Like any semi-automatic machine, Rancilio HSD Silvia, targets the home brewing sector, the espresso enthusiasts, that love to tweak their espresso to perfection. These people take espresso brewing very serious, and a few stumbles will not scare them. If you are one of these people, then this machine is definitely for you. You can tweak your espresso to perfection, and get most of that perfect African bean with your Silvia. On the other hand, if you like convenience and consistency, and you’d rather have your shot the same every time, then you would like to look at other espresso machines.
Rancilio Silvia is one of the best semiautomatic espresso machines on the market. This machine is built to last and is not programmed for obsolescence. It is a machine the way they used to be built when we were kids. The iron frame and stainless steel side panels make the Silvia a sturdy device.
The outstanding features of this machine though, are in the brewing components. The boiler is a 12 oz chrome plated brass boiler, one of the largest in the market. The large volume of the boiler ensures a steaming power, like no other home espresso machine. This also results in a very fast recovery time between shots.
The brew group is also brass, the water tank is large, and it has a great steaming pressure.
Part of the brewing success with any espresso machine, the portafilter is specially designed to improve crema extraction, and Rancilio has a patent on it.
The Rancilio HSD Silvia has pod and capsule adaptors available as options.
This machine has its design flaws, certainly, but overall is a great machine, very reliable, and if you invest a little time and money, you will keep it forever.
Rancilio HSD Silvia Under the Lens
OK, let’s put this machine under the lens, and not get carried over by the hype around it. It is a great machine, and with a great potential, and it would be worth every penny, and even a bit more, if they made some little design changes.
The great things about this machine
- It is extremely reliable and you will have it for years, (if you treat the frame with anti-rust, see the weaknesses section).
- After some tweaking of the brewing process you will get the best espresso shots ever.
- Very silent, low vibrations, ensured by the fact that it is a heavy machine.
- Makes a great crema.
- The pressure is allowed to escape after switching off the pump.
- Great recovery time between shots.
- Stainless steel finish.
Rancilio Silvia’s Weaknesses
- You have to have a great grinder, not average, not good, but great.
- You need to play with the water temperature, (there are plenty of tutorials about temperature surfing on the Internet.) However, temperature surfing takes time, so if you have guests, be prepared to spend some extra time in the kitchen.
- If you want to eliminate the temperature surfing from your brewing ritual, you need to ad a PID, which will keep the temperature to a predetermined point.
- Comes with a cheap plastic tamper, which you need to dispose of right away and replace it with a proper one. (Most manufacturers send one like that, though.)
- Very heavy, thus very hard to move around in your kitchen. (But this is what makes it so sturdy, and silent.)
- The lower frame is made of regular steel. This is where the excess water goes, and the frame will eventually rust, sooner or later. When you buy it, apply some anti-rust treatment if you want to keep it forever. The shallow drip tray will also contribute to this problem.
- The temperature surfing will add to this problem, check Mark Prince’s video below for some great tips.
If we were to sum up this review we could say that the HSD Silvia is a consumer’s choice for a few reasons, those are extreme reliability, and commercial grade components. If the machine was built with a stainless steel lower frame to prevent rusting, and it had a temperature controlling device, it would have been perfect, and you would see it in every small commercial setting. Many people complain about the above problems of the Silvia, but Rancilio want to make a clear distinction between their home and commercial espresso machines, so most likely they won’t fix these issues.