When discussing small home espresso machines that can produce a great shot despite their diminutive frames, the well-known Rancilio Silvia is often compared against Breville’s newer upstart, the Infuser.
While the Silvia features several commercial-grade components backed by a design that is sometimes equated with a tank, the Infuser has features to spare and excellent temperature control. Choosing which one that is right for you is largely a virtue of longevity vs. precision — and price tag. While they’ll produce similar shots at the end of the day, the Infuser is more than $100 cheaper than the Silvia, so if you’re looking for something under $500, it may meet your budget a bit better.
In this video, Gail runs through their features and compares their functionality. Then she demonstrates making a latte on both so you can watch them in action.
While these two machines certainly have some core functional differences, they are often compared by folks because once you retrofit the Silvia with a PID, its price tag is very similar to that of the Nuova Simonelli Oscar. So, is one better than the other? As usual, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Watch Gail discuss the features and functionality of these machines, then demonstrate how they perform in terms of drink quality. She also talks about why you might choose one over the other, so if you’re on the fence regarding these two models, this comparison video was made with you in mind. Cherish it.
If you retrofit a PID on a Rancilio Silvia, how should you calibrate it to ensure you’re getting the ideal shot temperature? How much of an impact does preheating your cup have on the end shot temperature? In this video, Gail measures the temp of extraction with and without preheating the demitasse beforehand.
The new Tune Up kits include all the parts you’ll need to refresh gaskets, seals, brew head screens and descale your machine — a process we recommend following every six months or so. We’re also including step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process.
The Steam Wand retrofit is a bit more complicated, as you do need to get inside your Silvia in order to upgrade the machine’s steam manifold and install a new steam knob. While we don’t provide specific written instructions for this, we did produce a demonstration video a few years ago that will walk you through the process.
Before picking up any of these kits, definitely read through the instructions (Ascaso Dream | Rancilio Silvia) or watch the video to confirm that you understand what you’re getting yourself into! Personally, we’ve always been able to get things apart … it’s the putting them back together again that’s the challenge.
LCD screen lets you set grind (coarse to fine) volume (in cups and shots depending on fineness of grind) and dosage (weak to strong)
Timer or on/off switch
Timer and manual
Timer and manual setting
Time to grind double shot
Only with timer, not by weight/volume
Automatically adjusts with grind; from coarser (dose in cups) to fine (dose in shots)
Doser avail for +$10, otherwise chute only
Grind consistency (1-5 scale, 5=most consistent)
40 individual step settingsFinest setting: 3
Coarsest setting: 1
25 settingsFinest setting: 4
Coarsest setting: 2
55 settingsFinest setting: 5, like talc
Coarsest setting: 3
Shot performance (scale of 1-5, 5=strongest)
3: Overall, a solid shot, with the depth you’d expect from a fresh grind and proper dial-in.
4: A solid shot with great flavor and slightly more complex notes using the 2nd finest setting.
5: Shot has a great mouth feel, and you can taste more complexity and richness to the shot.
No frills, no fuss, easy to use, it’s a strong performer for espresso and other coffee applications. No electric panel makes trouble shooting a breeze as your grinder ages.
The lightest of the pack, this grinder is extremely versatile and a great value. It’s all about the features and accessories: portafilter holders, ground coffee canister, removable hopper to switch out beans.
Commercial quality for home use and it shows. Largest footprint of all grinders, a big commitment to your counter top, but with definite benefits in shot quality.
The Rocky is a literal heavyweight coming in at 18 pounds and a hundred dollar heftier price tag, but there’s no doubt that the commercial quality burrs make a difference when it comes to tasting the complexity of your shot. I love the Virtuoso’s ease of use and inherent versatility, so it’s often my go-to for testing espresso, pour overs and french press. But like an ostrich, I am drawn to shiny objects and I wish it had more stainless in the casing. The Smart Grinder fulfills this need, and weighing in under six pounds means it doesn’t need to be a permanent fixture on your countertop – but it could be because it’s great for households with multiple coffee drinkers with different bean preferences. What would you choose?
In the market for an espresso grinder but not sure if dropping an extra hundred bucks will benefit you? We asked Gail to compare the functionality, grind consistency and shot quality (using the Crossland CC1) of the Breville Smart Grinder and the Rancilio Rocky to find out.
Time for a side by side grudge match with two of our favorites! We’ve collected some basic feature information on the Rancilio Silvia and Crossland CC1 so you can see how they measure up against each other.
For the Rancilio Silvia, we noted the stock functionality as well as the functionality you’ll gain if you upgrade it with a PID (a roughly $200 additional expense).
Stock: Semi-Automatic. You’ll need to dial in the grind & tamp, then manually start and stop the shot.
With PID Upgrade: You can turn this into an Automatic with the PID by leaving the coffee button on and using the PID to start and then automatically stop the extraction.
You’ll need to dial in the grind & tamp, but you can program shot infusion and duration for three different settings.
