A long-time favorite of both amateur and experienced home baristas, the attractive, stainless-steel Rancilio Silvia is a high-performance espresso machine that delivers impressive flavor and is built to last. You'll also want to invest in a high-quality coffee grinder as, when used with perfectly ground, fresh coffee beans, the semi-automatic Silvia brews a delicious espresso that users say rivals what you'd get at coffee shops.
Coffee shop-quality espresso. The Rancilio Silvia is a semi-automatic espresso machine that reviewers say delivers exceptional espresso and experts agree: in testing at TheSweethome.com, it made the best cup of espresso, although, since that's a roundup aimed at beginners, the Silvia wasn't the overall recommended machine. The Silvia has some commercial-grade elements that help filter and distribute the water more evenly while providing maximum heat stability. The 12-ounce boiler is one of the largest in any entry-level espresso machine. It takes about 20 minutes for the Silvia to warm up, and for best results, some users suggest running warm water through the machine to warm up the pipes and portafilter. The vast majority of experts and owners say that purchasing a high-quality burr coffee grinder is an absolute must to accommodate this machine's precision requirements.
Easy to use; needs some fiddling for "perfection." The actual operation of the Rancilio Silvia is fairly simple and straightforward -- push the right buttons to turn it on and off and to start and stop the brewing process. It also features a fully articulating steam wand, making it simple to control. However users must experiment to find the right espresso grind and tamping pressure. Most espresso enthusiasts say they enjoy this process, but other machines offer simpler operation and coffee forums are teeming with questions from frustrated newbies who can't figure out why their espresso doesn't taste quite right. The Silvia can be adapted to use ESE (Easy Serve Espresso) pods with an optional Pod Adaptor Kit (Est. $120), but attaching and removing the adapter can be tricky -- and you can't brew from grounds with the adapter attached. The 67 ounce water reservoir is removable for easy re-filling.
Built like a tank. Reviewers praise the Rancilio Silvia's design, saying it's a sturdy, high-quality machine. All parts are commercial or semi-commercial grade and are constructed primarily with stainless steel and cast iron, two materials known for long-term durability. Owner feedback at Amazon.com indicate the Rancilio Silvia a nice-looking kitchen appliance, but owners also say it won't win any awards for being especially modern or retro. That said, its stainless-steel housing fits in with most décor. It's a heavy machine at just more than 30 pounds, so it's best left sitting on a countertop -- but be sure you have the space -- at 9.2 by 11.4 by 13.4 inches it's smaller than some espresso machines, but will still take up a fair amount of real estate in your kitchen.
Since this is a guide for beginners, the Rancilio Silvia is not the top pick, that honor goes to the easier to use Breville BES840 XL, but the Silvia is the espresso machine that delivered the best cup of espresso overall. Cale Guthrie Weissman says, "we had a few truly barista-quality shots from the Silvia," and notes that it can even be used in small professional settings.
This is an update to a review that Dan Kehn originally wrote for Home-Barista.com in 2003. He notes improvements Rancilio has made to the Silvia that makes it easier for newbies to use, but also notes that it's less forgiving than even pricier, commercial-quality machines. In conclusion, he gives it an overall score of 3 stars of 5, which he notes is still "quite respectable."
The Rancilio Silvia earns a perfect 5-star rating in just under 350 reviews. Owners say it makes wonderful espresso, but most warn that you must use a high-quality grinder to get top results. Quite a few of these reviewers have owned their Rancilio for a year or more.
The Rancilio Silvia is highly rated at CoffeeGeek.com, an online community for coffee connoisseurs. Most owners who post reviews are delighted with it, calling it a great starter machine and a consistent, rewarding device. Overall, about 230 users give it a score of 8.5 out of 10.
Nearly 300 owners give the Rancilio Silvia an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5. Most love it and say it's easy to use and makes a mean cup of espresso. Some complain about the learning curve, and say they struggle with making a good espresso shot.
This is an older review, but still relevant as the Rancilio hasn't changed significantly since it was posted. Erin Meister, an experienced barista, discusses the best espresso machines for home use at different price points. She calls the Silvia "incredibly user-friendly" and says it "even offers the option for geek-leaning coffee people to add features.
There are no customer reviews of the Rancilio Silvia, but it is a staff pick. Coffee expert Gail also Williams gives it a thorough video review, and the accompanying write-up includes pros and cons.