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PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

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  • PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

    Hi all,

    I recently purchased a Rancilio Sylvia and I am not doing so well in the coffee making scene, especially when it comes to stretching milk and creating froth and Im a little frustrated and I was wondering if I may have some help please as the Rancilio manual is rather ordinary and not overly helpful.

    I have tried all types of milk (skinny, full cream and even crema) and I am unable to create any foam. I have purchased thermometers, specific frothing jugs (bulge at bottom) and still no foam. I end up having to use the AA electric whizzer to obtain any sort of foam. Which as I’m sure you can apprecite is nothing short of painful?

    I have used boiling water to clean the steam wand with a brand new cleaning cloth and still no froth. The steam wand is not blocked as I have extensively cleaned that and plenty of steam comes out. I even bleed off the excess moisture in the wand (from making the shot) prior to stretching the milk and still I cannot achieve any froth

    It appears sometimes that the Rancilio Sylvia steam wand pressure is far too much if I open it up all the way (as I have read achieves best froth on some websites). If I open it right up, the pressure is so high it causes small waves in my milk and obviously ruins any froth.

    I have attempted to tilt the jug on a slight angle with steam wand just under the milk open pressure (slightly) and allow a slight whirlpool motion and when the temp gets to 30deg I put the wand all the way to the bottom until the desired temp is reached (as this is what the man in the store I purchased it from said to do) however, this method doesnt seem to work either. I have tried the opposite as well, with the steam wand down the bottom and slowly work up until the steam wand is just below the surface of the milk until the desired temperature is reached on the thermometer but again that does not seem to help.

    Im really at a loss and I am hoping that you may be able to help or certainly point me in the right direction. I am particularly interested in how other Rancilio Sylvia owners stretch their milk and the procedure they use. I am completely confident that the problem is operator error and nothing else.

    Thank you for your time in this matter and I eagerly look forward to your replies.

    Kind Regards,


  • #2
    Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

    It sounds as though you are almost there.
    1) Get boiler up to temp.
    2) Cold milk, cold jug etc.
    3) Tip of wand to bottom of jug open up steam all the way.
    4) Tilt jug and move it away from the wand until just the tip is in the milk. (at this point the noise should drop, and you should only hear a slight murmur of steam entering the milk, and the occasional slurp, as air is sucked into the milk.
    5) The aim is to get a whirlpool effect going; this will suck any large bubbles into the milk. A standing wave is also OK.
    6) Etc. Etc.
    If steaming for 1 it is probably better to do more milk than you need as the deeper the milk in the jug the easier to get the whirlpool.
    Hope this helps


    • #3
      Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

      Mick, perhaps a course - e.g may assist you in your search for great milk texture-

      The syliva will produce excellent microfoam with good technique. Some steps to keep in mind...

      1. I suggest that you CAREFULLY put a bend in your steam wand to create some ships way too vertical and should really be ball-jointed...then purge the wand of any condensate before texturing.

      2. With the tip of the wand just under the surface but towards the side of your jug (held straight, not tilted) apply steam pressure to create a whirlpool (swirl) effect. This needs to continue throughout the milk texture event. The milk should not tumble. If your positioning of the jug is good, this will be accompanied by a gentle hissing, not a screaming sound. If the jug screams, your wand is too deep in the milk- lower your jug until you hear a hissing sound..

      3. Lower the jug smoothly but steadily to stretch the milk- i.e increase the volume of the milk. You will need to vary the stretch of the milk more for a cappuccino than for a caffe latte for example. This will take some experimentation. The sooner the stretch is complete, the better...

      4. Continue heating and swirling with the wand tip under the surface fo the milk until you can no longer hold the jug- this will be around 60-65 deg. C :where you should be.

      5. When you are finished texturing, keep the milk active and moving in the jug by circulating your wrist to keep the milk swirling and glossy.

      6. Pour a capp. first -and rapidly- but smoothly. This will encourage the foam to leave the jug to create the head of the drink. You can then pour a latte or flat white.

      Things to keep in mind are: NEVER REHEAT MILK,  no jiggling of the jug (I could be rude but shall refrain), make your coffee bases first and then pour your milk immediately once you complete the texturing event- or the milk will "set" in the jug and you will need to use a spoon....and will get a poor result.

      Hope this helps!  



      • #4
        Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

        Originally posted by mickwhit link=1146358431/0#0 date=1146358430
        It appears sometimes that the Rancilio Sylvia steam wand pressure is far too much if I open it up all the way (as I have read achieves best froth on some websites). If I open it right up, the pressure is so high it causes small waves in my milk and obviously ruins any froth.
        Theres your problem. You really need the maximum possible pressure that you can get out of the machine. Small waves will not ruin froth. If you are getting waves, you just need to tilt the jug slightly and/or bend the steam wand, as Chris suggested, to get a whirlpool going. Its usually best to start steaming slightly before the boiler light goes out so that the element is on and constantly replenishing your steam.

        From what you have described, it sounds like you are not introducing air at all. Like Chris said, its all about tip positioning. I start with the tip about a cm below the surface, then lower the jug until the tip just skims the surface. Starting with the tip on the surface doesnt work because the steam pressure will blow the milk away from it. You are listening for a hissing/paper tearing sound, like Chris said, which will indicate that air is being introduced.

