Product
Rancilio Silvia
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $865 List
$865.00 at Amazon
$700 List
$549.95 at Amazon
$500 List
$499.95 at Amazon
$300 List
$299.95 at Amazon
$100 List
$86.99 at Amazon
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Bottom Line This machine makes top-notch espresso if you're experienced at manually pulling shots, but it may flummox beginnersIf you don't mind a little learning curve and elbow grease, this is some of the best espresso you can make at homeAn excellent choice for novices trying to recreate cafe drinks at home, as long as you have an espresso-quality grinderA small machine that makes great espresso and perfectly steams milkAn inexpensive option that gets the job done, but doesn't do it exceptionally well
Rating Categories Rancilio Silvia Breville Barista Ex... Breville Bambino Plus Breville Bambino De'Longhi Stilosa
Espresso Quality (40%)
9.5
8.0
6.5
6.0
4.0
Ease of Use (20%)
7.1
7.0
9.1
9.1
5.4
Ease of Cleaning (15%)
4.0
6.2
6.4
6.6
4.9
Milk Steaming (15%)
6.7
9.1
7.7
8.6
4.0
Machine Customization (10%)
6.0
8.0
6.5
6.0
4.0
Specs Rancilio Silvia Breville Barista Ex... Breville Bambino Plus Breville Bambino De'Longhi Stilosa
Lifetime Cost Per Shot $0.90 $0.83 $0.75 $0.67 $0.59
Number of Cafe Replacement Lattes to Make Up List Price 208 167 120 72 29
Measured Dimensions 9.3" x 12.1" x 13.7" 12.5" x 12.4" x 15.7" 7.6" x 14" x 12" 6.3" x 13.7" x 12" 8.1" x 10.2" x 11.4"
Measured Cup Clearance 3" 4" 5" 5" 4.2"
Pre-Infusion No Yes Yes Yes No
Cappuccino Time 3 min 32 sec 4 min 27 sec 4 min 3 sec 3 min 36 sec 2 min 48 sec
Number of Cafe Replacement Shots to Make Up List Price 353 285 203 122 49
Portafilter Size 58 mm 54 mm 54 mm 54 mm 51 mm
Steam Wand Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Measured Water Tank Capacity to Max Fill 76 oz 66 oz 64 oz 47 oz 34 oz
Integrated Pressure Gauge No No No No No
Hot Water Delivery Steam Wand Hot Water Spout Steam Wand Steam Wand Steam Wand
Extraction Yield 19% 19% 18% 18% 12%
PID Temperature Control No Yes Yes Yes No
Included Accessories 2 Filter Baskets
Cleaning Disc
Tamper
Integrated Conical Burr Grinder (16 Settings)
Dosing Funnel Attachment
Tamper
The Razor Precision Dosing Tool
16 oz Stainless Steel Milk Jug
4 Filter Baskets
Coffee Scoop
Cleaning Disc
Espresso Machine Cleaning Tablets
Cleaning Brush
Cleaning Tool
Water Filter
Tamper
The Razor Precision Dosing Tool
16-ounce Stainless Steel Milk Jug
4 Filter Baskets
Cleaning Tool
Cleaning Disc
Plastic Tamper
16-ounce Stainless Steel Milk Jug
4 Filter Baskets
Steam wand nozzle Cleaning Tool
Combo Tamper and Coffee scoop
2 Filter Baskets

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 who are new to the nuances of espresso is something to consider and is the main reason this machine didn't score higher overall.

Performance Comparison


rancilio silvia - testing the rancilio silvia's control panel. it's super easy to...
Testing the Rancilio Silvia's control panel. It's super easy to understand and built to last, but the stainless steel housing likes to collect fingerprints and other smudges.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Espresso Quality


The Silvia produced some of the best espresso in our testing, surpassing the quality of some of our best espresso machines. This unit produces rich, strong shots with great flavor and just a hint of sweetness.


If you got a shot from your favorite coffee shop, and a pulled your own shot from the Silvia, tasted them side by side, we think you'd be hard pressed to find a difference between the two.

Weighing in on some serious matters: we used a small scale to weigh each shot volume in grams. We then used this measurement to calculate our extraction yield.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

At the root of its great espresso lies a bit of science that we were able to tap into. In short, the Silvia has an excellent extraction yield, which means its espressos have a higher coffee content.

rancilio silvia
Credit: Lesley Robinson

Our Silvia turned our standard 19-gram dose of grounds into 30 grams of espresso in 28 seconds. This is one of the longer brew times, but it was certainly worth the wait. We used a refractometer to measure the amount of dissolved particulates in our Silvia shot and then calculated its extraction yield of 18.9% — not too shabby when you consider industry standards for espresso are 18% to 22%.

This machine requires the use of very fine grounds. It does not offer a built-in grinder, so when purchasing one, make sure it is of good quality and specifically designed for espresso.

Using a stopwatch to record our brew times.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Ease of Use


The Silvia earned above-average scores for this metric, but it does come with a few quirks that could cause a bit of a headache for beginners. There is definitely a learning curve, though not impossible for those who are passionate about their coffee. That said, when used well, the results are spectacular.


