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Which to buy: Rancilio Silvia Vs Breville BES920

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  • Which to buy: Rancilio Silvia Vs Breville BES920


    looking at getting one of these two machines for home use, this will be my first expresso machine at home, but not the first time I have operated one.
    initially I had my eyes on the bes920
    But a friend who owns a coffee shop recommend the rancilio silvia as a option due to being easier to find parts and dealing with service
    from what I hear Breville machines always need to
    be sent for repairs/ maintenance, and from what I see people have the Silvia running strong for over 7years whereas the breville machines I read are good for a few years.

    What I'm looking for:
    a machine that is realiable,will be generally low maintenance and won't let me

    Price difference:
    Silvia is $760
    BES920 is $1200

    The price difference doesn't phase me, I just want the better option
    whichever one is going to have less repairs down the track
    and which one won't let me down

    Grinder: already have a grinder

    I would choose the BES920 as a better looking machine on my benchtop

    Style of coffee:
    i personaly make myself a 2 shot expresso with a drop of milk during the week,
    on weekends is when I tend to have lattes
    so will only be using steamer couple times a week

    i know the Silvia is the type where people modify it up, personally it's not something I see myself doing
    unless it's really going to make it easier for me to pull my shots out than I might.

    And be in terms of keeping machine on or off
    whats the best thing to do

  • #2
    Hi GDZ34,

    Based specifically on what said you're looking for I think the Silvia is a clear superior choice over the Breville - like I say this is for you and your needs (and I think you've clarified those well) so others may see differently for them/their needs.

    I'm a 2 time Silvia owner myself, so a tad biased perhaps BUT they're a very solid machine, extensively documented support for all manner of things, work very well for their price niche & parts etc are both cheap & at a tech level that most users could install themselves.

    Personally I'd advocate you looking for a 2nd hand v3/v4 unit where the owner is looking to upgrade - as you tend to get a lot of 'value added' stuff tossed in. Alternatively if you are looking to buy new you may wish to consider some of the Lelit offerings that have similar attributes to the Silvia but have a few extra bells and whistles for not much more $$$.

    No PID on the Silvia is likely to be the biggest PITA for you but I highly recommend 'gronking' it - for under $20 and literally a sub 5min job of inserting a thermocouple probe under a screw at the top of the boiler you'll have a much more usable unit - completely reversable - literally just loosen a screw and pop probe under and then tighten, run TC lead out of unit - super, super simple.

    In terms of keeping the machine on or off - well it really depends on how often/when you want to use it. The Silvias can be fast-tracked for use by forcing multiple heating cycles but for best results it's recommended ~20min minimum left on - many well say up to 45min. A machine on all the time brings issues of it's own and personally I'd not advocate you do that with the Silvia but DYOR if you're planning multiple coffees through day (personally I find forward planning much easier - if I want a coffee in 30mins I switch machine on now! Simple). Many others will use a timer so that it's well heated before their 6-7am morning depends on your specifics etc.

    Cheers, Nick :-)


    • #3

      You've given a good account of what you're after, but you've left the most important thing out - the grinder. I see that you have one, but what is it? If it's a cheap, appliance level conical burr grinder then it'll struggle to give you decent results with the Silvia. So I'm not going to give any sort of recommendation without knowing what your grinder is.

      One thing I will say though is that you shouldn't get too hung up on what you see and hear about the comparative reliability of these two machines. Yes, it does sound like quite a few Breville DBs have had to be replaced, but numbers are meaningless unless you know what the actual failure rate is. I think they've sold quite a few BES920s so the actual percentages possibly aren't any worse than the Silvia. And the Silvia isn't immune to problems - peeling chrome on the collar, rust under the drip tray, valve failures etc. I saw a post on here recently from someone who had to get their Silvia boiler replaced after a couple of years. Obviously it wasn't a problem with parts being readily available, but that's pretty average performance IMO.
      I think regardless of what machine you get its reliability and performance is mostly dependent on how well you look after it. So ensure that you keep it clean with regular cleaning cycles and only use filtered water. I'm sure that the common problems seen on Silvias would be eliminated if people looked after them better.


      • #4
        Thanks for replys and feedback ,
        The grinder I have atm Is the breville BCG820


        • #5
          , Your BCG820 will be fine with a Silvia. Not the greatest grinder in the world, but will do you in the short term no worries. I've got a sunbeam grinder that I bought 6 years ago when I didn't know any better - and it'll continue to tie me over fine until I upgrade in the new year. Doesn't get me the results I want, but having learned it's quirks I know how to get the best out of it. Having a crapper grinder has taught me a lot. But the key to this whole little story is 'upgrade in the new year'.

