Rancilio Silvia PRO Espresso Machine Review
The Rancilio Silvia is an icon among home espresso machines. With a no-nonsense setup, it gives users everything they need to get quality espresso without presets or automation getting in the way.
The upgraded Rancilio Silvia Pro comes with some much-needed new tech, like the double boiler, but how does it compare to the classic?
SUMMARY: The Rancilio Silvia PRO
- Dual boiler for seamless brewing and frothing
- PID controller for temperature precision
- Classic Silvia style, built to last
[It] requires a good amount of skill to operate effectively. But, when used well, the results are spectacular.– GearLab
The Rancilio Silvia Pro Review
The classic Silvia has a reputation for being one of the best of the prosumer machines. The simple, solid machine offers commercial-grade features and great reliability. So, there has been little reason to change it, until now.
We didn’t want to mess with our original formula. So, our biggest consideration was to keep it true to the Silvia DNA.
The Rancilio Silvia Pro represents the first major upgrade to the semi-automatic machine in more than 20 years. It’s instantly recognisable as a Silvia, but check the specifications, and you’ll find there’s more than enough here to warrant the new, heftier price tag.
Brewing Capacity – 4.5/5
The Pro upgrade retains the same 6oz size water tank as the original. The only difference is that they replaced a single 10oz boiler with a 34oz steam boiler, plus they added a 10oz brew boiler. This means having hot water for longer. However, the bigger boiler size pushes the warmup time up to 10 minutes for either a shot of espresso or frothing milk.
Double boiler – Let’s look at the feature that most fans have been waiting for: the dual boiler. The great news is there’s no downtime between pulling a shot and steaming the milk. Just keep in mind that the machine will always favour the brew boiler when reheating and refilling from the water reservoir (1).
You’re not locked into using both boilers, however. Turning off the steaming option will cut down the warmup time. Some users found that it means a more consistent performance from the brew boiler.
PID controller – Hand-in-hand with the new double boiler is the addition of a dual PID. So not only will you get incredible stability and consistency, but also the correct temperature for each boiler. You can adjust the temp by way of the new switches and digital display.
How does PID temperature control work?
Why is the PID a big deal? Basically, it provides a more precise and more stable temperature. Machines with a thermostat or pressure stat heat up to above the desired temp before cutting the power, then turn back on when the temperature gets too low. A PID uses complex algorithms to predict when the temperature might drop or rise even slightly and adjust accordingly (2).
User-friendliness – 4/5
With a semi-automatic machine, you’re going to have to do most of the work here. You really can make a barista-quality coffee with these machines, but you’ll need the skill set to go along with it.
Water sensor – One of the concerns with the original Silvia is that you were in danger of burning out the heating element without a water sensor. The Silvia Pro offers a solution through a plastic float in the water reservoir that serves as a sensor. When the water level is too low, the digital display will light up with “H20”.
Digital display – The Silvia’s traditionally LO-FI front now features a small digital display, which is necessary with the addition of the dual PID system. Here you can view and set the temperature for each of the boilers using the plus or minus switches on either side of the display. When the brewer is in use, the screen also works as a shot timer. But perhaps one of the most important benefits of the new display is that it allows other machine functions.
User functions – Another benefit of the display is the new programmable features. These are accessed using the plus or minus buttons next to the display and the shot button. The shot is, in fact, the OK button. You can choose to set a wake-up time, auto-off schedule, voltage, Celsius/Fahrenheit, or see any error messages.
Cup holder height – A small but welcome change is that the cup holder grid is now adjustable. There are three height settings at 3inch, 3.5inch, and 4inch four below the portafilter (3).
Milk Frothing – 4.5/5
The addition of a dedicated steam boiler now makes for a more seamless experience when making a latte or cappuccino. But there are a couple of other upgrades with the Pro that will help you make a great range of drinks.
Professional wand – the steam wand on any Silvia is one of its best features. The previous models included a professional acorn-style tip with a single hole, which Rancilio had upgraded to an articulated stainless-steel version in recent models. On the Silvia Pro, you’ll also get a stainless-steel steam wand. But it’s now multidirectional, with a three-hole tip. It’s the same wand you’ll find on their commercial-grade machines. Some reviews have mentioned it doesn’t have the same pressure as in the original, but it does make it easier to control.
