Can’t Beat the PID! Hi Tech's PID Addition to the Silvia has made her a very formidable opponent!
Positive Product Points
Heavy Duty, Hand Made Italian Machine that is very Easy and simple to Use especially with the installed PID. Powerful steam wand, that makes great Micro Foam! Popular Machine with a good reputation and many good consumer reviews to back it up! Best of all is the thick head of crema it consistently produces making our daily grind just that much better!
Negative Product Points
No Frills Machine - No Water Level Indicator, Small Drip Tray, Limited Steam Wand Movement, 45-90 second Cycle Time between shot & steam (inevitable in single broiler machine), mixed signals of how best to clean the machine.
After being introduced to “Real” espresso by my coffee geek neighbor (glossed as “Mr. Particular”) we decided, we too should enjoy this treat every day (instead of relying on starbucks, or should I say 5 bucks for our daily espresso fix). We initially purchased the Breville 800ESXL on a whim which lasted for a few weeks before we took it back. We were generally happy with the features of the machine however, it simply could not produce the “Crema” or the steam power for good espresso & micro foamed caps. Knowing our drinks could be a lot better we decided we needed to move to a more serious “commercial style” machine. I will say that the Breville was a bit sexier than our Silvia (which my wife was quick to point out), it also had some nice features for casual users intended to help make the process simple.
After doing some more research we found that the Silvia, probably provided the best bang for your buck on the market! Since we also were in need of a quality grinder, cost was a very important factor in our decision. After talking to some aficionados and reading about the benefits of electronic temperature control, we decided that the PID option was a must since it would enable us to custom set our brew temp for more consistent results. And let’s face it giving ourselves one more static element certainly doesn’t hurt our quest to make great Espresso!
We found Hi Tech Espresso online and felt that the Rancillo products along with their modifications provided the best value available, making a Silvia comparable with much more expensive units. They are now offering a timer modification to the Rocky Doserless as well which has made getting a consistent dose a lot easier.
We purchased the Silvia w/PID along with the Rocky w/Timer from HI Tech Espresso and could not be happier with the results. The PID Modification looks factory and works great! We have been able to dial in our methods and consistently produce great espresso! With so many variables to tame it is a must to try refine your methods and practices. The Silvia w/PID definitely helps us do that while still staying within our limited budget. Both my wife and myself are able to use our Silvia each day with ease, saving us countless dollars at our local coffee shops!
As for the negative points I have listed:
No Frills: What the Machine lacks in Beauty and consumer features is quickly makes up for in Quality. It’s a tuff machine that makes great espresso and that is pretty much all that matters.
Water Level Indicator, this would be nice (a feature the Breville had, as well as many lower cost units) but is easily worked around by simply adding water during each use.
Small drip tray, we use a small rectangular Tupperware bowl to run our water into when priming/rinsing the machine, this way we only have to change the drip try every day or two instead of with each use. Obviously having a plumed unit would be the ultimate, eliminating the drip tray all together!
Steam Wand: Basically, we have found it is best when used directly on the side of the machine, we are using a 12oz “Barista Style” Milk Pitcher not sure how well it would work with anything larger, maybe the 20oz would work too?
Cycle Time: Obviously this is a drawback that adds time to any single broiler machine. The PID does allow you to watch the temp climb so it is very easy to know when you are back up to temp. We have been able to work the cycle time into our basic routine, truthfully it doesn’t really become a pain until your making more than two cups for guests, but then I guess it might be nice to have a machine with not only two broilers but two groups!
Cleaning: The Silvia Directions are not very thorough here, they say to follow the directions of the espresso machine cleaner product. Back flushing is not recommended.
We Also prefer to use:
Bottomless Porta-Filter w/21g basket Grinder w/Timer for Consistent Dosing Kitchen Timer with Seconds for Shot Timing 12oz Barista Style Milk Pitcher Fresh Espresso Vivace - Dolce Blend Beans
Purchased from Hi Tech Espresso (HiTechEspresso.com). Had a good experience, Dave was both knowledgeable and easy to work with. The items shipped 7-10 days after ordering, these are in essence custom products and well worth the wait.
Three Month Followup
One Year Followup
3 years and counting! The Silvia and Rocky pair are still grinding and pouring great shots! We have used this machine everyday for the last 3 years. We have experienced no issues with Miss Silvia or the Rocky Grinder and are very happy with purchase. We highly recommend this product and would definitely buy it again!
The PID addition is great, giving us a consistent brew temp for each shot pulled. Another advantage is being able to change the temp depending on the coffee blend that we are using which makes a huge difference in the taste!
We have long figured out how to clean the machine and do a general cleaning weekly by removing the screen and brass dispersion plate rising and soaking them along with our, steam tip, portafilter and basket in hot water with a bit of cafiza by urnex. We clean the group head using water and a wet towel to wipe it out, getting any pesky grinds (there’s actually a nice How to by Mr. Prince posted showing similar cleaning steps: http://www.coffeegeek.com/guides/dirtygrouphead).
We do a major cleaning monthly using the CleanCaf Descaler, again soaking everything in the Cafiza and wiping out the group head really well, we also clean out the water tank regularly with regular dish soap and water! Cleaning the components really does affect the outcome of the coffee and is very important step in espresso preparation.
In closing, the Rancilio Silvia and Rocky make a great pair allowing us to make tasty espresso at home, which fortunately or unfortunately depending on the way you look at it is better than 90% of the shots we could get elsewhere. Special thanks to Dave over at www.HiTechEspresso.com for Hot Roding our Slivia with the PID and our Rocky with the variable grind timer.