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Thread: The question all newbs ask...

  1. #1
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    The question all newbs ask...

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

    New to the coffee appreciation game and looking to get myself started with some decent equipment. The recommendation of choice seems to be the Rancilio units. How do these compare to the Gaggia Classic? My dilemma is that I have a good load of Myer vouchers that I could use to purchase the Gaggia. Is the Sylvia enough of an upgrade over the Classic that I should just save my vouchers for something else?

    Grant

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    joe
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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Rancilios certainly seem to have a cult following - and probably for good reason. My machine for the past 8 1/2 years has been a Gaggia Classic, which I reckon pulls a great coffee. The model I have didnt come with that awful froth-enhancer, so its good for cappuccinos as well. I suppose it depends how much you want to spend. Ive seen the Classic for as low as $499; the Silvia seems to come in at least $200 over that. I dont think you could go wrong with either machine.

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Hi grant,

    Welcome to CoffeeSnobs by the way [smiley=thumbsup.gif].

    As with everything, it all comes down to "horses for courses". The Silvia is a great domestic espresso machine as evidenced by all the praise heaped upon it by a plethora of users over the past few years. When coupled with the venerable Rocky coffee mill/grinder, it becomes a very competent setup indeed.

    Depending on your previous experience with espresso machines though, the Silvia will require a learning curve in order to refine your technique to the point where you can consistently brew great shots of espresso. Well worth taking the trouble to learn though.

    Both the Silvia and Rocky are built like the proverbial brick out-house and to a high standard of quality and craftsmanship.... because of this and the market penetration that both machines enjoy, should you ever want to upgrade to a higher class of machine, say a single group commercial class machine, then you will always find a ready market to sell back into and retain a pretty healthy resale value as a result.

    In essence, the Silvia is a class of machine above that of the likes of the Gaggia Classic, Nemox Fenice, Imat Mokita, etc and will give you many years of trouble free service with a minimum of maintenance and the ongoing potential to produce absolutely terrific coffee providing youre up to the task. If it was me, I would definitely go for the Silvia/Rocky combo before buying into the Classic class of machine.... the extra expense is definitely worth it.

    One thing though, what ever machine you end up buying, it is absolutely essential that you also budget for a quality grinder such as the Rocky, Cunhill, Ibertal or even a Mazzer Mini, etc. If you start off with a top quality grinder, it will give you the capability to extract the best espresso from which ever machine you partner it with. All in all, a quality grinder is more important than the espresso machine as without one, it will be very difficult to coax the best out of what a Silvia is capable, for example.

    Hope this helps you with the decision making, and not make it more difficult.... it can be quite confusing when you first start off, I know what it was like when I first started out on this road ;). Anyway, all the best,

    Mal.

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Thanks for the responses... the grinder is certainly something Ive left a decent budget for. Ive been reading here and coffeegeeks for a while and it seems that the grinder is more important than the machine (within limits of course).

    Re: learning curve - Im being given a barista course as a chrissy present. Are any of the courses more worthwhile than another? Or am I simply better off putting the time in at home on my machine?

    Thanks again

    Grant

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    IMHO, the Classic is a great machine. It has plusses and minuses of course. Most people dont like the aluminium boiler. It also has a few design issues that Im not fond of. Aside from that, it can make an awesome espresso.

    As far as a Silvia is concerned, it also has issues. Overall it is a better machine, but only in ways you may never appreciate. For instance, you can set the brew pressure easily on a Classic, and adjust it to your taste (if youre careful and know what youre doing). However, the Silvia has no pressure adjustment, and come set with a pressure that is too high for the best ristrettos and single shots. It also has a really sad drip tray for the amount of money you pay. So it aint perfect.

    I ran a Classic and Silvia head to head and was getting better tasting shots from my Classic, mainly attributable to a more optimal brewing pressure.

    For milk based drinks Id tip my hat to the Silvia, as it has way more steaming capacity. Although you can easily make do with the Classic for milk drinks as well.

    In the end, both machines will serve you well. The Classic will probably be easier to learn and is maybe a little more user friendly.

    The Silvia has a better build quality, thats for sure, but discerning the difference in the cup will be extremely difficult.

    Just some more food for thought.

    Regards,

    Mark.

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Grant,

    I received a similar gift for Xmas last year except it was more of a home coffee machine appreciation course where I could take my machine in (Silvia) and have the course barista show me how to get more out of it. I found this type of course great and would recommend it to anyone who is a beginner like me. We learnt a bit about coffee growing, the differences between fresh and stale beans, arabica and robusta types etc. Got the chance to play with the big commercial machines and few standard domestic ones including my Silvia. The big plus was that I learnt how to froth milk on the Silvia properly which had been evading me for ages. I eventually staggered out of there on a big caffeine high after drinking far too many coffee shots *:o *

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Yeah, I think that Mark is right on the ball.

    Ive used a few commercial machines and Ive got to say that any of them are MUCH easier to get a good result out of than one of the home single-boilers. IMHO, something like an Expobar at $1.5k is probably a much better deal than a Silvia at $700. But not everyone would agree ...

    Note that most of the gaggias are internally identical. You can save yourself a few hundred bucks by going with something like the Carezza (put the money towards a grinder). This machine lacks a 3-way solenoid valve for relieving pressure, but its no biggie if youre only making one or two cups at a time. If you want to make any more than this, you either compromise quality or take a ridiculous amount of time to do it. If youll need to make several cups at once on a regular basis, machines of this class are, IMHO, inappropriate.

    Temperature management is also a big issue. My current toy (La Peppina) allows me to control the brew temp much more effectively than the Silvia does. Today an in-boiler reading of 93C produced a sour brew with the PNG stuff that Im trying out. 97C was burnt. Getting repeatable results of 94-95C on a single-boiler machine is challenging, to say the least. The thermostats usually have a wide deadband to stop the boiler from cycling too much. In plain english, this means that the thermostat might turn the element on at 91C and off at 100C, which might overshoot to 112C. (These are measured at the surface of the boiler, not in the boiler itself, so arent comparable with my peppy measurements ... in any case, these measurements are from memory and are from a plain-jane digital thermometer) Thats a 20C range across which to screw up, unless you learn to temperature surf the machine ...

    Mark pretty much summed up brew pressure management. Id just note that the limiter sets the MAXIMUM pressure. So if the max is 15 bar, you can still brew a shot at 2 bar by grinding really coarse and not putting much coffee in the basket. This means that, in practical terms, you have to hit a relatively narrow combination of grind/dose/tamp to achieve an acceptable brew pressure. Also, none of these machines feature the sort of preinfusion that you get on commercial machines, which also make things, IME, easier.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Thanks for the advice guys. I decided that Id be go the Silvia since so many people have them and can offer tips and tricks. A Rocky will be the next thing to get... on its way as a Christmas present.

    Grant

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    Re: The question all newbs ask...

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Sounds good Grant,

    Im sure youll be very happy with what the Silvia can do for you, especially when coupled with the venerable Rocky. Come on Xmas ;D

    Mal.



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