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Help me keeping my sanity
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CoffeeNutHM
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 5
Location: US, VA
Expertise: I love coffee

Roaster: Gene Cafe
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 1:19pm
Subject: Help me keeping my sanity
 

Hi everybody,

this is my first post in this forum. First let me describe my situation. I have been a homeroaster for a little more than two years now and enjoying my coffee exclusively prepared in a french press.
I am at the point where I am really itching to by an Espresso machine for home use. Budget is a concern so I had my mind set on a Silvia and may be add a PID to it.
After reading a lot in this forum and over at home Barista I am getting more and more confused.
On one hand there are people saying that the Silvia can hold its own against much more expensive machines especially when PIDed. On the other hand there are people that are saying it is not worth the money it is better to safe up some more and buy a HX type machine.
Keep in mind that I am an absolute rookie, having never pulled an espresso shot in my life. Does it make sense for me to buy a Silvia or would I be better off with an HX type of machine?
My primary use for the machine would be to pull straight shots for myself and capps for my wife.
I am aware of the fact that on the Silvia I would have to wait after pulling a shot before I can froth milk, but it that wait that bad that it would diminish the quality of the shot?

Thanks for your input in advance.
-Heiko
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,287
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 2:07pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

I owned a Silvia for about 6 years then stepped up to a serious HX machine (details on my website).  When I began, I would never have listened to advice that told me to spend over $2000 on a machine and a grinder.  But it would have been good advice...

Now, re: Silvia. It is the best made machine in that price range, and has excellent resale value considering it is a small, kitchen appliance. It is demanding in regards to all parameters to get good espresso from her. The PID goes a long way towards that, but the problem is that when you combine the price of PID with the machine, you are on the edge of HX machines, so taking the next step is not that costly.

Generally speaking, the benefits of a good HX machine over Silvia are:
- better temperature stability
- ability to steam milk and brew espresso simultaneously (important for entertaining)
- faster recovery between shots
- no waiting between steaming and brewing, nor brewing and steaming.
- less fussy, and performs in a wider range of variables

If budget concerns preclude that large of a step, go for the Silvia or maybe a Gaggia, BUT pass on the economy, entry-level espresso grinders. Get a Mazzer now and it will serve your needs well when you step up to a HX machine later.  They are available used, and if you check your local restaurant supply house or auction site you may find a used one. Add a set of burrs and they are like new.

But read my story on my website and it will give you a lot of insight into entering the world of home espresso....

 
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CoffeeNutHM
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 5
Location: US, VA
Expertise: I love coffee

Roaster: Gene Cafe
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 4:52pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

Thank you for your reply, frcn.

I actually read your blog before I posted my question. You are linked as a resource from the home barista site.
Reading your blog actually re-enforced the idea that the Silvia would be a very capable machine for my needs. I got the impression that you where quite happy with it. I mean keeping it for six years speaks for itself. You wouldn't have done that if you hated it.
Let me address the points that you bring up in favor of a HX machine
- better temperature stability
Is that still true if I add a PID to the Silvia? From reading I was under the impression that a PIDed Silvia would even come ahead of an HX machine in terms of temperature stability. Is that not true?

- ability to steam milk and brew espresso simultaneously (important for entertaining)
Can't argue with that but I don't think it'll be relevant for me, since I don't plan to entertain with that machine. For now its just my wife and me.

- faster recovery between shots
Point taken but again something I can live with I believe.

- no waiting between steaming and brewing, nor brewing and steaming.
That is one point I am concerned about. I would like to get a feel for how bad that delay is.
Would you say that having to wait for the steaming will diminish the quality of the end-product?
If it is just a question of patience I believe I can live with that. If somebody tells me you will never
be able to make a decent cappuccino because of that delay, now that would be a different story.

- less fussy, and performs in a wider range of variables
OK what I read from that is that it would be harder to have consistent good results.
But it is not impossible, right? Question is how hard is it to make good Espresso with the Silvia?
Does it become frustrating?

So one thing that I was not seeing in your list was a statement that an HX machine is producing shots
that the Silvia can only dream of. In other words the HX system is inherently the better approach to make
good Espresso.

As far as the grinder goes I am pretty much set on a stepless, doserless Macap MC4.

As far as the price goes a PIDed Silvia is around $800 but HX machines do not start below $1200 as far as I can see. Please correct me if I am wrong here. So that would still be a significant difference.

Again thanks for you responses so far. I am here to learn.
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,287
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 6:27pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

Reading your blog actually re-enforced the idea that the Silvia would be a very capable machine for my needs. I got the impression that you where quite happy with it. I mean keeping it for six years speaks for itself. You wouldn't have done that if you hated it.

Well, ignorance is bliss, and everything is, indeed, relative. My wife could taste the difference in her cappuccino the HX machine produced from the very first. While Silvia is capable of making a nice milk-based drinks, for straight espresso (or drinks like Amricanos), there is little comparison, with the HX being FAR more consistent, even compared to teh PID'd machine.

