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Thread: New Silvia owner

  1. #1
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    New Silvia owner

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Having upgraded from a low-end machine to a Rancilio Silvia (sort of going from the ridiculous to sublime without an intermediate step), I hope these observations may be of use to home brewers.
    (Note homemade hardwood tamper in foreground)

    Having unpacked and warmed Silvia, the first shots came out absolutely perfect. I just loaded the portafilter with some freshly-ground coffee, waited for the light to go off, and started the brew.
    The crema was very deep, and a great shade of reddish-brown. The taste, with a little sugar, sensational. Ah, finally, at last. This is it, thought I. No temperature surfing, no PID, no running water through everything to force a pre-heat.

    After some 4 days, though, I noticed the coffee had to be ground finer, and finer. The dark crema became lighter and lighter, almost off-white in colour. The sensational taste was going all over the place. *

    I put it down to the beans going "stale"--yes, even though they had been roasted only 4 or 5 days earlier by a well-known boutique reliable supplier. *Most were kept in air-tight containers in the pantry, and just enough poured into the burr grinder hopper for that days use, maybe two days. *Unfortunately, this cannot be good for freshness, but its a pain trying to empty the unused beans for re-use later. Those Iberital grinders arent exactly light, and the hopper comes off easily if tipped -- beans everywhere if youre not careful.

    So, I started all the temperature surfing tricks, waited 40", 50", 60" after light on before pulling a shot.

    I hate to be an iconoclast, and may I humbly say, this seemed to make no difference at all. The shots were still very pale crema, thin or bitter depending on how fine I ground or forced the extraction to compensate.

    I longed for that first day where, without any practice or know-how, the shot was effortlessly perfect.

    So, ordered new batch of beans. Dramatically re-adjusted grinder (had to back right off for these Latin Americans). Again, no temperature surfing, no artificial modifications, just waited for light off, and switch on pump.

    Wonderful. Oh, heaven. The very best coffee I have savoured anywhere on the planet. If only if could be drunk by the glassful instead of a barely mouth-wetting 30 mls.

    The lessons (after just one week anyway of owning Miss Silvia) are..... "fresh" beans may no longer be so after just three or four days.

    And is all that temperature surfing, PID modification really necessary? *I mean, look at what you have to start with: a good burr grinder, fresh beans, and a good machine. Is that not enough?

    The Silvia remains very warm long after switched off. Its heat-retention quality is admirable.

    The steam pressure and longevity excellent. My wife is enamoured with her lattes, even though the artwork is no Rembrandt. *You can stretch milk and microfoam at will, and Miss Silvia keeps up the pace.

    Gripes? *The spill tray could be much bigger. It would be great--and relatively easy -- to connect it permanently into the kitchen plumbing. The water tank could also be bigger, and should have a visual indicator to tell its level. *I made my own hardwood tamper, but occasionally use the inadequate plastic one. It is easily mastered despite its small diameter. *Two latte glasses cannot fit vertically directly under the portafilter spouts. They have to be leaned into the spout, making it difficult to tell the height of the shot (I put a permanent marker line on glasses).

    But overall, Im glad we skipped all the traumas of step-by-step upgrades and went for the Silvia. *We were thinking of a super-auto Saeco, but glad we didnt get it. For that price, now that Im a convert to metal and not plastic, Id want a dazzling chrome E61 group machine with a huge tank, rotary pump, pressure gauges and indestructibility. It will never come to that (I hope) so the Silvia will do very nicely.

  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Warwick, QLD

    Re: New Silvia owner

    Hi Robusto,

    Glad to hear that you are well on your way to achieving coffee nirvana. Just wondering though, what type of grinder are you using?

    With some grinders used from new, the new burrs may seat in a little with the first few grinds giving the impression that under-extraction is taking place when in fact, the grind is gradually getting a little bit coarser each time you grind. If your grinder is of a type that uses a single nut to secure the rotating burr, this nut will tighten down a small amount until a sort of equalibrium is reached.

    Its a bit unusual for coffee beans to go stale after only four or five days, unless the method of storage leaves a bit to be desired. I keep newly roasted beans in black plastic one-way valve zip-lock bags until Im ready to use them and then store in a clean air-tight container. These are in turn stored in a cupboard that is away from outside walls of the house and therefore much more temperature stable. Ive found that my roasted beans remain fresh to the taste for two weeks or more when stored this way but most often they are completely depleted within a week or so.

    Keep up the good work with Silvia. All the best,


  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2004

    Re: New Silvia owner

    I tend to agree with Mal, in that the storage of your beans may be more at fault than the beans themselves. But having said that, do you know when those beans were roasted, how long they had been stored at the roastery before you bought them? That can also affect the length of time they will "last" at home.

    It is not uncommon to need to change the grind fineness as beans age (and as conditions like humidity change) to keep the repeatability of the shot. *For example, I see a shift of about 2 notches on the mazzer grind ring (going finer) over about a week and a half period on the same beans (thats about how long it takes me to use a roasted batch), just to keep the shot the same. *So I dont really see that as unusual in your case.

    I always keep my beans sealed in the zip-lock bags with one way valve. *If I accidentally leave the bag open, you can tell that the beans have oxidised and lost their freshness, as the results are not as good (thinner crema in particular). *If you can, try to only charge the right amount of beans into the grinder for the day. *My practice is that if I have added too many beans, Ill grind them and store the grounds overnight in an airtight decor container - but even so, the results are never quite the same the next day. *

    Keep enjoying Silvia, Im sure she will continue to deliver great coffee for you. *Its all about practice :-)

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Re: New Silvia owner

    Quote Originally Posted by robusto link=1110089717/0#0 date=1110089716
    It would be great--and relatively easy -- to connect it permanently into the kitchen plumbing.
    I came across this last night while wandering the coffee web, I think there may be an extra pipe going in when we redo the kitchen later this year....


  5. #5
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: New Silvia owner

    Thanks Mal, Poundy and Mycle for the helpful information. I have heard about humidity affecting grind, and that could well be it. Those one-way valve packs are a great idea. The grinder is a new Iberital (see separate review under grinders).
    In any case, the "old" beans are still being put to good use, pulling shots for lattes. Milk covers a multitude of sins.

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Re: New Silvia owner

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Thanks, robusto. Youll enjoy having water piped to the Silvia. I hope the coffee pages at my site can be of help to you and others.

    Be sure to read the "resetting Silvia" page if you havent already run into and solved that problem. Its a real joy to wake up one morning to find Silvia sitting turned on and cold because you left the steam switch on.

    Visit my computer tips, coffee tips and forums at

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