It certainly isn't the most glamorous machine on the shelf. The Silvia is boxy and gives off a cafeteria or commercial kitchen vibe. But, it's solid, and its control panel is easy to understand and use. Those who value convenience will likely be disappointed by the lack of a built-in grinder, and we don't love that it doesn't come equipped with a pressure gauge. We also don't like that there is no level indicator for the massive 76-ounce water tank, forcing the user to monitor refill needs by repeatedly opening the top lid.

rancilio silvia - checking the water tank to see if it needs a refill. it holds a lot...
Checking the water tank to see if it needs a refill. It holds a lot of water, but you never quite know when the tank is nearing empty.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Despite these drawbacks, at its core, the functions of the Silvia are reliable, and it can create a cappuccino in a very reasonable time frame. However, we had to pause between batches to allow the machine to regulate heat. This is a finicky trait that led us to believe that it may not be built for extended continuous use.


Right out of the box, we were pleased to discover that the Silvia has a super easy initial setup — one of the fastest of the whole bunch. But, beyond setup, user instructions were few and far between. In short, the owner's manual leaves much to be desired, and we were required to do a bit of our own online research. Once dialed in, the Silvia produces amazing creations, and our figures show that if used regularly, it will save the user a decent amount of cash over its lifetime, but not as much as many of the other machines we tested.


We loved the portafilter's ergonomic handle. It feels very sturdy and seems commercial grade. However, the little rubber feet on the bottom of the machine were not top quality. They seemed to be held in place with weak adhesive, causing them to fall off. Lastly, there is no level indicator for the water tank, forcing the user to monitor refill needs by repeatedly opening the top lid.

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, as we know from experience.

rancilio silvia - the portafilter is super sturdy, and the handle is ergonomic and...
The portafilter is super sturdy, and the handle is ergonomic and comfortable to use for long periods of time.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Ease of Cleaning


The Silvia was also one of our least favorite models to clean, earning it some of our lowest scores for this metric. Yes, most espresso machines are a pain to keep clean, but our gripes go far beyond cleaning out the portafilter and wiping off the steam wand after every use.


One of the smaller annoyances is the drip tray. It is quite shallow and offers no indication of when it is full, which can result in some sudden, unwanted overflows. In fact, we ended up emptying the tray after almost every shot to avoid any mess. Our Silvia arrived without cleaning accessories and zero cleaning recommendations from the manufacturer. There were also no weekly maintenance guidelines, and zilch from the manufacturer in regards to more important upkeep like descaling.

rancilio silvia - emptying the drip tray for the third time in two days. it's small...
Emptying the drip tray for the third time in two days. It's small and shallow, and the most high maintenance part of the entire machine.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Milk Steaming


The steam wand on the Silvia is commercial grade, and it produces some of the most luscious microfoam and steamed milk we've seen. Despite its capabilities, we held back on our highest marks because the Siliva's steaming process favors those who have barista-level skills, but it is quite unforgiving to those who don't.


A completely manual steaming process allows the Silvia to be incredibly versatile, but it also requires a bit of skill to handle all of the nuances of steaming and frothing milk. The wand has a lot of pressure when the steam knob is fully open, so it heats the milk very quickly. This feature is convenient but also less forgiving because it can quickly damage or scald the milk if you don't keep a close eye on it. We also had difficulty maintaining a constant water temperature when making multiple drinks back to back. That said, if you're patient enough to hone your steaming skills, this machine will allow you to make amazing microfoam for cappuccino art.

Steaming up a batch of perfect microfoam. The steaming feature is extremely versatile, but very unforgiving to beginners. The process is completely manual, and the steam's pressure and temp can easily scald if you don't know what your doing.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Machine Customization


A bare-bones, industrial-style design doesn't accommodate much in terms of customization, earning the Silvia a lower score for this assessment. This isn't to say this machine doesn't produce quality espresso, but it does mean there isn't as much of an opportunity for adaptation.


The Silvia has a simple, easy-to-use interface, but its simplicity limits its ability to customize. It also lacks a pressure gauge. This hinders the ability to experiment because it leaves the user in the dark when it comes to dialing in tamping density and grinder settings — both of which play integral roles in espresso quality. The instruction manual does detail how to adjust the machine's pressure output, but having an integrated pressure gauge would make the process much easier. Lastly, pressure can be increased on the Silvia, but this requires the user to open up the machine — not an ideal procedure.

Using the control panel to dispense hot water through the steam wand. Although simple to use, the interface doesn't have a lot of customized features.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Espresso aficionados can install an aftermarket PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) to better control the temperature. A PID controller uses an advanced algorithm to keep your machine at the proper brew temperature.

Should You Buy the Rancilio Silvia?


The Silvia is pricey and requires 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 practicing baristas. The Silvia is perfect for those who don't mind looking past a few annoying quirks in order to keep their eye on the prize — the production of amazing, cafe-quality espresso.

What Other Espresso Machines Should You Consider?


The Breville Barista Express and the La Pavoni are two very different machines, but they do have one thing in common: they both produce amazing espresso. The Barista Express is more of an automatic machine, while the La Pavoni takes a more manual approach. We suggest reading up on them as well before you make a final decision.

rancilio silvia - extreme close up of where all of the magic happens.
Extreme close up of where all of the magic happens.
Credit: Matt Lighthart

Lesley Robinson and Jason Wanlass