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Thread: Rancilio Silvia Mods/Tweaks/Add-on's ...?

  1. #1
    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    Question Rancilio Silvia Mods/Tweaks/Add-on's ...?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi Folks,

    After a long hiatus away from owning an espresso machine I've gotten another Silvia, albeit a v3 rather than the v2 I had many moons back. Now I've no false perceptions that at present I'm by FAR the weakest link in the chain. However with a view moving forward I was interested in what other Silvia owners & others feel are the tweaks/mods/add-ons that work best in improving the Silvia's performance - I think it's also important to highlight that with any of these I'd also weigh this benefit vs the cost/hassle of doing them - so a 'bang for buck' type assessment.

    Just to highlight in advance the stuff I'm already doing (buying top quality green beans from CS!!!, roasting myself in small batches, grinding with a Compak K3 Touch, using a good mid-range exact fit tamper, using digital scales to ensure to the gram dose, keeping machine very clean, measuring shot volume/time.

    Whilst this thread is primarily seeking the feedback of others to assist me sorting fact from fiction but I've had a quick squiz at several other sites as well as reading reams of Silvia threads here and in no particular order my thoughts on the things I've found are:

    PID: Clearly one of the biggest aids possible BUT the total cost of one as a new kit is almost what the entire Silvia set me back! So makes zero sense for me as my opinion is it'd have been more sensible to buy a new machine that comes with a PID installed (thats just for me, others can get them if they like the cost/look etc) + hassle of installing. FWIW I've decided to go with the very poor man's version of a PID (and I know it's actually nothing like a PID but rather a temp aid) - and bought a thermocouple thermometer to 'Gronk' the Silvia.
    End Assessment: Not viable - cost/hassle.


    Insulation: Seems to go hand in hand with the PID and that seems logical - however if you're resigned to temperature surfing (as I am with the aid of the Gronk mod) I can only imagine that the boiler insulation as well as being a bugger to fit will just make the boiler cooldown cycle that much slower....which though at first glance positive could be a PITA if having to force a recycle etc. So I'm unsure if thats worth insulating to see a benefit (plus it looks a PITA job).

    However I would think that insulating the steam arm would be of use - as though you pre-warm it and bleed a couple of times prior to using you're always going to get condensation in it as the steam cools on the colder metal on route out....but insulating it SHOULD diminish this significantly. Keeping steam hot is a good thing. Plus it is very easy to access & do with a number of easy enough to get materials being likely good enough for the job e.g insul-bright, crinkled aluminium foil, hot water pipe foam wrap from Bunnings..?
    End Assessment: Viable only for the steam arm.


    Bottomless portafilter: These get very good reviews for feedback on what you might be doing wrong with your shot. I'm going to borrow one of a friend for a while to trial. Hopefully that will assist me in correcting any identifiable issues but for long terms use not a great fit for our house as we usually just drink a double shot split into two drinks (pathetic I know) and as such the dual spout portafilter is more convenient.
    End Assessment: Will use a trial handle but unlikely to buy for long term usage.


    Superior filter baskets: The v3 comes with the apparently vastly superior 40-100-102 14g basket (which I find really only likes 14-15g MAX dose still a work in progress for me to balance dose, grind size & tamp). BUT I'd find it very handy to have a couple of ridgeless double 14-17g baskets on hand in case of guests or if we have our coffees of a larger size - as the 14g basket is a tad limiting.

    Not trying to start the whole VST/Synesso/Precision discussion but seems merit to these over the stock baskets, even the newer 40-100-102 14g one. So this seemed a good idea to me - also helps my workflow as I can grind, tamp etc the baskets and pop into the portafilter at the last sec, minimal hassle between shots.
    End Assessment: Seems like a good idea. VST too expensive for me but others like Precision or La Mazocco(which come in a 17g ridgeless version) look viable for better coffee and less hassle in prep.


