Espresso enthusiasts know that not just any ol’ brewer will do when it comes to preparing their preferred pick-me-up. Any number of coffee makers can gurgle out a halfway decent cup of drip, but espresso is a horse of a different color. Such a specialized type of coffee calls for a specialized kind of coffee maker.
If you’re a connoisseur of the strong stuff and are looking for a way to whip up café quality espresso drinks at home, the Rancilio Silvia could just be the beverage station of your caffeine-fueled daydreams.
Also Read: Our best picked semi-autoamtic espresso machines for home users, Rancilio Silvia is also on our list.
Rancilio Silvia Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine Review
Rancilio Silvia Summary
- Pro-level espresso quality;
- Commercial grade portafilter and group head;
- Powerful steaming and milk frothing;
- Built to last quality, extremely durable;
- Have been the favorite entry-level espresso machine for 20 years, the latest updated model makes it even better.
- More costly than other home espresso machines;
- Require some espresso brewing skill, more suitable for experienced users
The expert craftsmen at Rancilio have been supplying discerning coffee lovers with entry-level home espresso machines for over two decades with their acclaimed Silvia line. Their latest and greatest creation, the Rancilio Silvia V6, is a continuation of this trend.
With substantial upgrades from top to bottom, the sixth entry in the Silvia series is sure to impress both recent espresso initiates and veteran brewers, even those who have experience working with professional equipment.
Rancilio is an internationally renowned manufacturer of espresso machines that saw its start way back in 1927 in Parabiago, Italy. Roberto Rancilio, a bonafide coffee fanatic, founded the company and lent his name to the enterprise and the many top-of-the-line appliances and accessories it would go on to produce.
Today, the company is mainly known for its firm hold on the at-home espresso brewing market. The name Rancilio is practically synonymous with quality, innovation, and affordability, and for good reason.
Build Quality and Design
If you’ve ever used any of the past versions of the Rancilio Silvia, you’ll notice a significant difference in the general character of the V6 immediately.
This iteration features a sleek and sturdy chassis made predominantly of high-grade stainless steel that’s easy on the eyes and even easier to clean. The steam wand, pressure knob, and slotted drip tray cover consist of the same material for superior utility and durability.
All that steel gives the machine a deluxe appearance and a heft (31 pounds of it, to be exact) that makes it a cinch to use one-handed—a simple yet infinitely helpful advantage on busy mornings when you’ve got half a dozen things going on at once.
The chrome-plated 58mm brass portafilter has an equally heavy-duty feel and is one of the standout components of the redesigned Silvia. Its ergonomic shape and luxurious rubber grip coating make it a pleasure to hold, and it attaches to the brass group head securely with a quick twist. The portafilter accommodates a pair of small and large filter baskets capable of holding 8 or 16 grams of ground coffee, respectively. That’s a full gram or two more than its predecessor.
Another big score for the Rancilio Silvia V6 is the included coffee tamp, now fashioned from wood and steel. Previous models came with plastic tamper that looked and felt embarrassingly cheap, so this is a significant upgrade indeed.
Inside the comely housing, you’ll find the guts of the operation, which consist most notably of a two-liter water reservoir (also removable for ease of cleaning) and a 0.03L brass boiler for fast and efficient heating. Some espresso buffs will no doubt be disappointed by the absence of a second boiler, but you’ll rarely, if ever, find a consumer-class brewer equipped with more than one water heater (more on that later).
All in all, it’s as artful an overhaul as anyone could ask for, especially Silvia devotees who were less than thrilled with the comparative plainness of former models.
Visually speaking, the 2020 redesign is strongly reminiscent of the Silvias of days past.
There’s the familiar central On/Off switch flanked by dual indicator lights (green for power, yellow for warming); there’s also the same trio of buttons on the lefthand side of the unit’s face, each of which is plainly marked to designate a different brewing function (coffee pour, hot water, and steam).
In other words, you won’t encounter any surprises in the looks department. The more extensive modifications all appear in the machine’s materials, silhouette, and brewing ability, with the basic layout remaining primarily unchanged.
As a bonus, the Rancilio Silvia is available in two different styles: standard stainless and an ultra-sharp black matte finish. Both promise to complement a diverse array of other kitchen appliances, gadgets, and fixtures.
All of that is well and good, but it doesn’t address the question of the hour: what kind of espresso does the thing make?
In short, as spectacular as your skills allow.
As lovely as it may look, performance is Rancilio Silvia’s strong suit. The secret behind its swagger isn’t just generations of technical refinement—it’s a willingness to use exceptional materials to make exceptional delicious espresso as good as the commercial espresso machines.
Take, for instance, the inclusion of brass.
Inferior machines typically rely on steel or aluminum components as a means of keeping production costs down. These metals tend to rust, corrode, or otherwise wear out with continued use.
Rancilio’s engineers understand that coffee is only as good as the apparatus it comes from, which is why they only use brass for their boilers, group heads, and conductive elements. Brass is unbeatable in terms of heat stability, extraction quality, and corrosion resistance, and these virtues show in the temperature, body, and flavor profile of every cup.
Top-tier espresso isn’t just a matter of materials. The pump is the beating heart of any espresso machine, and the SilviaRancilio Silvia boasts a 48-watt vibratory pump that feeds the insulated boiler with 15 bars of pressure, or about 217 psi.
To assist the boiler in achieving optimal expressing temperature, it’s even got three separate thermostats—one for each of its main functions—that together allow you to keep a watchful eye on your heat levels throughout each step of the brewing process.
Thanks to this kind of focus on performance, Rancilio machines always provide an unspoken guarantee of excellence, cycle after cycle.
Milk Steaming Performance
Another area where the Rancilio Silvia shines is its steaming and frothing milk abilities.
