Well worth its price tag. Overall, reviewers say the Rancilio Silvia espresso maker offers the best combination of durability, espresso quality and ease of use. In fact, many call it the best machine available for less than $1,000. However, some say the Gaggia Classic (*Est. $450) is simpler to use and can utilize prepackaged coffee pods.
Coffee shop-quality espresso. Owners say the Rancilio Silvia is a "high-performance machine" that delivers exceptional espresso. This semi-automatic model uses nine bars of pressure to extract rich flavors from freshly ground coffee for the perfect cup of espresso.
The Silvia is expensive, however, and like all home machines costing about $1,300, it doesn't have a separate boiler. That said, editors of SweetMarias.com explain that investing the extra $900 for this tank will set the Silvia on par with other light-commercial machines such as the Pasquini Livia, Exobar or La Marzocco.
A large majority of owners say that purchasing a burr coffee grinder is an absolute must to accommodate this machine's precision requirements. "Don't let anyone tell you there is a way to make great espresso without a high-quality grinder…it cannot be done," say SweetMarias.com editors. It takes about 15 minutes for the Silvia to warm up, and for best results, some users suggest running warm water through the machine to warm up the pipes and portafilter.
Finicky machine requires precise grind coarseness. The Rancilio Silvia is a somewhat sensitive model, and users must experiment a bit to find the right espresso grind and tamping pressure. Most espresso enthusiasts say they enjoy this process, but other machines offer simpler operation.
Temperature is another issue, with several owners saying at Amazon.com that users must learn to "temperature surf" to avoid burnt or sour espresso. However, SweetMarias.com editors say the temperature varies only 2 to 4 degrees during extraction, and the overall range is between 210 and 240 degrees Fahrenheit, with the optimal temperature being 220 degrees. They suggest it's just a matter of learning when to start the extraction process during the brew cycle.
Expert reviews say the Rancilio Silvia is simple to use, and appeals to both novice and professional users once they get the hang of it. Professional barista Erin Meister writes in a review for SeriousEats.com, "A boxy little unit, the Silvia is incredibly user-friendly, and even offers the option for geek-leaning coffee people to… [add] features like temperature-controlling PID technology." PID, or proportional-integral-derivative technology, is an add-on digital temperature controller.
Built like a tank. Reviewers praise the machine's design, with many saying it's built like a tank. One owner says at Amazon.com that the Silvia "is the perfect blend of quality, durability and ease of repair," and notes that all parts are commercial or semi-commercial grade, constructed primarily with stainless steel and cast iron, two materials known for long-term durability.
We found one complaint posted at CoffeeGeek.com, from a user who says the base of the unit is made with regular steel and after three years of consistent use, the spill tray has started to rust. Yet the overall consensus among both professionals and owners is that the Rancilio Silvia is well constructed and will last for years.
Bulky but attractive. Owner feedback at Amazon.com and CoffeeGeek.com calls the Rancilio Silvia a nice-looking kitchen appliance, but it doesn't win any awards for being especially modern or retro. That said, its stainless-steel housing fits in with most décor. It's a heavy machine at just more than 30 pounds, so it's best left sitting on a countertop if you have the room. Editors of SweetMarias.com say, "The Silvia is a machine you really want to see on your kitchen counter, even when it's not in use... and that does count for something. It's one nice-looking box!"
1. Choice magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent Editors at Australia's Choice magazine and other experts test 23 espresso machines against a standard set of criteria including taste, ease of use and programming, temperature and frothing ability. However, several of the models included in this roundup aren't available in the U.S.
Review: Home Espresso Coffee Machine Reviews, Rebecca Ciaramidaro, Dec. 20, 2012
2. Whole Latte Love
Review Credibility: Excellent Retailer WholeLatteLove.com posts user reviews and product demonstration videos. Owners rate espresso machines on ease of use, espresso quality, steaming ability, construction and value. The Rancilio Silvia is a top-rated machine here, attracting about 315 reviews and an average score of 4.7 stars out of 5.
Review: Rancilio Silvia Redesigned V3 Espresso Machine, Contributors to WholeLatteLove.com, As of January 2013
Review Credibility: Excellent The Rancilio Silvia is highly rated at CoffeeGeek.com, an online community for coffee connoisseurs. Most owners who post reviews are delighted with it, calling it a consistent, rewarding device. Overall, about 225 users give it a score of 8.6 out of 10.
Review: Consumer Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, Contributors to CoffeeGeek.com, As of January 2013
Review Credibility: Very Good About 120 owners give the Silvia an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. Some say it requires finesse to master, however, and advise that you buy a high-quality grinder to go with it.
Review: Silvia Version 3 in Stainless Steel, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2013
Review Credibility: Good Meister, an experienced barista, discusses the best espresso machines for home use at different price points. She calls the Silvia "incredibly user-friendly" and says it "even offers the option for geek-leaning coffee people to… [add] features like temperature-controlling PID technology."
Review: Serious Espresso At Home: Finding the Right Machine, Erin Meister, June 13, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Although this site is primarily a purveyor of green coffee beans and home-roasting equipment, experts here recommend a handful of espresso machines. They call the Rancilio Silvia a "modern classic," and point out that like most espresso makers, the Silvia is a tool that requires practice to perfect the process.
Review: Rancilio Miss Silvia Espresso Machine, Editors of SweetMarias.com, As of January 2013
7. The Boston Globe
Review Credibility: Good DeLorenzo investigates whether it's possible to obtain high-quality espresso from low-end machines by varying the quality and consistency of grounds used. He says the Rancilio Silvia is a worthwhile purchase if you don't want to spend the time trying to produce great espresso from a cheap model.
Review: High-quality Espresso From Low-end Machines, Ike DeLorenzo, Jan. 13, 2010