Is that still true if I add a PID to the Silvia? From reading I was under the impression that a PIDed Silvia would even come ahead of an HX machine in terms of temperature stability. Is that not true?

Yes, I probably overstated that... On paper, in a graph form, Silvia probably hols a bit of an ege, but this is assuming that a nearly flat temperature curve is preferred. In actual performance, what counts is in the cup.

Remember that there is FAR more involved in making espresso than temperature alone. Let me give one example. Silvia, like many of the single boiler designs, delivers a blast of water to the coffee. The E-61 machines, and others with similar design attributes, begins the flow gently, then after the water has filled the portafilter and there is resistance, then the pressure ramps up. Things like that, usually not found in the Silvia-class machines, makes a difference in the cup.

- ability to steam milk and brew espresso simultaneously (important for entertaining)
Can't argue with that but I don't think it'll be relevant for me, since I don't plan to entertain with that machine. For now its just my wife and me.

It can be considered a matter of convenience, but once you have electric windows in your car, it's hard to go back to manual roll-ups. I do not at all miss the brew - to steam - to brew dance with Silvia. Another consideration, it is best to not leave Silvia on all day because there is no auto-fill for the boiler. A X machine can be left on all day without a problem because they automatically fill the boiler as necessary.

- faster recovery between shots
Point taken but again something I can live with I believe.

Ya, that's what I thought as well...  ;-)

- no waiting between steaming and brewing, nor brewing and steaming.
That is one point I am concerned about. I would like to get a feel for how bad that delay is.
Would you say that having to wait for the steaming will diminish the quality of the end-product?
If it is just a question of patience I believe I can live with that. If somebody tells me you will never
be able to make a decent cappuccino because of that delay, now that would be a different story.

It's not as long or as large of a problem as to affect the beverage.

- less fussy, and performs in a wider range of variables
OK what I read from that is that it would be harder to have consistent good results.
But it is not impossible, right? Question is how hard is it to make good Espresso with the Silvia?
Does it become frustrating?

Looking at straight espresso, it can be a real challenge to get two consecutive pulls to both be drinkable on their own, even with a PID. Not as big of a deal with milk-based drinks, though.

So one thing that I was not seeing in your list was a statement that an HX machine is producing shots
that the Silvia can only dream of. In other words the HX system is inherently the better approach to make
good Espresso.

The shots I get every day from the HX machine are on par with the best that Silvia produced with the exception of maybe three or four shots in that 6+ years. Yes, it makes that big of a difference.

As far as the grinder goes I am pretty much set on a stepless, doserless Macap MC4.

I chose the Mazzer because I like the upper burr mounting and stability the design supplies, but the Macaps are nice as well. When you go into coffee shops, there is a reason that nearly every one of them has at least one or two Mazzer grinders behind the counter.

As far as the price goes a PIDed Silvia is around $800 but HX machines do not start below $1200 as far as I can see. Please correct me if I am wrong here. So that would still be a significant difference.

Well, my machine sells for around $1800 or so, and I have a $1200 grinder, so I am NOT he guy to talk to in that regard!   ;-)

Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a seller with machines on display for use, or maybe get yourself invited over to the home of someone with a machine you are interested in. It might change your mind, or at least help you make it up. If you ever get up to the NY/NJ area there are one or two sellers that might be able to assist in that regard... Chris' Coffee and 1st-Line. Both dependable folks and trustworthy. Might be worth the trip.

 
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BryceP
Senior Member
BryceP
Joined: 22 Feb 2009
Posts: 269
Location: Bismarck, ND
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: PV Lusso, PID Silvia
Grinder: SJ, Virtuoso, KYM
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: FP, CCD, Melitta BCM-4C,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600 x2
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 9:16pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

I only have experience with Silvia and love this machine.  I had a Saeco Via Venezia for approximately two months before I upgraded.  I really am not sure what people mean when they talk about how finicky Silvia is.  Once I learned the basics I began pulling good, drinkable shots and things are getting better.  Now I've been pulling delicious ristrettos constantly.  The only time I get sink shots is when I'm dialing in a new bean.  I can only imagine things will get better when my Super Jolly comes!

FYI,  I've only had this machine for a few months, can't imagine how good the results will be after a few years.
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TimEggers
Moderator
TimEggers
Joined: 3 Oct 2004
Posts: 2,945
Location: Tiskilwa, Illinois
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: QM Anita, Cappuccino Amore
Grinder: Baratza Vario, Mazzer SJ
Vac Pot: Antique McKee, Santos
Drip: Pour Over, Bodum Presses
Roaster: RK Drum
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 10:10pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

I'll preface my comments buy saying for the record that I've not used a Silvia but having said that I've been around long enough to read the many accounts from others that have (amateurs and seasoned home baristas).  I can't figure out why anyone would pay what a Silvia costs for that experience (especially the amateurs).  Silvia seems to come across as finicky not only in temperature (ok, this can be helped with an  expensive PID) but she's also finicky in dose.