          My thoughts were, buy the machine I'll be happy with for 10 years and buy the grinder I'll be happy with for 10 years, in which ever order makes best sense, but commit to doing both. Given I didn't yet own a machine (just like you), I got the machine first, and spent what I had to in order to get what I wanted.

          But heed the suggestions here - commit to buying a better grinder. Know that you won't get fantastic results until that happens.

          If you get a Silvia and look after it with good water, good routines and good regular services you won't face too many troubles. Every machine develops cosmetic issues, but things like rusting out of areas/components is both a potential and avoidable on most machines. Every machine needs a service and new parts in their time.

          Edit: That being said, your extra $450 in the cost difference wouldn't go astray on a Macap M2M or a Compak K3 push (Or if you sell your BCG820 first, stretch to a Compak K3 touch for some features familiar to your BCG820)

          Re: looks - head into a store and have a look at the points where the Breville machine wears. From what I've seen, it wears on the plastic lever on the right and plastic dial on the left, on the top cup warmer section (I think it's plastic coated metal) and subject to in store abuse, bent drip trays (you wouldn't have this problem if well looked after). Being brushed stainless steel, it has it's own plusses as well.
          It's also quite a wide machine - the Silvia is actually quite compact.
          Granted the Silvia doesn't have round buttons, round dials etc. it can still looks quite nice, but I get that having a machine that matches your kitchen (and it's appliances) appeals. So the Lelit being a little more contemporary looking with it's red accents and little switches and round dials might appeal a little more.


          • #6
            The Smart Grinder is probably the best of the appliance grinders, but it will still struggle to give you consistently good results with a Silvia. Considering the BCG820 was actually designed to pair with the BES920 then it's probably a better way to go. If you want to consider an Italian option for ease of service and reliability then I'd be looking at the Lelit/Compak package that site sponsors like Jet Black do. It's a vey good combo and worth considering.


            • #7
              biased Silvia vote here. 4+ years of good service so far. PIDed it after 2 years. No rust issues. silver collar starting to look less than new, but no peeling yet. Great coffees every day. I'm sure it will serve me well till I inevitably move it on to finance a giotto rocket III.

              Also agree with the suggestions to consider a better grinder than the breville.


              • #8
                I don't see how a BCG820 would be best paired with a BES920. Simply that they're made by the same manufacturer and have similar looks - I doubt the BES920 makes up for or compliments the shortcomings of the BCG820. Is a Profitec T64 best paired with a Profitec Pro 700? A Mythos One with a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle? Their grinds would be as suitable for almost any machine.

                Really, a BES920 will do fine if you treat it ok, it'll last beyond your first inclination to upgrade (just make sure you move it on while it's running sweet!), it just depends how many machines you want to buy in the long term. In my opinion, skip level one and go to level two.

                I will agree with Leroy's Lelit/Compak suggestion though if your budget stretches to getting both at once. And also with purchasing from JetBlack - they've been excellent with pre and post sales service for me.
                If you can't go for a new Lelit, then Jetblack are selling a few options of second hand Silvias, and that would be my second preference in your situation. Second Hand Coffee Machines


                • #9
                  Originally posted by readeral View Post
                  Originally posted by readeral View Post
                  Edit: That being said, your extra $450 in the cost difference wouldn't go astray on a Macap M2M or a Compak K3 push (Or if you sell your BCG820 first, stretch to a Compak K3 touch for some features familiar to your BCG820)

                  I can still return the bcg820
                  i only bought it a few days ago,

                  what's the main difference a good grinder does compared to a average one?
                  just finer grind or?
                  what do you suggest getting instead ?
                  Should I just go for a Mazzer


                  • #10
                    Buying guide- coffee grinders | Talk Coffee may help...


                    • #11
                      I wouldn't just go for anything in particular based on reputation or name - but have a little look around and think a bit about the pluses and minus of your grinder options. Mazzer might not suit you at all, where a Macap or a Compak might. That being said, maybe Mazzer will suit you well.

                      A good grinder will:
                      - Last a long time, and maintain it's ability to operate like the day it was purchased
                      - Grind consistently at the same settings
                      - Allow you to make minor setting changes to get the best from your beans
                      - Grind to more even grind sizes reasonably quickly
                      - Handle higher throughput
                      - Allow you to grind and deliver the amount of coffee you want for your shot within good margins for error

                      The way it does this is with:
                      - Well designed, well built motor and body
                      - Well designed burr housing (for example, my cheap sunbeam grinder houses the burrs in a plastic housing, not screwed in place)
                      - Stepless or Micrometric changes
                      - Have excellent burr design and reasonably sized burrs (larger = generally (not always) means quicker grind or lower RPM of motor required)
                      - Have been tested extensively for semi and commercial environments
                      - Have a good doser or well controlled doserless system

                      With every increase in price, each of these factors get better. Work out what will do you best for the money you want to spend.

