The Definitive Rancilio Silvia Review

Rancilio Silvia review

Rancilio Silvia M V6 Espresso Machine

A Little History

The Rancilio brand name is synonymous with espresso machines and has been for many many years. They are an Italian company that is world-famous for commercial espresso machines. In fact, the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine started its life a couple of decades ago as a gift for its most cherished customers. Designed to be a personal espresso machine for these cherished customer’s homes.

Word soon got out about these little beauties and before long, the demand for Rancilio to mass-produce these machines meant that they had to start producing them for the mass espresso home market. They have since developed these little machines and refined them slightly and the latest incarnation is this, the M V6 version.

What can you say about the Rancilio Silvia? To use an analogy with cars, if this machine was a car, it would be a 1968  Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Not beautiful in the sense that it has nice curves and sleek design but rugged and mean looking. Beautiful in its own right but it doesn’t care what it looks like. It knows that under the hood it can take on even the most modern of performance super cars.

The bottom line is, that in the right hands, the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine can deliver exceptional espresso and rich, creamy micro-foam milk, but it will make you work hard to get there!

Rancilio Silvia Pros and Cons

Capable of Making professional-grade espressoSmall water reservoir and drip tray
Very small and compactSingle boiler leads to “Deadband” heat and a long waiting time
Uses serviceable parts in case of repairHas a Big learning curve for perfection
Great steam wandThe design is for espresso purists
Reasonable priceNo coffee bean grinder
Robust and strong machine

Rancilio Silvia Setup & User Interface

The Rancilio Silvia came well packaged and to be honest, I was expecting this thing to feel a lot heavier than it is. In fact, I was also fairly taken aback by the diminutive size of it. Somehow, in the pictures, it just looked a lot bigger than it actually is. As they say, good things come in small packages, so is this the case for the little Rancilio?

Straight out of the box, there are a few small steps that need to be taken to prepare the coffee machine for its first use. The first step is to fill the water tank and place the two water pipes into the water tank before replacing the cover. You then need to open the water knob counter-clockwise, and switch on the coffee switch and then the power switch.

Water will start to come out of the steam wand and you then have to turn the tap off. This will instigate the water to come out of the group head because the coffee switch is on. After about 16 fl oz of water has come out of the group head, switch off the coffee switch and then empty the drip tray. The machine is now ready for operation.

Weight:30 lbs
Height:13.4 inches
Width:9.3 inches
Depth:11.4 inches
Noise (During Use):< 70db
Water Tank Size:0.08 US gallons
Power:1000 W (120V)
1150 W (230V)
Included Accessories:Wood handle tamper
Single-shot basket
Double-shot basket
Double-spout porta filter

The Rancilio SIlvia has a total of four rocker switches that wouldn’t look out of place on a commercial espresso machine, to be honest. You can forget about fancy color displays or wifi-enabled apps to control this thing, this is pure mechanical engineering at its best!

The rocker buttons have a lovely positive “thunk” feel to them when you switch them. There is no ambiguity as to whether you switched it or not. The three switches to the left are a coffee switch, a hot water switch and a steam switch. They are fairly self explanatory as to what they do. There is a central switch which will turn the boiler heating on or off. All very basic but some clever use of the switches will mean the difference between great espresso and milk foam or poor results.

To the right is a lovely steam knob which, yep, you guessed it, controls the steam out of the steam wand.

On the top of the machine is a cup tray which gets warmth from the boiler and the at the back is the water tank for the… errrm, water.

Rancilio Silvia Design and Specifications

I used an analogy of the Rancilio if it were a car, being like a Mustang Shelby. The reason behind this analogy is that when you look at this beast of a machine it looks like it was built for performance rather than looks sometime in the 1960’s.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is certainly true for the Rancilio. if you are an espresso purist with a fond nostalgia for Italian cafe’s in small Italian villages then you will love the beauty of this thing. If you like sleek lines, curves, and contemporary things, then you will probably think the Rancilio was built in Frankenstein’s shed!

I might be exaggerating a bit, I personally love the look of this coffee machine. The stainless steel is rugged looking but very reminiscent of its larger commercial coffee machine brothers.

This is a single boiler unit and like all other single boiler units, it has limitations. You cannot brew coffee and use the steam wand or water simultaneously. There are certain processes that need to be followed each time you want to use one or the other of steam, water or coffee.

Inside the unit itself, you can see the machine is made from some great components. The boiler in this new ‘M’ model has improved over its older counterparts too. The great thing about the Rancilio Silvia coffee machine is that the components are pretty much smaller versions of more commercial machines made by Rancilio. This shows a lot of quality and great performance as well.

The group head and portafilter are great as well. In fact the portafilter is the exact same one that is used on Rancilio commercial machines. It has a double shot cage and a single shot cage too.

Rancilio Silvia Performance & Functionality

So, this is where you will either love or hate the Rancilio Silvia. There are certain processes that need to be done each time you want to brew an espresso or operate the steam wand to foam milk.