Almost all accounts that I've seen of folks that went from a Silvia to the next class give glowing reports about how easy espresso become and more consistent.

In short I don't think I'd wish the Silvia on anyone especially somebody completely new to home espresso.  She's expensive and finicky.  The advice to invest in a grinder and use a Gaggia is rock solid advice, in fact its exactly what I did and now I have the same grinder and a HX machine.  I couldn't be happier and I really liked the little Gaggia, its capable of very good espresso (just like Silvia) without the finicky nature.  While a HX or DB (double boiler) is an obvious upgrade from this class, keep it cheap with the Gaggia, invest in that grinder then take the next machine class on when you're ready.

Silvia just seems to be a whole lot of money for a whole lot of headache, something no one needs, especially as a first machine.


BryceP Said:

I only have experience with Silvia and love this machine.  I had a Saeco Via Venezia for approximately two months before I upgraded.  I really am not sure what people mean when they talk about how finicky Silvia is.  Once I learned the basics I began pulling good, drinkable shots and things are getting better.  Now I've been pulling delicious ristrettos constantly.  The only time I get sink shots is when I'm dialing in a new bean.  I can only imagine things will get better when my Super Jolly comes!

FYI,  I've only had this machine for a few months, can't imagine how good the results will be after a few years.

Posted July 17, 2009 link

That's great to hear, but have you ever pulled shots on an e61 HX or DB?

Further Reading: What was your upgrade from Rancilio Silvia class espresso machine? and How long before you upgraded from Rancilio Silvia class espresso machine?

 
Tim Eggers
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BryceP
Senior Member
BryceP
Joined: 22 Feb 2009
Posts: 269
Location: Bismarck, ND
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: PV Lusso, PID Silvia
Grinder: SJ, Virtuoso, KYM
Vac Pot: Yama
Drip: FP, CCD, Melitta BCM-4C,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600 x2
Posted Fri Jul 17, 2009, 11:24pm
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

Depending on the time Silvia really isn't that much more than a Gaggia, depending on the model.  I had a hard time making up my mind between the Classic ($400) and Silvia ($500).  I ended up getting the Silvia which seemed like a better built machine....and it also looks nicer in my kitchen :)
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PrivateShrink
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 270
Location: Baltimore
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Andreja Premium
Grinder: Gaggia MDF, Macap M4
Vac Pot: French Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600 Roaster
Posted Sat Jul 18, 2009, 6:25am
Subject: Re: Help me keeping my sanity
 

Just to be a contrarian with regard to advice, I had a wonderful time for many years with my Gaggia Carezza and MDF grinder. Relatively inexpensive and even now with my Andreja Premium and Macap M4, I look back with admiration at the quality espresso and caps I produced. My advice...start at the bottom and enjoy, then do a big upgrade when you really feel confident and have enough moolah.
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Bitches_Brew
Senior Member
Bitches_Brew
Joined: 4 Feb 2009
Posts: 772
Location: indiana
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: yes
Grinder: yes
Vac Pot: no
Drip: no
Roaster: yes
Posted Sat Jul 18, 2009, 8:38am
Subject: Re: Don't forget the grinder!
 

it's not that hard even without a PID. did you watch this Heiko?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhxvDusY3jk


there are a bunch of videos of steaming on there too. check them out and see if you think a silvia would work for you.:)

 
"You can write down how to make the perfect cup of coffee. But to make it really good, you have to play something fictional, you have to dress up, you have to think, This is the most important thing."
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germantownrob
Senior Member
germantownrob
Joined: 2 Dec 2007
Posts: 2,135
Location: Philadelphia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Duetto 3, A Dead Oscar
Grinder: Vario-W, Preciso w/Esatto,...
Drip: Brazen
Roaster: Diedrich IR-1, HT B
Posted Sat Jul 18, 2009, 12:16pm
Subject: Re: Don't forget the grinder!
 

I just went through this starting 2 weeks ago. I wanted the Silvia or the Gaggia to work for me but I know myself and what I can live with and I would upgrade very quickly. The decision was a very tough one but in the end it came down to being able to pull good shots consecutively and for as many people stood in my kitchen. I got my Oscar for under a $1000 and there where a few more that where on the list that could be had for this price (I found the prices listed and what price was given over the phone to be very different). I got my machine 5 days ago and as a total newb can get very good consistent results now, my biggest problem was not having many sink shots, I didn't sleep for 2 days. I wish I could say the same thing about steaming milk, I wish I could blame the Oscar for this but it is really just my incompetence with a wand, I guess no one will be calling me Harry Potter, at least I hope not.

I would like to suggest reading up on the Baratza Vario as a grinder choice, some very interesting reads and can be had for less than $400.
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