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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Silvia debugging  
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mithrandi
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Aug 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia V3
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 7:57am
Subject: Silvia debugging
 

I just upgraded from a failing Breville BES250 ("Cafe Venezia") to a Rancilio Silvia V3. (Side note: I do understand that the Silvia may not have been the best choice, but given availability / price ranges in South Africa, it seemed like my best bet at the moment.) The steam wand is a massive improvement; I'm still going to need some practice, but my first two tries produced far better microfoam than I ever got with the BES250. However, I'm struggling to pull anything resembling an espresso shot with the Silvia. The problem is, I'm not sure where to start adjusting things and in what direction in order to fix the problem.

I have a Baratza Virtuoso grinder; I was previously grinding with this at around the 9 setting for use with the BES250's double wall filter basket, and pulling a double shot in around 15 seconds. I realise this was probably "too fast", and that a finer grind would be required for the Silvia's single wall baskets, so I adjusted downwards to around the 5 mark. I'm tamping fairly firmly. I don't have a scale (on my list of things to correct, but...), so I've just been dosing by volume. Unfortunately, so far, every shot I pull basically starts out as black-coloured water, going clearish after around 10 seconds. I would say "blonde", except there's nothing really recognisable as crema at all. I tried adjusting the grind even finer, which may have produced a slight bit of oil on top, but didn't seem to make too much difference. The puck has a visible indentation from the screw in the centre of the grouphead (I understand this is normal), but other than that, there doesn't seem to be any disturbance of the puck, so I don't think there's channeling occurring (unless it's in the centre indentation); I'm not 100% sure I know what to look for.

My problem now is, I just don't know where to start figuring out what I'm doing wrong; there is lots of room for improvement, obviously, and I understand that a lower-end machine like the Silvia is a lot more "finnicky" than a better machine, but I'd like to at least get something resembling an espresso shot before I start worrying about the finer points of flavour and extraction. Any help would be appreciated!
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mithrandi
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Aug 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia V3
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:01am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

One last note: I decided to try two more shots for the day before giving up, grinding at a "3" and then a "0" (finest) setting on the Virtuoso. The first attempt was about as bad as the previous attempts, with possibly a hint of very weak crema. The second attempt (on "0") produced what seemed to be a very thin/weak crema, which at least basically covered the top, but still pretty pathetic. This sort of suggests to me that my grind still isn't anywhere near fine enough?!
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mithrandi
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Aug 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia V3
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:04am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

Oh, *another* note about the Virtuoso: I found Click Here (www.coffeegeek.com) which talks about an 11 setting for espresso grind; however, I believe I read elsewhere that newer Virtuosos come with the Preciso burrs fitted, whereas I think that review covered the model with the older burrs, thus is probably not directly comparable to mine.
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jliedeka
Moderator
jliedeka
Joined: 1 May 2002
Posts: 1,566
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Expertise: I live coffee

Grinder: Rocky Stainless
Drip: Technivorm, Chemex,...
Roaster: Behmor, heat gun
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:13am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

That is a puzzler.  Are you using the stock filter basket?  The double?  When I had a Silvia, I mostly used a replacement ridgeless basket but the stock double was ok.  I never got the hang of single shots.

Are you weighing the grounds?  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but IIRC, a double should be somewhere in the 14-17 gram range.

The usual advice for dialing in a shot is to standardize your tamp and vary the grind with a lighter tamp and finer grind preferred.  I would have thought the Virtuoso could choke a Silvia on the finest grind.  Does it have a fine adjustment as well?  I've only used a Preciso and Vario.

    Jim

 
Cafe todo el dia, tequila toda la noche
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mithrandi
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Aug 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia V3
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:26am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

I'm using the stock double basket, with a 58mm tamper from a local retailer (the stock tamper seems pretty useless, way too small?). I avoided the stock single basket as by all accounts it's very difficult to use, and my usual drink is a latte/cappucino with a double shot. The tamper seems to catch slightly in the double basket (although it looks like it fits the single basket perfectly), but I don't *think* this is the problem. I'm not weighing the grounds (yet), don't have a suitable scale on hand; my next step will probably be to procure one so that I can at least start dosing consistently.

