Our Valued Sponsor
OpinionsConsumer ReviewsGuides and How TosCoffeeGeek ReviewsResourcesForums
opinions and articles
Coffee in Australia by Alan Frew
Show Me The Money! in Espresso Machines
Posted: December 28, 2001
Article rating: 8.4
feedback: (5) comments | read | write

or, "Why Some Espresso Machines Cost More Than Others

Machines lined up for testing

In my business Coffee for Connoisseurs (website), I sell 4 domestic espresso machines: the Imat Junior, the Imat Napoletana, the Rancilio Silvia and the Solis SL90. Because I'm an "Internet Only" coffee retailer, I tend to regard machines as interesting devices for consuming coffee, rather than big ticket items with big markups. My profits on any machine sale might pay for a weeks' petrol...just.

The result is that I don't really have a bias towards any of the machines I sell, since they all offer about the same small profit after the government gets its slice. Many of the enquiries I get as to which machine to buy result in recommendations to check out machines I don't sell at all, such as superautomatics, and "get back to me for the coffee." But there are still potential customers who want to buy their single group non-automatic domestic machine from me. My problem is that they want me to recommend which unit to buy, and I'm not that fussed, as long as the customer is happy with their machine and using my coffee.

Internet retailing in Australia means that every machine I sell is "torture tested" for 24 hours before shipping; when your customer can be 5000 km distant from you, you don't want returns for faulty machines. It also means that I'm very familiar with the units and their capabilities, which helps me to ask the questions and provide the explanations that sort out (a) what the customer needs and (b) what the customer wants... and they are not always the same thing.

Probably the most difficult thing to explain over the phone or by email is why the Junior is only $500 (in round numbers) and the Silvia is $750. The Solis is easy (the electronics and gadgetry, plus Swiss Franc vs. Australian Peso) and the Napoletana has the grinder, so that's an easy one too.  The Junior vs. the Silvia is a LOT harder to explain without actually seeing the machines, so I'm usually reduced to the "weight of metal" explanation, "Uhhrr..the Junior weighs 8kg and is built to do the best job for the price, the Silvia weighs 14kg and is built like a tank."

Below is a photo essay of the comparison between the machines (done using a Napoletana, but internally the non-grinder bits of the Napoletana and Junior are identical.) This probably won't be all that interesting to the 110v North American part of the world, but for the 240v Australians, Asians and Europeans it shows where the money goes. In Europe the Junior and Napoletana are available online from Gemme (website), and Nemo (website).

Click for larger image Click for larger image
Napoletana Boiler, Front View:
Same boiler and element sizes and shapes as the Silvia, but note the use of teflon tubing.
Rancilio Silvia Boiler, Front View:
Similar to the Napoletana, but uses copper tubing in places where the other unit uses teflon.

Click for larger image Click for larger image
Napoletana Boiler, Rear View:
Note connections controls and also the Ulka (red) pump.
Rancilio Silvia Boiler, Rear View:
The Silvia uses the same Ulka pump as the Napoletana.
Click for larger image Click for larger image
Napoletana Grouphead Area
This group is formed in the base of the boiler, something also done in most Gaggia and Saeco models. The showerscreen is perforated and screwed directly to the boiler base. Screen diameter is the same as the Silvia's.
Rancilio Silvia Grouphead
Quite different from the other model, the Silvia's grouphead is a separate assembly bolted to the side of the boiler, and formed from a massive chunk of brass. The showerscreen is stainless steel mesh and screwed to the water distribution valve.
Click for larger image Click for larger image
Napoletana Drip Tray Assembly
Features a steel screen up top that is fairly thin, and a black plastic reservoir area. Holds 1300ml.
Silvia Drip Tray Assembly
Thick stainless steel used for both screen and reservoir. The Silvia's drip tray holds 600ml.
Click for larger image

The Silvia (on the right) has a heavy plated brass portafilter which fits commercial Rancilio machines, and uses commercial 58mm filter baskets with rolled edges. The Napoletana portafilter (on the left) is plated brass, but lighter than the Silvia, and uses cheaper pressed 57mm filter baskets with straight edges.

In terms of brewing ability both machines will produce an espresso that is better than 99% of commercial operators can manage, given good beans and a well trained owner, but the espressos from the Silvia are slightly sweeter and fuller bodied than those from the Napoletana. Add milk and the difference is undetectable to my palate.

So there you have it. I suspect that the Silvia has been built "down" from Rancilio's commercial machines, using common parts wherever possible, while the Napoletana/Junior machines have been built "up" by Quaha using top quality "domestic" parts. In both machines there is no doubt that you are getting good value and performance for your money, so the buying decision is a bit like buying a car; are you happy with a Mazda or a Mercedes?

