Rancilio Miss Silvia

Please note: The drip tray design has changed so the photo abocve is a bit dated. We sell only the most recent version of the Silvia - it is called the V3

The Rancilio Silvia is a modern classic. I know what a terrible cliche that is, but in the case of the Syliva it is true! The Miss Silvia is the most popular home espresso machine for purists. It is as simple and straight-forward as its elegant, sparse design suggests. It has no crema-enhancing filters, no pre-sets, no siphon milk frothing system, no automated functions. The Silvia is a solid chunk of metal, with an 18-8 Stainless Steel chassis, a heavy brass brew head for good heat distribution, and a full commercial-sized 58 mm portafilter. It is truly a little tank. (Dimensions are roughly 13.5" high, 9.5" wide, and 14" deep.)

I know this is a lot to spend on an espresso machine, but we need to put this in perspective. What it lacks, like all home machines under $1300 or so, is separate steam boiler tank. You basically need to spend another $900 to take the next step up from the Silvia in home espresso machines, to light-commercial machines like the Pasquini Livia, Isomac, Wega, Exobar, La Marzocco, etc. So I hate to say it, but $600 for the Miss Silvia is a good deal! You can start doing decent home espresso with the Gaggia Espresso at $219, but it doesn't have this great stainless steel housing, and the level of finish of the Silvia. The Silvia is a machine you really want to see on your kitchen counter, even when its not in use ... and that does count for something. It's one nice-looking box! The Silvia will be the '56 Chevy of espresso machines some day. Maybe you moved up to a professional machine, or maybe you still fondly pull shots on the Silvia years later, but either way you probably have a lot of good memories...

The Silvia is a tool, and you need some experience as a home barrista to learn to use it. Getting a good shot out of any machine requires the right coffee, grind, tamp and packing technique, which is not hard to learn, but there is a learning curve. You need a good grinder! Don't let anyone tell you there is a way to make great espresso without a high-quality grinder ... it cannot be done. You can start with an acceptable burr mill like the Maestro , graduate to a true espresso mill like the Rancilio Rocky, or go for the best, the Mazzer Mini. But you need to include a quality burr mill in your home espresso budget.

The Miss Silvia in Stainless Steel, including the Rancilio accessory kit (measure scoop, plastic tamper (not a very useful tamper, but as you will see we take care of that!), single and double filterbaskets, user manual with individual factory QC test slip.

EXTRAS ! - We send a LOT of free stuff with the Miss Silvia ... we include the Coffee Tool Cleaning Brush, and we include 1 Lb. of fresh Sweet Maria's Roasted Espresso! We also include our 58 mm Stainless Steel or Rosewood/Stainless Steel (your choice)Tamper and a 12 ounce milk froth pitcher, either bell-shaped standard or long-handle design, (your choice) !

The Miss Silvia: $594 (+35 Lbs. Shipping)
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Ships from our warehouse in Oakland CA

Silvia, Side View



The drip tray is thick 18-8 Stainless and comes in 2 parts, both removed easily. With an eye toward the daily chore of keeping your machine clean, this is such a nice design.

The Silvia has a solid-brass group head, another example of having good metal mass to store heat for proper good espresso results. Rancilio has an easy to replace shower head that screws into the group head, just as your commercial machines have. It's easy to change and to remove for cleaning purposes.

The double portafilter is nicely finished and every part is stamped with an identification number, in case you want extras or they wear out (with a filter, that takes a very long time but it does happen).

The Silvia has a commercial-sized 58mm chrome-plated brass portafilter handle. The handle has a great feel and is really nicely finished. A heavy, brass coffeehandle is very important since it needs to hold heat (to prevent heat loss during espresso extraction), and the Silvia handle weighs 1 lb.

The front controls are simple, straight-forward and intuitive. I have added descriptions of each function in green lettering.

Steaming is straightforward, and there is ample steam pressure to do Cappucini and Latte. With a one-boiler setup like the Silvia, you need to wait to come up to steam pressure from espresso brew temperature, but you need to drop another $900 to get a 2 boiler machine that can do both simultaneously.

Here is the Rancilio espresso accessory kit that comes with the machine. Forget that plastic tamper - we will be sending your machine with an awesome Stainless Steel tamper or a Rosewood/ Stainess one, your choice.

The water tank is easier to fill in place, as pictured. But you can also remove the plastic liner (the white box in the image above) and take it to the sink to fill it. It doesn't have a handle though, so I say just fill it using a pitcher. What type of water? Like my regular coffee, I use quality spring water, good tasting spring water or filtered tap water ... that's it. Cleaning the Silvia: The Silvia is not a backflushing machine. So periodically you can clean the tank and the entire brew system by using Cleancaf. You do this by following the instructions on the Cleancaf box, adding Cleancaf to the water in the resevoir. You can use Cafiza to soak the coffee handle, filters, and other removable parts. But don't run Cafiza through the tank.