The Virtuoso doesn't have a fine adjustment, just a single "ring" (actually, the entire bean hopper rotates). I expected it to choke as well, especially given how much finer it is than what I was using with the BES250, but... apparently not? Is there some other mistake I could be making somewhere to throw the pressure off completely? Otherwise, perhaps my dosing is just too far out for the Silvia; some of the things I read suggested that it's very sensitive to dose size.
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LauraH
Senior Member


Joined: 14 May 2013
Posts: 16
Location: Xico, Mexico
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia
Grinder: Rancilio Rocky
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:46am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

I have a Sylvia and found for the coffee I was using I needed to reduce the amount of coffee in the basket. The screw impression ONLY happens AFTER the shot has been pulled. If you see the puck disturbed BEFORE you draw the shot, then there is too much coffee in the basket. Once I reduced the amount, I got GREAT crema.  If your beans were roasted more than 2 or 3 weeks ago then your shots are not going to be very good no matter what you do.  Even if you drink only one shot, use the double basket. You throw less coffee out as trying to make the perfect shot with a single basket on the Sylvia is to say the least HARD!  Someone who has a Baratza Virtuoso can speak to the adjustment of the grinder but from what I have read on Coffeegeek it should be choking the Sylvia at the low numbers you are using. I question if the calibration is off.  Again, someone with more knowledge of your grinder can speak better to that.  FRESHLY roasted beans, less coffee in the basket, no more than about 30 lbs of pressure on the tamping, and a well calibrated grinder should be producing lovely shots.  Perhaps trying a different roast may also help with more joy in your cup. The Sylvia has been a great machine for me and I hope you can find her sweet spot soon. Enjoy the journey!
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 1,006
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 9:25am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

How old are the beans?
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tickandtin
Senior Member


Joined: 23 Sep 2013
Posts: 3
Location: nh
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 10:02am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

I have also just purchased the Rancilio Sylvia and am new to the world of coffee. Although i am far from making a great espresso these are a few things that helped me. The portafilter basket was designed for 14 grams with a tamp the coffee comes up to the ridge mark. I have the same grinder as you and  I understand that they are not calibrated the same I have been pulling shots with the grinder set to 3 micro I macro  which gives me a 30g of espresso in 25sec. The coffee also comes out of the grinder with lumps so i break them down with a fork. I usually let the Sylvia warmup for 45 min and i do have a pid on mine. I do use a scale and have seen how much small changes do make. It would probably be best to get a scale so you can try to get some consistency. Like I said I am a beginner and this is what makes it interesting the journey for a good espresso.
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mithrandi
Senior Member


Joined: 27 Aug 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia V3
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 11:46am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

takeshi Said:

How old are the beans?

Posted October 14, 2013 link

The beans aren't more than a few weeks old; I pulled a shot with the same beans in the BES250 this morning, so I'm think they're still okay, even if they're not amazingly fresh.

tickandtin Said:

I have the same grinder as you and  I understand that they are not calibrated the same I have been pulling shots with the grinder set to 3 micro I macro  which gives me a 30g of espresso in 25sec.

Posted October 14, 2013 link

My Virtuoso only has a single adjustment scale, not micro/macro; it sounds like you have the Virtuoso Preciso.

tickandtin Said:

I do use a scale and have seen how much small changes do make. It would probably be best to get a scale so you can try to get some consistency. Like I said I am a beginner and this is what makes it interesting the journey for a good espresso.

Posted October 14, 2013 link

Getting my hands on a suitable scale will definitely be the next thing I do; I guess I'll report back once I've had a chance to try this out.
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SJM
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 1,723
Location: CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: SAMA (2), Maximatic, Cremina...
Grinder: K-10PB, Rancilio MD-50
Vac Pot: no like
Drip: no like
Roaster: HotTop   Huky en route
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 11:55am
Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
 

Okay, I know exactly nothing about Silvias except that I have heard they are a lot like Gaggias, about which I know some.

Your beans are OLD.
Your Virtuoso is probably not up to the job (it would not be for a Gaggia at least).  
You need a scale, but it won't compensate for the first two items.
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