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Small Espresso Tweaks by Alan Frew
Rancilio Silvia - How to
Step by step guide for easy brewing and steaming with the Rancilio Silvia
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Senior Member

Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Posts: 4
Location: Ottawa
Expertise: Pro Barista

Espresso: Rancillio Lucy
Grinder: Rancillio Lucy
Vac Pot: Bodum
Drip: KitchenAid Pro
Roaster: Precision
Posted Mon Mar 10, 2003, 12:36pm
Subject: Espresso tweaks

I agree with Alan Frew. The amount and grind of espresso is much more important than the tamp pressure. I use a Lucy but it's the same espresso machine as the Silvia.
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Senior Member
Joined: 31 May 2002
Posts: 167
Location: Isolation, OH
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Vetrano, Venus, Enrico...
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Rancilio Rocky...
Drip: I'd rather seize!
Roaster: Galloping G/Stir Crazy, FR8...
Posted Thu Jun 12, 2003, 4:20pm
Subject: I kindly disagree

I find that wiping the top of the basket with the palmar surface of a stretched out index finger (ie top of puck will look concave) after Schomerization (back and forth loose spreading of the puck) with a 5 lbs. tamp, then tap on the edge, then 30 lbs. tamp gives consistent results. Brown rich oily aromatic (mmmm i long for one right now :) shots coming up regularly on my Millennium.

Another issue i take with your method is the amount of oils and granules you will end up piling up above the dispersion screen, a result of the excessive pressure from below. Unscrew it and see for yourself.

I like the professional look of your tip sheet, and i confess that i will try this method because experimentation is in my blood.

Thank you for the eloquent presentation of your new ideas.
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Senior Member
Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 5
Location: Boston
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Dec 28, 2003, 4:50pm
Subject: Re: Small Espresso Tweaks by Alan Frew

(Having just aquired a Silvia about two weeks ago, and spent this period bordering on caffeine poisoning...  I have to try at least a few shots of every ten, right? :-)

Interesting, as I too had noticed small variations in the dose resulting in huge differences in the quality of the output.  I's also independently come to the conclusion that packing in as much as possible and cramming it right up to the dispersion screen gives the best results.  Best results by far---  The difference is truly night and day (OTOH, my taste preference runs closer to ristretto than espresso).  The only minor frustration is that it's hard to tell exactly how much grind is in the PF before getting a good grip on Miss Silvia to lock the portafilter down.

And yes, my experience with other machines agrees with bobpaule when he says this will 'foul' the top of the dispersion screen.  OTOH, it seems to be the single biggest variable in getting consistency with Miss Silvia.  If I have to remove and clean the screen weekly (or semi-daily), espresso this good is worth it.  I would still worry though that packing that tight could damage the dispersion screen.

Perhaps just as good results can be had by just missing the screen, but that kind of consistency is, at my skill level, so far impossible to eyeball.  I'll also have to try your other suggustion bobpaule.

(edit addition:  Because this reminded me to clean my grouphead, I took a pic of the dispersion screen after ~ a week of 'really packing it in'.  This photo is after about fifty shots immediately after removing the screen and before any cleaning.  It doesn't look, to me, to be any worse than I'd have expected to see with fewer grounds in the basket.)


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Senior Member

Joined: 5 May 2004
Posts: 23
Location: Chico California
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Grimac Expressione XP1
Posted Fri May 7, 2004, 10:03am
Subject: Re: Thanks again Alan!

For remote, timed and wireless control
take a look at www.x10.com

I have been using that stuff for years
works well for not much $$$

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Senior Member
Joined: 21 Feb 2004
Posts: 120
Location: Canada
Expertise: I live coffee
Posted Fri May 7, 2004, 12:43pm
Subject: Re: I disagree.

nickcho Said:

Sorry, but I disagree with many of your findings.

Posted February 22, 2003 link

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Senior Member
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 1,192
Location: SW Coast of Lake Michigan
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill "La Cora,"  Silvia
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Rocky DL
Vac Pot: Presses, Aeropress
Drip: postnasal, Technivorm
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast2, SC/TO
Posted Sun Mar 20, 2005, 10:09pm
Subject: Re: I disagree.

I'm finding I'm getting the best results grinding from my Rocky DL into a small ramekin, heaping as much as I can loosely into the PF, leveling off with my finger (bastardized cross of Schomer and Stockfleth moves), doing a light tamp with a flat tamper (Thor Hammer), tapping, and doing my 30# tamp and polish with a very slightly convex (WLL stainless).  Afterward, the puck always knocks out cleanly; and before I steam or do my next shot I run water out the grouphead, wipe it down, and brush the gasket. (Yeah, my kitchen's a mess--grounds do fly everywhere and I have to replace the wipedown schmatta every day and toss it in the hamper; and I have paper towels covering the counter).

Life's too short to drink lousy coffee, play crummy guitars and write with ballpoint pens.
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Senior Member

Joined: 8 May 2005
Posts: 823
Location: Baltimore, MD
Posted Mon May 9, 2005, 12:27am
Subject: Re: Espresso tweaks

In Alan's method with coffee just in contact with the screen, lockdown produces the equivalent of tamping at some (unknown) pressure, doesn't it? I wonder if the equivalent psi is near 30 lbs. Whatever it is, it seems reasonable that Alan's method would give a repeatable (consistent) result, and perhaps this is the reason pre-lockdown variations become less important.

Roofus, in your method, does the coffee contact the screen? Or are you just really careful in using the same amount every time?
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