Let us begin with using the steam wand to froth some milk to make a nice creamy emulsion foam. You need to make sure the machine is switched on and you should see a nice green LED light on next to the switch. You then switch the steam switch to on and wait for the boiler to heat the water up to the right temperature for steam. When this happens, the orange LED (under the green one) will come on. You can then use the steam wand in your milk by turning the variable steam knob counter-clockwise.

Remember that this is a single boiler machine and now to brew coffee, you need to bring the temperature of the water in the boiler down to a nice brewing temperature (around 208 degrees F). To achieve this, you have to switch on the hot water switch and turn the knob to expel some water and replace the water in the boiler to cool it down. The orange light will come on when that temperature is reached. This is a limitation of single boilers that do more than one thing like this. The deadband is the period in which you are waiting for the water temperature to be optimal for both steam and coffee brewing.

To get the optimum espresso brewing temperature, wait another 30 seconds or so and in the mean time, fill the portafilter up with coffee grounds and tamp it down. Then place the portafilter into the grouphead and switch on the coffee machine. Your cup needs to be placed under the twin spouts of the portafilter and you will see your espresso start to be extracted. When the required amount of espresso has been delivered into your cup, just switch off the coffee switch.

As you can see, there are a number of steps that need to be taken to make both espresso and micro foam milk. It is a bit daunting at first but when you get the hang of it, I actually found it quite intuitive. It does take a lot of time to make a milky coffee but the Rancilio results were stunningly good!

The espressos created were rounded in flavor and with a wonderful crema. The milk foam produced from the powerful steam wand is also top notch and identical to the quality from a commercial machine. What else would you expect from a Rancilio though?

Rancilio Silvia Build Quality

There is no doubt about it, the Rancilio is built to last. It is solid and the stainless steel finish for the casing is just fantastic and gives it a feeling of being robust and tough. The switches and knob are very well made and feel responsive and tactile.

Inside the machine are a bunch of components that can literally be purchased off the shelf if there ever was a problem. You get the feeling that if you are fairly handy with a soldering iron, it wouldn’t be too hard to change a component if needed.

The water reservoir, is adequate but quite small, as is the drip tray. You will find that you will be constantly either emptying the drip tray or filling the water reservoir during the day if you use the Rancilio a lot during the day.

The portafilter is a quality component and is made really well. It is the same as the ones used on their commercial machines, and it just feels great in operation. The tamp supplied with the machine is a bit flimsy and weak though. I suggest you buy a new one to use.

Rancilio Silvia Maintenance

There are certain processes that need to be carried out periodically to keep your coffee machine in good working order. One of the most important ones is to remember to clean and flush the steam wand each and every time you use it for milk. This is important to keep the wand free from any bacteria and also to flush out any residue from the milk in the steam wand itself.

Periodic descaling will need to be done every few months. Of course the regularity of this depends on the hardness and quality of the water you use with it.

There is also a bung included with the machine which should be placed in the portafilter and then into the grouphead. This will then back-flush the grouphead with water to clean that as well.

Rancilio Silvia Accessories

I suggest a new tamp is needed as the one supplied is plastic junk, to be honest. The other more important purchase that will need to make if you do not already own one, is a quality burr grinder for your coffee beans. The Rancilio Rocky espresso burr grinder is a very worthy counterpart for the Silvia coffee machine.

Who Is The Rancilio Silvia For?

So who would this coffee machine be most suited for? In my opinion, if you love great coffee and you are prepared to go through a small learning curve then the Rancilio Silvia is certainly a good option for you.

If, on the other hand, you want great coffee but you would prefer something more automatic, then it probably isn’t for you. What I can promise you though is that just like the Ford Mustang Shelby can out muscle all the latest fancy super cars, the Rancilio Silvia can outperform most espresso machines in terms of quality drinks.

Rancilio Silvia FAQ

Is the Rancilio Silvia Worth The Money?

I very much believe it is worth every cent you spend on this machine. It is essentially a small commercial machine with only a single boiler but makes awesome espresso and steam for milk foam.

Where Are The Rancilio Silvia Coffee Machines Made?

Rancilio are an old Italian espresso machine company that have been making machines for many decades.

How Can I Tell Which Version Of The Rancilio Silvia I have?

Under the drip tray when you remove it, you should see a number on there which corresponds to the version you have. It is basically a code with the month and year it was made. For example, if it were made in April 2019, it would say 0419 as the code.

Rancilio Silvia Verdict

While I am ready to concede that the Rancilio Silvia is not a coffee machine for everyone and it does have some big limitations. Especially when it comes to surfing the water temperature to get it right for either steam or coffee. You have to patient and understand the nuances of the machine. Once you do, you will quite simply love the espresso and milk foam that this machine can create. I can confidently say that the quality is as good as any barista can make in an Italian cafe looking out at the snow covered Alps. My advice, buy this machine if you love espresso and all things Italian.

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