The PID temperature controller brings out the Silvia's full potential
Positive Product Points
- Quality components
- Easy to use (with PID)
- Good sized boiler
- Rock solid temperature control with PID
- Excellent steaming power
- Warms up within 30 minutes
- Vibe pump is quieter than expected
- Parts are easy to find
Negative Product Points
- Smallish drip tray, but this isn't a big deal
- No water level indicator
I used a Saeco Aroma for a year before buying the Silvia. The Aroma did a great job, but I wanted more control over the brewing temperature and better steaming performance. I only make 1-2 lattes at a time, so a single boiler machine fits my needs.
The Silvia gets great reviews for having quality, heavy duty components. But, I was initially concerned about the machine's reputation for being finicky. Forum postings indicated that adding an electronic PID temperature controller would solve most of the Silvia's issues. Before making a decision, I decided to check out my options.
Before buying the PID Silvia, I researched the HX machines and the Quickmill Alexia. The Alexia is a great single boiler machine but it is fairly expensive after the PID controller is added. I also didn't need the extra capacity.
I reviewed the specs and articles on the HX machines for at least 6 months. It was real "analysis paralysis". I finally figured out that I couldn't decide on an HX machine because I didn't like the compromises made in these machines. The HX machines do not have electronic temperature control and require you to temperature surf. Most of the machines use the same vibe pump as the Silvia. The better HX machines cost over $1100, which is much more than a Silvia with PID.
I concluded that a true step up from a Silvia should include electronic temperature control and a rotary pump. The HX machines just don't provide enough features for the extra cost. I may look at a dual boiler machine if I ever want to upgrade.
I finally decided that a Silvia with a PID controller would be the best overall product for me. I am not a hobbiest and didn't see any reason to buy more machine than I needed.
THE SILVIA WITH PID
I purchased the Silvia with the PID preinstalled from Hi Tech Espresso. Their PID mod looks like original equipment. The controller is mounted between the brew group and the steam wand. All wiring is inside the machine. The mod uses quality components and the workmanship is excellent.
THE PID AND A GOOD GRINDER TAMES THE “BEAST”
The PID controls the boiler temperature when brewing. The controller displays the boiler temperature and the set point. The PID thermocouple is attached to the top of the boiler, so the set temperature will be higher than the actual brewing temperature. I adjusted the set point to 222 degrees, which consistently produces great shots with rich crema.
The PID holds the boiler at exactly the set temperature. The PID does not control the boiler when steaming but the temperature display is on. This allows you to use the PID's temperature display to determine when the machine is at the right steaming temperature.
The Silvia is great at steaming. For best results, I recommend starting to froth before the boiler light goes off. In steam mode, this is when the PID reads about 275 degrees. I've found that I can prepare lattes in much less time than my Aroma. And, it's much easier to get good foam in the milk.
I have a MACAP MC4 stepless grinder and it was easy to dial-in the grinder to produce good results. The MACAP is a good match for the Silvia and higher end machines.
After using the machine for a month, I am very happy with the results. The Silvia has been easy to use and consistently produces great espresso drinks. The machine is compact enough to fit on my kitchen counter. The vibe pump is quieter than my Aroma, which was a pleasant surprise.
People frequently dismiss the PID option in lieu of buying an HX machine. You can buy a Silvia with PID for $800 while the better HX machines start at over $1200. Of course, a $1200 HX machine will out perform the Silvia. But, the Silvia with the PID will produce solid results for a reasonable price. Cost was a factor in my decision process and I felt the Silvia was a great value.
I purchased the Silvia and PID from Hi Tech Espresso. Dave from Hi Tech Espresso installs the PIDs on the Silvia and provides a full warranty. Dave was very responsive to my questions and the machine was received in perfect condition. The package included basic directions on using the PID which were helpful. Overall, a great experience.
Three Month Followup
I've been using my Silvia with the PID option for 5 months. I'm more impressed with the machine than when I first purchased it. I can consistently pull good shots and I'm able to get good microfoam in my milk for lattes.
The PID option allows you to focus on the variables you control like beans, grind and tamp. If you use fresh, quality beans and dial in the proper grind, then the Silvia will produce excellent, consistent results.