Mikespresso Senior Member Joined: 15 Jul 2012 Posts: 16 Location: India Expertise: Just starting
Posted Sat Aug 18, 2012, 11:20pm Subject: How easy is it to take care of a Silvia
After spending a lot of time reading all the information provided here I have finally decided to enter the world of real espresso and get a Rancilio Silvia and a Rancilio Rocky. The problem is that I live in India and there is no customer support from Rancilio available here; and the investment on the two machines is a pretty substantial amount for me. Could those familiar with the machines tell me how easy/difficult is it to take care of them, o.k. I am an engineer and have access to screw drivers, barometers, thermometers, and the alike. Can the machines be taken care of on just a DIY level or am I doomed to fail and see a couple of months of my savings go down the drain within a short duration of time.
What I am hoping is that the machines last at least 8-10 years with just care that I can provide. Do you think it is possible. Also, could those familiar tell me what are the accessories most likely to need a replacement regularly and which you would recommend I order along with the machines. Thanks a lot, I really appreciate the help provided here.
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 1,991 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Sun Aug 19, 2012, 2:10am Subject: Re: How easy is it to take care of a Silvia
With just the usual maintenance the machine and the grinder will probably work fine for years to come.
However, both are meant for home use and not heavy commercial use. The more you use them, the worse the wear will be, of course, especially on the pump, the gaskets and the valves.
The usual maintenance includes regular backflushing with detergent (once a week or every 35 shots) and also descaling the machine (the harder the water is you use, the more often you have to descale), and regular cleaning for the grinder (instead of using Grindz for that purpose, which is probably hard to come by in India, you might as well use rice grains).
Whether you're able to do further servicing yourself, largely depends on your DIY skills. It's possible to clean the boiler and exchange spare parts at home as long as you know what you're doing.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
I'm no expert by any means, not like the other coffee geeks, but I also own a Rancilio Silvia and Rocky. Some people on the forum may wish to correct my advice, but this is what I know so far....
Here's my recommendations:
First of all, the trick to always producing a good coffee is to make sure the machine is clean, clean, clean. This means that you should always do a post flush on the brew group after every shot to get the grounds off the dispersion screen. As well, to clean the portafilter seal, one should also do a portafilter "wiggle" as part of that cleaning flush. (That's wiggling the portafilter back and forth loosely to get the grounds off the seal.) This takes me less than 5 seconds to do.
Get a brush any make sure that you clean off the dispersion screen and the area around it to get any extra grounds out. This takes a second and can be done during the cleaning flush. You don't have to do this every time you make a shot, I only do this when it's my last shot and I'm done with the machine.
When you are finished, clean out the portafilter of any leftover grounds and wipe it down with a cloth. Then lightly lock it into the group head. Don't do a full hard lock when you're not using the machine. Some people leave the portafilter in the grinder, other people leave it sitting on the drip tray. I personally think that there's no harm in leaving it lightly locked in the group head. It will warm up the portafilter when you switch on the machine in the morning.
When you are using the steam wand to make a latte or a cappuccino, always wipe the steam wand down with a wet cloth to get the dried out milk off the wand, then make sure to blast some steam into the water tray to clean out the hole.
Just to let you know, since the Silvia has such a shallow drip tray, make sure to keep a container around so that you can do your flushes without filling up the tray. You will still need to empty the tray after two shots. Always make sure the tray is empty when you are done.
Now, I backflush my Silvia with water once, once a week. This involves taking a rubber backflushing disk, putting it in the portafilter, running the pump for about 5-10 seconds until I can hear the pump laboring, then turning it off and watching to see how much stuff comes out of the three way valve. Some people will say that you shouldn't backflush a Silvia at all due to the nature of the machine and that this could void your warranty. I disagree. I don't think it will hurt the machine. I wouldn't mind hearing what other forum members have to say.
It is currently my understanding that I should backflush with detergent about once every 50 shots. Since I have two shots a day, that means I should backflush with detergent about once a month, which sounds about right. Backflushing with detergent is more to clean the old rancid coffee oils out of the machine so that you get a better quality coffee. When adding detergent, a teaspoon is enough. I'm not sure what happens if you use too much detergent, but I don't want to find out.
Since where I live has very hard water, I should descale the machine about once every two months. This involves diluting a tablespoon of Citric Acid per Liter into the water tank, running 1/3rd of the reservoir, letting it sit for 20 minutes, running another 1/3rd, letting it sit for 20 minutes and then finishing it off, flushing with an entire reservoir of clean water to get the Citric acid out. This is probably the most time consuming and difficult part of normal maintenance.
BTW, Since your machine has a boiler, don't use white vinegar to descale the machine. This is a no-no apparently.
I have no idea how hard your water is, so I'm not sure if you have to descale as frequently as I do. I think a serious sign of needing to descale is if you notice that water is very slow coming out of the group head or the steam wand is anemic. By then though, it could already be too late and you may require a professional servicing to descale your machine.
Also, could those familiar tell me what are the accessories most likely to need a replacement regularly
I'm not sure how often a portafilter gasket needs to be replaced on these machines, but I understand its a wear and tear part. Over time, this gasket stops becoming flexible and starts getting hard and crunchy. I probably wouldn't replace it unless I noticed the portafilter was leaking during a shot, even though it was tightened down. Other forum members may want to correct me on this.
The Silvia has been around a very long time and has got a lot of positive reviews for reliability. I've been using mine for nearly two months now and so far so good. I know it's eventually becoming due for a descaling.
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
I'll sheepishly admit that in my previous post, I mentioned every 50 shots.. I guess I'll have to re-read the instructions on the espresso machine detergent bottle. It explicitly mentions the whole x number of shots vs time thing.
After reading a few threads, there is one consensus. If a machine has a three way solenoid valve... and the Silvia does, regular backflushing is required.
Here's another thread on backflushing.. There are a lot of them on Coffeegeek:
I'll sheepishly admit that in my previous post, I mentioned every 50 shots.. I guess I'll have to re-read the instructions on the espresso machine detergent bottle. It explicitly mentions the whole x number of shots vs time thing. ...
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