The 12 oz. brass boiler evenly distributes heat, so it will reach the desired temperature quickly. It will also maintain the temperature throughout multiple extractions and steam wand uses.
It has three thermostats to monitor the espresso, steam and boiler heat to maintain the ideal temperature for your caffeinated drinks.
Single Boiler + Thermoblock
In addition to the stainless steel boiler that is controlled by the PID interface, the CC1 features a thermoblock-enhanced steaming.
Rather than wait for the entire boiler to heat up to steam temperature, the thermoblock heats up the boiler water on the fly. This results in nearly endless steam (as long as you have water in your reservoir!) and no need to flush the boiler after you steam and before pulling your shots.
The commercial-grade pressure relief system uses the three-way solenoid valve for easier clean up.
You won’t get mucky pucks from this machine, as it’s three-way solenoid valve sucks up any extra moisture and leaves you with a dry coffee ground puck every time.
Reservoir / Internal Tank Only
The Silvia cannot be plumbed but has a 67 oz. removable water reservoir. Access is on the top of the machine and you can remove the tank or fill it while still in the Silvia. Without removing the reservoir’s lid, you can’t see how much water is left in there, so you’ll need to remember to check that regularly.
Reservoir / Internal Tank Only
The CC1 cannot be plumbed but has a 2 liter internal water reservoir. Access is on the front of the machine, as you pull the reservoir out and to the side to refill. This enables you to keep an eye on how much water you have left in the reservoir.
Stock: No. The stock Silvia doesn’t have any pre-infusion capability, save for your manual switch on / off of the brew button briefly before beginning your full extraction.
With PID Upgrade: Yes. You can program pre-infusion time for one setting.
The CC1 offers programmable pre-infusion and wait time for three different settings. This duration will be included in the overall shot time.
Stock: No. The Silvia has a more simple interface controlled by manual switches. It gives you a little less to tinker around with and is fairly easy to use.
With PID Upgrade: Yes. You can select the temperature, pre-infusion, wait time and overall extraction time for one setting.
The Crossland CC1 integrated programming interface enables you to select temperature, pre-infusion, wait time and overall extraction time for three separate settings.
Stock: No. Plain and simple, the Silvia does not have a digital interface or display and takes you back to it’s roots of relying on the machine itself without you adjusting it to give you your ideal cup o’ joe.
With PID Upgrade: Yes. You’ll have a digital read out of the temperature on the outside of the boiler, pre-infusion and shot time.
The digital interface displays your machines brew temperature, shot timer, boiler temperature and your programmed settings.
Stock: Standard, bi-metal thermostat, which can have up to a 20F degree differential, depending on where it’s at in its heating cycle. To work with this, temperature surfing is essential for brewing your espresso at the ideal temperature.
With PID Upgrade: Electronic. This will override the stock thermostat and maintain the boiler at the temperature you have selected in the interface. Note that it reads the outside of the boiler, so the set temperature should be roughly 20 degrees higher than your target shot temperature.
The integrated PID allows you to set the temperature for three different settings. Additionally, it display actual boiler temperature vs. the temperature at the outside of the boiler.
As a follow-up to our introduction to Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pods earlier this week, we asked Gail to take us through the pod adapters for a few of the machines that we carry and then we did a taste test comparing them against a machine that comes pod-friendly. This series of videos shows how the adapters are installed and how well they perform, shot-quality-wise.
First up, the Nuova Simonelli Musica pod adapter installation and taste test:
Next, the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi pod adapter installation and taste test:
Now we install the adapter on the Rancilio Silvia and taste some shots:
Finally, we asked Brandi and Teri to join Gail as she performs a taste test, comparing the three adapted machines with the Saeco Via Venezia, which is a pod-friendly machine without the requirement of an adapter:
While we have carried a bottomless portafilter for E61 brew heads that also did work fairly well in the Rancilio Silvia’s brew head, it didn’t seal quite as we might like and so there was often a little bit of water leakage over the top that really was just gauche.
Rancilio released their own version for their commercial machines that fits the Silvia, so we gave it a test drive. We did notice a bit of water leaking over the top, but nothing like the former model. And the spurting/spraying/mini-geysers? There were a few present in Gail’s extraction — more of a fine mist — but that’s just a result of channeling, baby.
So you’ve finally pulled together the courage to add up how much you’ve been spending on all those lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos you’ve consumed at your local cafe everyday. After looking at the grand total you think, ‘Wow, I could’ve set up my own espresso shop!’
When considering their purchase, folks often think about the kind of coffee they want to make and how easy it will be to use — generally, how much work they’re willing to do to craft their favorite drink every day. They also consider the initial monetary investment when purchasing the machine, but we rarely have folks thinking about the overall care and feeding of their new gear: How much work will it take to maintain and keep these machines running well? What kind of life expectancy might a specific machine have? Are there any known issues they should be aware of and prepare for?