        There is a relatively excellent guide here:

        Hopefully some of the photos with the SL-70 machine will give you an idea of what needs to be happening. There are some videos somewhere on the internet, but seeing it in person - and actually being shown how to do it - is by far the easiest way to learn.

        Oh, and one little tip. Doubtless, when you first start up youll have some large bubbles. Large bubbles throughout the milk are pretty much impossible to get rid of, but if you just have a few on top, you can skim off a few tablespoons of milk with a tablespoon to give you much better texture. That, or just tip a bit right off into the sink. (Tablespoons work better)

        Hope that helps,



        • #5
          Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

          Mick, you appear to be doing everything right!

          My advice is to tip the jug (towards the machines group), and introduce the wand tip to the top of the milk.

          Open the wand slowly. Dont blast the milk. Most important.

          Gently release more steam, absorbing it into the milk and creating the swirl. By now you should have opened the steam knob for full power.

          Stretch --once again, avoid blasting, and listen for a rhythmic "warm" ch ch ch ch ch sound.

          Then lower the wand --doesnt have to be to the bottom.

          About 10 seconds after the heat light comes on, milk should be hot enough. Remove the jug.

          Now, hold the jug level and swirl the milk manually by doing swift circles in a horizontal plane with your hand.

          This is an important step which dissipates small bubbles.

          Large bubbles --you shouldnt have any!--can he knocked down by tapping the jug fairly firmly on your wifes pristine benchtop.

          The milk will have a very glossy appearance. Nice microfroth.

          Good luck



          • #6
            Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

            Hi all,

            Firstly I would like to apologise for my tardy reply.

            Secondly, I just wish to say a very big thank-you to all who have responded offering help and suggestions to my frothing dilemma.

            I must say that I am getting better froth now since posting my problem and receiving your suggestions. I am not sure if it is a combination of using a little less milk (about 1/4-1/3 jug) or changing my technique slightly to have the tip of the steam wand right on the surface of the milk and introducing the occasional ch, ch ,ch (read introducing air) as opposed to my old technique where I held the steam wand just under the surface of the milk and not introducing any steam (air) at all – expecting it to just happen [ch61514]

            Now to keep practicing and perfecting the microfoam, and maybe one day get into a little late art :-)

            Thanks again to all who took their time out to offer recommendations. Your help has been greatly appreciated.

            Kind regards.



            • #7
              Re: PLEASE HELP - Rancilio Sylvia frothing problem

              Hey Mick,

              A quick little idea from me --

              I find the whirlpool is key to getting the microfoam happening just right.

              Try putting water in your jug instead of milk and just see if you can get the whirlpool happening by experimenting with angle, depth, position, etc.

              keep at it



              • #8
                Hi, I have just bought a Rancilio Sylvia espresso machine after my low cost Sunbeam eventually gave up the ghost. I have just joined this forum so a bit new to procedures. I know this thread is quite old however the topic is very relevant so decided to continue this thread rather than start a new one. The only way that I could convince my wife to spend this kind of money was the promise of exceptional espressos that will blow her mind. Having now had it for a few days I can say that never before has such a fine machine made such bad coffee. I won't get into the coffee making aspect as I have still to receive my Compak K3 Push grinder (on back order) however I wish to make comment on my milk frothing experience with this machine.
                I have been making espresso milk drinks (capos and flat whites) for some years with my Sunbeam and managed to get reasonable (not exceptional) microfoam most of the time. When using the Sylvia to froth milk I was not able to get anything other than suds type foam sitting on top of very flat milk. It would seem from trolling the web that I am not the first person to have this problem with a Sylvia.
                The problem was not finding the sweet spot in time to stretch the milk before it got too hot as I am only trying to froth about 250 mls of milk. Not only was the sweet spot difficult to find but I had to fiddle with the steam valve setting because if I opened it fully there was so much steam coming out that the jug contents were spraying out even with the tip a couple of cm under the surface. After several total milk frothing failures I was very dispondant (so was my wife as the promised nirvana was no where in sight).
                I decided to have a look at the steam wand tip of the Sylvia and compared it to the one on the one on the Sunbeam (Cafe Crema) and found the Sylvia hole had much larger hole diameter (both are single hole wand tips, the Sylvia is chamfered and the Sunbeam is hemispherical). Was this the reason for the difference? Fortunately I have a lathe and I was able to modify the Sunbeam tip to fit the Sylvia wand. The Sunbeam tip turned out to be chromed brass and was easy to machine. I had to remove the external thread and cut an internal thread (10mm 1mm pitch metric) and cut a small O ring relief at the end.
                Now to try it out on our next coffee. Well immediately I was able to get acceptable microfoam on the next frothing. I was also able to open the steam valve fully without blowing the milk away and the milk stretched beautifully while it was still at low temperature. The steam was also sufficient to get the required wave action to mix the foam into the milk in the latter stage.
                My conclusion is that although it obviously possible to foam small amounts of milk properly with this machine given the right skill level however the smaller hole tip makes the foaming possible by the less competent. As the Sylvia uses components directly from the Rancilio pro machines I suspect the larger hole is better suited to steaming larger quantities of milk.
                The Sylvia machine is beautifully build and despite my teething problems I have absolutely no regrets purchasing it. When I get my grinder I have booked in for an hour lesson with a Barista at the supplier's premises on my machine and grinder which I hope will take me to the next level.

                Hope this post is useful.