For That Price, I Better See Rosie From The Jetsons… STAT!
Don’t call me a barista. I’m just someone who knows how to make a good espresso drink. I’m not sure why that term irritates me so much, but I think it might be a throwback to my days working at the coffee shop, when I was in charge. I wasn’t just making drinks behind the espresso machine. You know, because the distinction totally matters. Not.
I’m less of a snob about it now because I’m older and wiser, but the title barista still bothers me for some reason. Anyway, during my days as a not-barista, I figured out a few super tricks for getting the right amount of foam into your cappuccino and the right amount of heat into your pour for your latte.
So when I look at an espresso machine, I’m always interested in how powerful the wand looks and if it seems like it will really give me the opportunity to make a good foam to enjoy with my drink. The Rancilio HSD-SILVIA Espresso Machine has a great foaming wand. It has the right kind of tip and the right length to get the right amount of pressure. It does have a curve in it, though, and I’m not sure how that works as far as becoming an obstacle for the travelling steam.
The Rancilio Silvia is not an espresso maker you’re going to buy if you don’t make a ton of espresso. Well, if you have a lot of money to burn, you could, but I don’t think you would want to. This is a great machine, but you could run out of funds pretty quickly if you’re not saving a serious amount of money over your coffee shop habit.
The reason this machine has so much going for it as well as the price to show for it, is because the manufacturer, Rancilio, is a huge player in the commercial espresso maker world. They make a lot of the machines that go into restaurants and coffee houses, so they have a reputation for knowing what they’re doing. You get all the perks of their experience without having to go to a coffee shop, but you’re still going to pay for it.
Not On The Grind
Just because it’s a nearly professional machine, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything by hand. You can use freshly ground espresso to make your drink if you want, or you can go with something a little less difficult by using an espresso pod. You just drop one in using the correct filter adapter that comes with this monster, and you’re on your way to the right amount of espresso in a very happy machine.
Complete Range Of Motion
Remember when I said the steaming wand on this machine is a real steaming wand? I meant it. In order to get the right amount of steam in the right locations to make the perfect cappuccino, you have to be able to maneuver the steaming cup in just about every direction. As the milk grows in volume, you have to be able to adapt and adjust the location of the steaming wand to keep it positioned exactly where you need it. Consumer grade models usually have fixed or very limiting steam wands that don’t have enough pressure to be really useful. That is not the case here.
No Grinder In The Box
Some of the more expensive espresso machines come with a grinder mounted on the machine so you don’t have to grind beans beforehand. A good coffee grinder is expensive, and you’re already dropping almost $700 on this espresso machine. For the price, I think it should be able to do everything and you shouldn’t have to buy additional equipment other than an inexpensive steaming canister and things like that, but that’s just me.
Maybe that’s not quite the issue, but the thermostat on this machine has a reputation for not being able to regulate the temperature all that well. The temperature can get very hot very quickly, but then it can have trouble coming back down to the right spot for the next task.
Temperature is a big deal in steaming milk and brewing espresso because too much means you can burn both. Yuck. By the same token, without enough pressure and heat, you can get sludgy espresso and milk that tastes like you just warmed it in the microwave. Double yuck.
I’m not saying it’s that extreme with the Rancilio, but the mood swings are certainly not helping when using it for different tasks shortly after each other.
Boilers Aren’t Always Reliable
Behind the stainless steel exterior and the professional style casing are a whole lot of pieces and parts you probably don’t even realize are necessary in an espresso machine. Higher end models like this one have an honest to goodness boiler to heat the water and make the steam. At the right temperature, the boiler’s magic will produce exactly what you want. However, just like controlling the temperature of this machine can be a problem, so can getting some boilers to last longer than a few years.
Big Price Tag. Questionable Payoff.
If I’m going to spend $700, this thing is going to bring me my slippers, as well as all the other things it does. I expect it to have a fully functioning robot inside that will also work like Rosie from the Jetson’s. I don’t expect it to stop working after just a few years (because then it does not come close to paying for itself) or have trouble pulling well made espresso through the machine.
Having said all that, the Silvia has been the most popular machine in its class for the last several years, it has some really great features, and there are plenty of videos and aftermarket webpages that can show you how to get the best out of this machine.
If you like a bit of a challenge and like to tinker with things, and it’s within your price range, go ahead and take a shot at this one.