    Flat screen/bolt-screw replacement: Seems that Rancilio have either deliberately left that big screw head as a visual feedback aid on loading your basket post pull or it's a brain fart as you'd think pushing it into your nicely prepped basket each time AIN'T going to help (and I know you're generally only meant to have a quite small indent). But even though the rewrd/benefit of replacing seems low I figure the cost/hassle of replacing is also very low (as it's just as simple as getting a suitable length+gauge flat headed screw in a suitable material....?
    End Assessment: If it's as easy as putting a different screw in then why not?


    And I think thats kind of about it.....I know there's other lil tweak like replacing the portafilter spout, water level indicator etc but i don't think any of them are really worthwhile.

    On the technique front I'm currently trying a 'pre-infusion' technique (for for ~1.5sec, then off for 4-5sec then normal extraction) which I'm finding kinda questionable - and PIDSilvia (which I've read over extensively) says kinda the same.

    Anyway if anyone has any feedback on the above or other aspects of Silvia use I'd greatly welcome them.

    Cheers and thanks in advance,

    Nick

    PS. And I say this purely as an observation and NOT to offend or heckle anyone but it's curious to me that the Silvia is kind of the go-to espresso machine for people to pimp/mod but on a massive scale - like the gallery shown over at PIDSilvia - appears they've spent many fold more on the mods ALONE than the actual OEM Silvia - which very much reminds me of the guys who buy very cheap cars and then plumb thousands into modding them - and you wonder if they'd have just been better off buying a better car to start with!?!

    Haha so all respect and appreciation to them but that type of modding etc isn't anythng I'm interested in. Simple, cost effective stuff only. :-)
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  2. #2
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    A good coffee basket and a bottomless group handle is probably all you should bother with. If you're going to spend money on PID'ing, you're almost better off looking for a nice priced second hand machine from the 4sale thread, which will make a better coffee for the extra money. But if you want to PID the silvia because you love it, go for it.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member artman's Avatar
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    I second a decent basket and naked PF. I initially turned my PF into a naked to watch the pour but now use it exclusively as I find it so much cleaner to use. No drips etc out of the spouts and a wipe top and bottom of basked and all is clean. I use the normal PF for the very rare occasion of needing to split a shot (soft guests who can't take a double...) but mostly have the blind in there for quick and easy backflushing.

    The other thing you could do is play with the temp surfing that some silvia people do, have a go and see what tastes best.

    Cheers

  4. #4
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    Hi Nick

    I too am joining the Silvia crowd with delivery hopefully tomorrow of the new toy. I stumbled across this website when looking at all things Silvia which might be of interest to you. (Admin please remove link if this is not allowed)


    commercial link removed per site posting policy




    Plenty of mods from PID, timers, lights, water level etc etc


    Mark
    Last edited by Javaphile; 23rd June 2015 at 11:05 AM. Reason: Commercial link(s) removed
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  5. #5
    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    Appreciate the replies gents.

    I hear what you're saying RE: the naked PF but other than borrowing one from a friend to hone my technique on - but as my wife is 'soft' and can't take a double I've somewhat resigned myself having to stick with the dual spouted PF (haha though as often suggested considering a new spouse instead is an option to keep in reserve!)

    Anyway will see how my trial with the mates naked PF goes - initially I was close to getting the drill & holesaw attachment out to mod my stock one BUT this will be a lot more effective.

    RE: baskets. Well I thought I'd found a bargain source for ridgeless quality baskets but alas they were completely sold out and only had ridged left. That said I was absolutely blown away by the customer service & integrity shown by Cleanskin Coffee Co. Can highly recommend them as an vendor to anyone...but alas the search for ridgeless goes on - might just grab some precision ones from TC.

    Not that it'll make much difference but I grabbed one of the Cafelat silicon group gaskets from Andy (who as everyone knows is just fantastic with his service as well!). Popping that in shortly.

    RE: temp surfing - yes, am all over that - there seem to be a couple of different approaches. Either wait 26-30sec after light goes off & then extract - or allow light to go off, then without PF in group allow 3-4 sec through group (to release surplus steam/heat) - then extract. Have been trying the latter....a bit unsure of it and think I might try the former instead. :-/

    As mentioned, PIDing a Silvia reminds me of several years back where some lads would put $4000 worth of rims on their Hyundai Excels, as well as many more $$$ on modding it. I understand why they did it - and I can see it serves a purpose but I do wonder if it's the best path given you're prepared to spend the base + mod outlay. But each to their own - I'll see how the ~$10 Gronked solution works as well as refining a temp surfing approach.