Each Miss Silvia comes with an individual test slip from the factory to certify that the electrical components are powering up correctly. The Silvia is basically a hand-made machine. I have seen complaints in reviews that someone had a fingerprint on their Silvia when they opened the box ... my thought is "So What!" Things you buy are made with the labor of others, with their skill and their hard work. Is there something horrible about a fingerprint that reminds you of this fact? I think you should pay extra for a Silvia with a fingerprint ... I think the workers should sign each one! (Okay, I am kidding. Sort of. And actually I have never seen a fingerprint on a Silvia).

Here's the complete setup that comes in the Rancilio box. Add to this our bonus items: a group head brush, a pound of fresh roasted espresso, a stainless steel tamper, a frothing pitcher - it's a swell deal!

We are an authorized Rancilio dealer, and provide service for the Silvia. We back up the machine with a 1 year warranty covering parts and repair in case of any malfunction due to defect in the machine. Treat her well and we will treat you well!

And here's a little movie of a Ristretto being made on my Miss Silvia. (This is a bit overextracted, with the grind a tad too fine, as you can see by the long time it drips until finally it starts to pour with the characteristic and desireable "mouse tail" appearance). But hey, it was a really good 1 ounce Ristretto! The coffee was our Monkey Blend, the grinder was my Ditting commercial mill. The crema was very compact, and lasted a very long time without receding ...until finally I became impatient and had to drink it!

We also have a lot of information about making espresso in general on our Espresso Pages.

Here is the shot that results from the movie.

Befriending Miss Silvia: When you master the true single espresso (a mere 1.5 ounces) and start to enjoy the tiny Ristretto (a very, very short espresso), you will become aware that very small differences in water temperature at the brew head affect the quality of the espresso. Like all home machines, the Silvia kicks on the boiler when it senses a low water temperature (the orange light on the front by the power switch indicates this). It is called a "dead band controller" with the "dead band" being the range in which the boiler is off. This temperature cycling between the low and high temperature limits of the dead band produces varying brew head temperatures. Water temperature can range between 210 and 240, whereas you want something around 220 at the brew head for good espresso extraction. (Note that 220 at the brew head doesn't mean you are extracting at 220, but there is a 20 degree heat loss through the "puck" of compressed coffee grounds.) The good news is that during the shot you only have a 2-4 degree range, so the idea is to start your espresso extraction at the right point in the cycle. There is a simple timing technique you can use with the Silvia to brew in the right temperature range every time. This sounds more complicated than it is. All you are doing is getting the machine to start its boiler cycle, then starting the shot at a prescribed time after that orange light comes on ... that's all. In a nutshell, here is how you do it:

  1. Turn on the machine and let it get to full temperature. (Make sure water tank is full! always leave it full from the previous session) Put the coffeehandle in the brew head to heat it up during this time. My machine takes about 20 minutes to get really hot, so that touching the bottom of the coffee handle (the spouts where the coffee comes out) is uncomfortable!
  2. Now, grind your espresso, dose it, tamp it, and load the coffee handle in the group head.
  3. With a receptable under the steam wand, open the steam wand valve and flip the Hot Water switch. I have a 1 quart Mason Jar I leave under the wand permenantly.
  4. When the orange light on the front comes on (meaning the boiler is starting its heat cycle), Do the following: start your timer, turn off the Hot Water switch, close the steam valve.
  5. After 1 minute has elapsed*, start your shot. Watch your timer for proper extraction time (I shoot for 20-25 seconds). Folks have experimented with varying times; 20, 30, 50, 50 seconds. I like 1 minute after the boiler light has come on, but almost everyone else seems to prefer 40+ seconds.The boiler light should go on for 1 minute to 1:30, so you can also do this without a timer by simply starting the shot as soon as the boiler goes off. *Note - I used to use a shorter interval, but after a lot of testing I like a longer 1 minute +, which according to my thermocouple allows the water to get up to true espresso extraction temperature.

-A variation: I actually do Step 2 during the 1 minute time after the orange light kicks on. I don't like the coffee to sit in the portafilter any longer than it has to!
-Props to the alt.coffee folks who posted and refined this "temperature surfing" Silvia technique, starting with Greg Scace back in 2000. And Randy. This is basically what we used to recommend with the lever-pull Pavoni machines, and you can adapt this technique to work with other single-boiler home machines.

Hacking the Silvia: You can turn the Silvia into a monsterously good espresso machine by adding a PID (I am told it means either "Proportional, Integral, Derivative" or "Programmable Input Device") to maintain brew head temperaure. You don't have to ... you can use the more intuitive/primitive method above with the same results. But if you are a techie and like to customize, you may really enjoy the process, and the results, of a PID'ed Silvia. This will cost you about $150-$175 to carry out. There are numerous web pages describing this technique. But beware that if you hack the Silvia, you void its warranty! Here are some useful links for hacked Silvia - if you have another Silvia resource people would find useful, please let me know...