Article rating: 8.4
Posted: December 28, 2001
feedback: (5) comments | read | write
All Retired Columnists Articles
These articles are listed in alphabetical order, first by columnist, then by article title.
A day in the life
Alan Frew, 04.24.2002, Rated: 7.4
A Dinner Party Challenge
Alan Frew, 10.15.2002, Rated: 7.8
Celebrate The Bean
Alan Frew, 03.29.2003, Rated: 8.1
Domestic Espresso Repair
Alan Frew, 05.20.2002, Rated: 9.1
Domestic Grinder Analysis
Alan Frew, 08.30.2002, Rated: 8.5
Domestic Machine Reviews
Alan Frew, 08.22.2003, Rated: 8.2
Domestic Machine Roundup
Alan Frew, 07.01.2002, Rated: 8.8
Espresso Blend Building
Alan Frew, 03.25.2002, Rated: 7.7
Imex Roaster Revisited
Alan Frew, 12.15.2001, Rated: 7.5
Meditations on a Mantra
Alan Frew, 09.28.2002, Rated: 8.3
My View of SCAA 2002
Alan Frew, 06.10.2002, Rated: 8.2
Plenty Questions
Alan Frew, 01.22.2002, Rated: 8.4
Price Up, Taste Down
Alan Frew, 01.07.2002, Rated: 8.2
Show Me The Money!
Alan Frew, 12.28.2001, Rated: 8.4
Small Espresso Tweaks
Alan Frew, 02.14.2003, Rated: 8.5
The Coffee Academy
Alan Frew, 07.21.2003, Rated: 7.7
The Top 10 Coffee Myths
Alan Frew, 07.15.2002, Rated: 8.1
Turn on, Tune in, Espresso out
Alan Frew, 02.23.2002, Rated: 8.3
Up at the Sharp End
Alan Frew, 05.24.2003, Rated: 7.5
Andrea Illy Speaks in New York
Liz Clayton, 01.15.2008, Rated: 8.3
NYC Cafe Scene Report: March 2008
Liz Clayton, 03.28.2008, Rated: 8.7
Humble Beginnings
Aaron De Lazzer, 01.25.2002, Rated: 7.5
Latte "Tips", Part Two
Aaron De Lazzer, 12.28.2001, Rated: 8.0
Latte Art, some "Tips"
Aaron De Lazzer, 12.10.2001, Rated: 7.6
Love and Hate in Espresso
Aaron De Lazzer, 07.26.2003, Rated: 8.1
Mediocre Coffee
Aaron De Lazzer, 07.13.2003, Rated: 7.9
Ristretto Shots
Aaron De Lazzer, 02.24.2002, Rated: 7.9
Training Espresso
Aaron De Lazzer, 06.28.2003, Rated: 8.4
An Introduction
Jason Dominy, 04.28.2012, Rated: 8.6
Making Progress
Ed Gabrielle, 09.15.2002, Rated: 8.5
Meeting Silvia
Ed Gabrielle, 07.21.2002, Rated: 6.9
Ethiopian Sidamos
Karen Hamilton, 10.15.2008, Rated: 8.8
Ritual Coffee
Karen Hamilton, 11.15.2008, Rated: 8.6
Coffee Business Journey
Jack Hanna, 04.08.2012, Rated: 8.3
Coffee and a Donut
James Hoffmann, 06.02.2007, Rated: 7.0
James Hoffmann, 10.14.2006, Rated: 8.9
Bean There Part 4
Terry Montague, 05.26.2002, Rated: 8.6
Bean There, Roasted That Pt.3
Terry Montague, 01.28.2002, Rated: 8.5
Beans & Roasts, Pt.2
Terry Montague, 01.13.2002, Rated: 9.0
Beans and Roasts, Pt.1
Terry Montague, 12.31.2001, Rated: 8.3
Good taste - Good cause
Terry Montague, 04.29.2002, Rated: 8.8
Notes from the Road
Lou Pescarmona, 08.16.2002, Rated: 8.3
Reluctant Admission
Lou Pescarmona, 05.12.2002, Rated: 8.3
Supreme Bean
Lou Pescarmona, 06.16.2002, Rated: 8.2
Cold Espresso
Jim Piccinich, 10.23.2002, Rated: 8.3
Power Protection
Jim Piccinich, 03.01.2003, Rated: 6.3
So Many Choices
Jim Piccinich, 09.15.2002, Rated: 8.4
Temp Regulation 101
Jim Piccinich, 07.04.2003, Rated: 8.1
What is a Heat Exchanger?
Jim Piccinich, 07.14.2003, Rated: 7.7
Faema E61 Part 2
Paul Pratt, 12.18.2007, Rated: 8.8
Faema E61 Restoration
Paul Pratt, 06.05.2007, Rated: 8.8
Setting the Scene
Paul Pratt, 11.15.2003, Rated: 6.7
Barista Basics, or Not
George Sabados, 05.03.2004, Rated: 7.8
Cafe Culture Downunder
George Sabados, 06.12.2007, Rated: 7.8
Changing Cafe Owner Thinking
George Sabados, 02.06.2006, Rated: 7.6
The End of the Barista
George Sabados, 12.27.2006, Rated: 7.8
"Espresso", a review.
Ted Simpson, 01.20.2002, Rated: 8.2
A Quick Introduction
Ted Simpson, 12.14.2001, Rated: 8.5
The Hunt
Ted Simpson, 12.28.2001, Rated: 8.6
Grinder Adjustments
Chris Weaver, 03.01.2012, Rated: 8.1
Login Password
forgot pw | signup
Cafe Solutions
Commercial sales and service, nationwide installation, equipment leasing options.
Demitasse Spoons
Elegant demitasse spoons for special occasions and everyday use.
Stefano's Espresso Care
Repair - Parts - Sales
Factory Authorized &
Trained Technician
Home | Opinions | Consumer Reviews | Guides & How Tos | CoffeeGeek Reviews | Resources | Forums | Contact Us
CoffeeGeek.com, CoffeeGeek, and Coffee Geek, along with all associated content & images are copyright ©2000-2015 by Mark Prince, all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Content, code, and images may not be reused without permission. Usage of this website signifies agreement with our Terms and Conditions. (0.190793991089)
Privacy Policy | Copyright Info | Terms and Conditions | CoffeeGeek Advertisers | RSS | Find us on Google+