    Any other thoughts on the various mods and their true or placebo effects appreciated. ;-)

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    I like your analogy about doing up a Hyundai! Personally I like just spending the time keeping it in good nick. There's guys on the web who have put in pressure gauges, and some horrible PID installations where they run off a separate power source! I look at most of these and think I would rather keep the classic simplicity of the machine, and try improve the input, by way of learning the art of roasting my own beans.... which I've done to moderate success so far.

    Having said that, if cost is the main barrier, you could do a China cheapie PID off ebay ? I read someone on here did that on a Nemox/Quaha for about 30 odd dollars!
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    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    The pimped out Hyundai analogy was moreso for the very extreme ones via the gallery at PIDsilvia.com - and definitely not meant to belittle anyone with a Silvia, especially as I now have one myself.

    Cost is only the barrier in so much as it's IMHO a disproportionate % of the Silvia's actual value - could understand if it was a more expensive machine etc. That said ~$30 for a PID is ridiculously inexpensive...are you sure it was a PID and not simply getting a digital thermometer with a thermocouple on it to simply monitor the top of the boiler's temp (referred to here as gronking)?

    Any links you have would be very interesting reading. :-)

    PS. Installed the Cafelat silicon group seal. The old rubber one had plenty of life left in it but figured the swap was easy and cheap. My goodness, talk about a LOT tighter. With the old seal could get to ~5'Oclock, but with this new one (and it's definitely in all the way with no spacers etc) you can barely get to 7'Oclock and it's very tight. Figure it will loosen up a lil after a few weeks use. Definitely worth grabbing one in your next CS order.

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    Sure, not a lot of info but here is the thread I'm talking about:

    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/brewing-eq...tml#post536808

    I've been meaning to replace my seal, I will grab one actually, and see how much damage I can do installing it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    Much thanks for that (had seached and had no luck finding it) - will look over.

    Only tip I'd give with the seal replacement is one I got from the Seattle mob off Youtube, getting the old one off is a PITA and you don't want to pry out with steel(scratchy) things - so gently screw an old wood screw into the old seal and then use a pair of pliers to yank on the screw & pull it out - worked very well.

  10. #10
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    I've PIDed and flat screwed my Silvia and don't regret either change at all. Bot have added greatly to the use and results achieved with the machine for me. Cost of PID to me wasn't that big a deal when I consider that I've had the machine for 4 years and will likely have it at least as long again. At least I know the machine will last that long. Not even a hint of rust on mine as yet.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    Question

    Quote Originally Posted by mentasm View Post
    I've PIDed and flat screwed my Silvia and don't regret either change at all.
    @mentasm, thanks for your reply. With the flat screw was it just an 'off the shelf' screw that you were able to straight swap over for the existing one? Or did you have to get it 'altered' to allow it to fit?

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    I just replaced my screen screw with a button head 14mm one and one washer. Made a huge difference to puck. Make sure you get high grade stainless. Any bolt shop will have them. Can also use 12 mm counter sunk ones but there was a slight gap between bolt and screen. Button looks good and works well. Def make use of the naked portafilter too. Makes a huge difference to how you tamp and fill the basket
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    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    @chrisj1984, much thanks for confirmation it was a straight swap over - I assumed it was but couldn't get this confirmed by anyone so thank you for taking the time to state this.

    Alas my friend's naked PF (which was from an Expobar machine) didn't fit the Rancilio. The ears on the PF were tapered in a very slightly different manner than meant it couldn't get in. I'll keep a look out for one in the interim period.