                      People worry about things like grind retention, or the grinder getting hot, or clumping. These things are not things you need to worry about as 1. All grinders will retain something, and home level grinders probably all retain similar amounts 2. all grinders will have temperature fluctuations, but you won't notice if making only a few coffees at a time, 3. This is generally more an impact by the relative humidity of your city than grinder. Leave all that stuff aside, except know that grinders designed for large cafe environments will retain more grinds due to their continued throughput, and might have things like fans to stabilise the grinders temperature for continual use. These are $1500+ grinders so don't worry about this stuff - you won't need to go near these.

                      I'm personally interested in a Macap M4D - Talk_Coffee states on this forum that these are his best value for money and best throughput for a home environment option. It's $1000. My neighbour has a Compak K3 push, he's very happy with it. It's half that cost.

                      If you have the chance to return the BCG820 and put that $200+ to a better grinder, I'd do it. Then you would obviously need to buy a machine and grinder together - so reevaluate your distribution of funds appropriately (eg. $400-500 to your grinder (Compak/Macap) $1000-1200 (Silvia/Lelit) to your machine or similar. Go through a Site Sponsor and they might have a package for you, and will have great after sales service)


                      • #12
                        OR just read Talk Coffees link... Better - walk into his shop.


                        • #13
                          Hi GDZ34, my 2 cents. I bought a Silvia and a Compak K3 from Jet Black around 6 months ago, and couldnt be happier. After a short period of getting my grind and technique right, I can pull consistently good shots day after day. My morning coffees for the household are a soy cap, a latte and a double shot for myself. Around 30 mins from go to cleaned up ready or the next morning. I highly recommend the Silvia , solid build and small footprint. the grinder i think is the key, some beans i buy need a slightly finer grind which i dont think may be possible without a quality grinder. i also bought the small hopper which makes the whole thing a bit more compact. Also bought some decent cups and a solid tamper. Jet Black were very good to deal with, well worth a call. I havent modded my Silvia, i temp surf , get my timing right and make coffees at least as good as any coffee shop close by. If you decide on the Silvia I also have a temp surf guide I typed up for my wife if you need a few pointers.


                          • #14
                            Since you have already done the work, can I have the wife friendly guide too please?


                            • #15
                              Sure, this is a basic guide I typed up for my wife to use when i`m not around. She has watched me use the Silvia, but needed a bit of a reminder of sequence and timing. its quite brief, but you will get the idea of what i mean i`m sure. happy to clarify anything that isnt clear, cheers

                              Morning coffee

                              make sure machine is warmed up and has been on at least 30 mins

                              Select cups you need.

                              1. Hit the brew switch and run hot water into the cups to warm them up.

                              Run the water until the heating light comes on.

                              ( Leave the hot water in the cups until just before you make the coffee )

                              2. Grind the coffee into the portafilter and tamp ready for the shot. Grind enough coffee into the portafilter to fill it evenly. Tamp quite hard, give the filter a little tap with the handle end of the tamper, give it a turn of the tamper to have a nice smooth finish

                              Wait until the heating light goes out. Use the timer and time 30 secs after that.

                              Prepare the milk jug ready for frothing and empty the hot water from the cups while you're waiting !

                              3. Put a spare jug or cup under the grouphead and hit the brew switch for 3 or 4 secs.

                              (this is to bleed off a little heat and not burn the coffee)

                              4. Go time ! Put the handle in the grouphead and make the coffee !!

                              5. Use the timer to time your shot. 30 secs should give you a good shot.

                              Mmmmm nice work

                              Ok now for the milk.

                              1. Take the portafilter out and get rid of the old coffee.

                              run the brew switch for about 10 secs, this cleans the machine and also helps build up heat for the steam.

                              2. Hit the steam switch. wait at least 1 min for the pressure and steam to build up.

                              ( I do a little cleaning up in this time)

                              3. put an empty jug under the steam wand and bleed off the water until you get some nice dry steam coming through.

                              Empty the jug and wait another couple of secs for the steam to be good.

                              4. Froth the milk !!

                              5. Pour your froth... don't forget, foam always pours in a steady stream.

                              Drink your cafe quality coffee !! Think of how nice your husband is.

                              PS, if you are doing another coffee straight away, put an empty jug under the grouphead and hit the brew switch for a good 10 secs. This gets rid of the built up steam.
                              Now start at step one !