Water spout – From the front, you’ll notice the addition of a designated water spout, whereas older models did double duty with the steam wand. Just be aware that the water is still drawn from the steam boiler (not the brew one), so you’ll need to have both boilers switched on to use it.
Build Quality – 5/5
There’s a confident expectation for any espresso machine made in Italy that it will be a high-quality bit of kit. And the Rancilio Silvia line lives up to this. You’ve got an outer casing of stainless steel, fitted with professional-grade parts. So what? Well, any failed components can be repaired or replaced without the need for a whole new machine. Not so bad, right?
Some parts on previous models were made of chrome-plated brass, which tended to peel. But you’ll now find a stainless steel steam wand and a black plastic grouphead cover.
The Pro version has maintained the look and the feel of the original, so if you were hoping for a more modern version of the bare, boxy coffee maker, you’re out of luck. With the addition of the dual boilers, the Silvia Pro’s dimensions are a little larger in all aspects. It now measures 9.8in wide, 16.5in deep, and 15.3in high, with a weight of 20kg – a hefty 4.5kg heavier than the Silvia.
Boilers – This is one area where Silvia has gone through some changes over the years. The Pro version features an insulated brass boiler with a copper inner boiler, which has been the case for the last few models of the Silvia. Copper has excellent heat conductive properties, but it doesn’t lend itself to being exceptionally stable. Thankfully, the PID controller combats this issue.
Portafilter – The Silvia Pro comes with a 58mm non-pressurised portafilter, the standard size for a professional machine. So in theory you could swap it out for a better one, but there’s no need in this case – it’s the one used on Rancilio’s professional line. It comes as a double spout version, but the 1.5inch opening is narrow enough to extract into a single cup.
You can use ESE pods with this machine, but you’ll need to buy a separate adapter kit.
Tamper – One gripe from Silvia users has always been the not-so-good plastic tamper. Most people chose to upgrade, adding to the purchase price. You’ll be pleased to hear the Silvia Pro comes with a professional black wood tamper with stainless steel flat base – a material finally worthy of the machine’s quality.
Cleaning and Maintenance – 4.5/5
Now we get to the least enjoyable part of making coffee: the cleanup. The Silvia Pro will still require regular cleaning tasks such as descaling, but there is some good news.
Auto backflush – With the addition of the digital display, you can now access a function for cleaning the group head. After adding the cleaning agent and the backflush disc, use the menu to start the cleaning cycle. It will run through the wash cycle, telling you when to remove and reinsert the disc. OK, it’s not entirely automatic, but it should be beneficial for those new to the process.
Three-way solenoid valve – The Silvia Pro (and the classics that came before it) has a three-way solenoid valve. The valve is there to shut off water flow to the portafilter immediately after brewing. This means that no post-brew drips are escaping from the spout and also means you have a drier puck of ground coffee for easy disposal.
Drip tray – The size of the drip tray has always been an issue with these machines, and nothing has changed with the Silvia Pro. However, some claim it’s not much of an issue as the solenoid valve prevents dripping. It’s only when backflushing that you might need to add another container.
Do Not Buy If…
You already own an original Rancilio Silvia: The Rancilio Silvia Pro might have sorted out some of the more frustrating issues of the original. Still, the big jump in price isn’t going to be reflected in the espresso quality.
You’re on a budget: If you’re willing to sacrifice the dual boiler, the Gaggia Classic Pro is a famously wallet-friendly espresso machine. It still contains many of the same great features, like a professional steam wand and 3-way solenoid valve.
You want the looks upgraded too: Something is charming about Silvia’s boxy exterior, but it’s not for everyone. If you want a slicker-looking dual-boiler for around the same price, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar II will make your space-age dreams come true.
We can safely say that Rancilio Silvia Pro has done a great job maintaining the best parts of the original Silvia while adding features that will keep it relevant in a competitive industry. True, it might not be a good fit for a newbie. But if you have some experience with pulling a shot of espresso, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value prosumer coffee machine.
- Rancilio Silvia Pro: First impressions. (2020, September 23). Retrieved from https://www.talkcoffee.com.au/rancilio-silvia-pro-first-impressions/
- A brief history of the pid. (2015, October 16). Retrieved from https://home.lamarzoccousa.com/history-of-the-pid/
- Model Silvia PRO: Rancilio’s coffee machines and grinders. (2021, March 22). Retrieved from https://www.ranciliogroup.com/rancilio/silvia-pro/silvia-pro/