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    I ordered my screw from somewhere that was linked in a forum thread somewhere. Was a couple years ago though

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    Senior Member nikko.the.scorpio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mentasm View Post
    I ordered my screw from somewhere that was linked in a forum thread somewhere. Was a couple years ago though
    Thanks for the reply - I actually did a DIY mod on mine yesterday. Drilled a small hole in some wood, placed the stock hex head screw into the hole (just like it was screwing back into an object) - then with a grinding disc on the angle grinder I took 2-3mm off the top, leaving enough of the hex head so I could still remove it with a socket but much less to press into the puck.

    I was going to order the flat headed countersunk one but then realised I'd have to machine/chamfer the jetflow bit to allow this fully in, too much of a PITA and whilst my result wasn't quite as good at the flat head it's only around 1.5mm higher with actually less stuffing around (took 5mins).

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    I find two things a little annoying

    1 The steam wand drips and is difficult to stop. I am not sure if it has deteriorated over time and needs cleaning or if that is normal. Perhaps there is a replacement valve that shuts off more successfully.

    2. The PF drips water. I spend time shaking it to remove all the water before filling the basket, but the water just hangs in there until I reach the grinder, or drops out on the floor. It is unbelievable how it manages to stay there while I shake and tap it then drops out in transit.
    I wonder if there is any fix for this.

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    Rancilio Silvia Mods/Tweaks/Add-on's ...?

    I have modified my Silvio v3 to incorporate
    -PID and built it into the front, runs all day without issue
    - led lights to see the shot better.
    - insulated the boiler and pipework
    - added a pressure gauge and built it into the front
    - powder coated the frame
    - added dynamat to the inside of all the stainless panels to quiet it down a bit.
    - naked portafilter with synesso basket or VST.

    ...... And the steam wand still drips

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    Oh and the flat shower screen mod

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    How about that plastic surround with the chrome coating that peels off. I re-sprayed mine but a nice chrome metal piece would be good.

  20. #20
    Junior Member Alain's Avatar
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    So just wanted to add my 2cents... I recently bought a 18g VST basket to replace my Rancilio 40-100-102. After pulling a few shots and making adjustments, I can honestly say there is a noticeable difference in the quality of coffee that is being produced! It has gone from good to great!

    May not necessarily be VST magic... but I think investing in a larger capacity basket is a no brainer! Got mine for $30 + post.
    Last edited by Alain; 19th August 2015 at 02:45 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alain View Post
    So just wanted to add my 2cents... I recently bought a 18g VST basket to replace my Rancilio 40-100-102. After pulling a few shots and making adjustments, I can honestly say there is a noticeable difference in the quality of coffee that is being produced! It has gone from good to great!

    May not necessarily be VST magic... but I think investing in a larger capacity basket is a no brainer! Got mine for $30 + post.
    IMO.

    The larger baskets are much more forgiving of operator sub-optimal technique or bean quality.

    I have 3 double-baskets that I use to make double espresso/double ristretto shots - the standard Silvia double (14-17 gram range), the Synesso double (18-21 gram range) and Sylvia naked portafilter double (23-26 grams, i.e. its a triple basket).
    The hardest double shot to get right is using the smallest basket.
    I read somewhere a long time ago that a single espresso shot using a single basket (7-9 grams) is harder to get right than a double shot, for same reasons, there is nowhere to hide.
    The smaller the basket the less room for error exits for the operator to screw up. I dont make single shots so I dont know how true it may be but I reckon likely to be right on the money.
    After >10 years of making double espresso (last 5 on Sylvia and 6 years before that on a Gaggia Classic), I can honestly say that I can now finally make a great double espresso/ristretto using the smallest Sylvia double basket.
    At home we have the luxury of pre-weghing the beans before we grind them, making one double-shot at a time, using naked portafilter and using stop-watch to time the extractions.
    I consider these as mandatory steps to be able to make very good single/double/triple espresso/ristretto.
    (plus also add temp surfing and matching good grinder to the machine).
    If you do all of these on Sylvia - you wont need the PID to make very good espresso/ristretto.

    PS I have no comments/suggestions/opinions re milk steaming, never have and never will. Either you like the espresso coffee or you dont. I had a laugh. 8^)

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    Anyone know where to get a PID that sits internally and the screen is flush with fascia?

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