Make no mistake, this compact machine packs loads of steaming power. It might actually be too powerful for less experienced espresso makers.
You control the force of the steam emitted through the Silvia’s commercial-grade steam wand with the twist of a knob—the more you open the valve, the stronger the flow. It’s a straightforward enough mechanic, but finding the right output admittedly involves a bit of experimentation. Too little and your milk will come out limp and uninspiring; too much and it can quickly devolve into a bubbly, splattery mess.
Nevertheless, most users should get a feel for the function rather quickly and figure out just how much force they need to lend body to their favorite beverages. It’s always better to have too much than too little where steaming power is concerned, and the Silvia has it in spades.
How To Use This Machine
While some practice and finesse are required to unlock the Silvia’s full potential, learning the basics of its operation couldn’t be easier.
Working With a Single Boiler Machine
All standard Silvia models are single boilers, meaning you can only use the integrated water heater for one function at a time. Unfortunately, that precludes the possibility of brewing your coffee and steaming your milk simultaneously.
This apparent limitation could prove to be a blessing in disguise if you’re in the habit of brewing before steaming, however.
Hot coffee tends to lose its gusto far sooner than steamed milk. By reversing the order of operations and doing your steaming first, you stand to enjoy a fresher first sip.
Just be sure to nudge the thermostat down and flush the superheated water from the boiler before starting your coffee. This process is known as “temperature surfing,” and it’s a tried-and-true method of fine-tuning the final temperature of beverages prepared with a single boiler espresso maker.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Using the Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
- Turn on the machine and preheat it to the optimal steaming temperature (somewhere around 285-290℉).
- Steam your milk to the desired consistency.
- Turn off the steam and switch the machine over to the hot water setting.
- Flush the water out of the boiler by running water through the steam wand into a separate container. This is a great time to preheat your cups if you like to do things the old-fashioned way.
- Begin grinding your beans while waiting for the boiler to refill and the water inside to reach the ideal brewing temp (roughly 195-204℉).
- Transfer your ground coffee to the appropriately sized filter basket and slip the basket into the portafilter.
- Use the included tamp tool to press the grounds down nice and flat in the portafilter before connecting it to the group head.
- When the yellow warming light disappears, hit the “Pour” button to pull your espresso shot.
- Add the steamed milk to your shot of espresso and enjoy!
Cleaning and Resetting
- Empty the spent grounds into the trash—the machine’s three-way solenoid valve dries out the used coffee to make disposal a breeze.
- Back-flush the line with hot water and wipe down the group head to prepare it for your next round.
What’s New in the Rancilio Silvia V6 Version?
As mentioned, the revamped Rancilio Silvia comes with several design enhancements that are worth highlighting.
For starters, the V6 flaunts an elegant new all-black group headcover that’s a vast visual step up from the chintzy chrome-painted group head of previous models. Rancilio has also made adjustments to the shape of the steam wand to streamline workflow and ensure more consistent exposure.
Perhaps the single best improvement, though, is the tamp, which has gone from a junky plastic throwaway to a proud accessory worthy of a grownup café setting. It’s appealing to the eye, it feels great in hand, and it makes the whole brewing procedure far more satisfying.
On top of that, the three primary function buttons are now emblazoned with new sharper-looking symbols that make it obvious at a glance what each one does, thereby eliminating accidental presses.
The V6 is available in two versions: the Model E and the Model M. The former is programmed to shut off automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity, while you must turn the latter on and off manually.
Sadly, the model E is exclusive to Europe at present, so you’ll have to pay extra for an import if you like the idea of the automatic-off function.
If the Silvia has any real downside, it’s the somewhat steep learning curve. Despite its unassuming appearance, at its core, it’s a machine built for experienced baristas. Newcomers will likely experience frustration with the outcomes of their first few dozen attempts.
That said, part of the fun of mastering the art of espresso is the trial and error of the early stages of learning. The Silvia is about as fine a machine as you could hope to learn on, so don’t let the lack of training wheels put you off if you’re on the fence about buying.
Value for Money
The Silvia isn’t cheap, to be blunt.
As with all things, quality comes at a premium. But “premium” is a great word to describe almost every aspect of the Rancilio Silvia, and its list price is more than fair when you consider what you get for it.
Our only advice is to invest in a good standalone good coffee grinder, as grinding is just about the only thing Miss Silvia can’t do. Rancilio Rocky Espresso Grinder is a perfect match for Silvia, you can achieve coffee shop standard espresso quality at home. We don’t recommend using pre-ground coffee for such a great coffee machine. Not only because of the better taste of fresh coffee, but you also have more control over the grind size of the ground coffee for a perfect espresso.
If you’ve got cash to spare and want the absolute best, you might also think about shelling out for the Rancilio Silvia Pro, a fully automatic version of the bestselling espresso coffee machine with a dual-boiler system, a digital display, and double the cost of the original.
Gaggia Classic Pro
For those buying on a budget, the Gaggia Classic Pro, the Rancilio Silvia’s main rival in the home espresso machine market, is a capable, if limited, machine with a price that’s bound to be more agreeable. Read our review of the New Gaggia Classic Pro here.
Breville Barista Pro
If you’re a rank beginner, the Breville Barista Pro can offer a more intuitive experience within the same general price range as the 2020 Rancilio Silvia, and it comes with a built-in conical burr grinder to boot. Read our hands-on review here.
Pound for pound, the new face of Rancilio’s Silvia series is one of the best espresso machines that home-based baristas can buy without taking out a loan. It earns high marks in all essential categories, particularly brewing performance, steaming power, and user-friendliness, and with proper cleaning and care, it has the potential to remain a staple of your morning routine for years.
As such, we heartily recommend the Rancilio espresso machine to anyone who stays on the prowl for the perfect cup of espresso or wants to perfect their technique from the comfort of their own kitchen.