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Rancilio Silvia Redesigned Espresso Machine


Richard Kilgore
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I continue to do French Press, but am revisiting the idea of going to expresso.

Has anyone had experience with the redesigned Silvia? What did they change and how much difference does it make?

Also, how have the originals held up over the years? What kind of maintenance is required and can you do it all yourself?

Is buying a used Silvia worthwhile? Can you upgrade an old machine to the redesign standard?

Would appeciate your experiences.

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I've had my Rancilio Silvia for around 10 years now. It's good as new. Better, really, considering that I recently took it entirely apart in order to install a PID kit that controls both the brewing and steaming temperatures.

It's not clear to me that there is much of a difference between the older machines and the newew machines that is not cosmetic (e.g., the drip tray is a little different). When I opened mine up, the guts looked virtually identical (with a few insignificant details) to the pictures in my installation instructions which were taken of a new machine. To the best of my knowledge, the only significant difference between the new machines and the old ones is that the new ones have an adjustible overpressure safety valve. If you wanted to, you could install a new overpressure safety valve... but I don't know why you would.

As with buying anything used, caveat emptor. Everything depends on how the machine is treated. If you do get one, I highly recommend installing (or buying pre-installed) a PID kit. It makes a big difference. Also, get a bottomless portafilter and the La Marzocco triple basket.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Oh... you also asked about maintenance. You need to replace the gasket on the grouphead every year or two. Maybe descale every so often if you have hard water (we have very soft water in NYC -- I have descaled twice in approximately ten years). And you'll want to clean out the grouphead and the filter-screen with something like Urnex Cafiza from time to time.

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Thanks, Sam and Chris. From what you say, I see no great reason not to get a used one, as long as it has been taken care of and not abused. Not that a new one would be a bad deal, of course.

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Mark Prince was one of the strongest advocate of the Miss Silvia and wrote an article about temperature surfing on it called "cheating Miss Silvia."

He was recently asked by Rancilio North America to write a first look at the new machine. This should answer any questions you may have about the new machine.

The review is here: http://coffeegeek.com/proreviews/firstlook/ranciliosilvia

Check out his video on pulling a shot and temperature surfing in the article, it will help you get the most out of your machine.

By the way, mine is around four years old and I'd totally recommend getting one (new or used)

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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There are two places that sell PID kits for the Rancilio Silvia.

Auberins and PIDKits both selk them. The kits from PIDKits are more expensive, although I'm not sure why. I wanted a kit that controlled both the brew temperature and the steam temperature with the PID (most kits either control only the brew temperature and let the stock thermostat control the steam temperature, or control the steam temperature with a more tightly configured bang-bang thermostat), so I bought mine from PIDKits.

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There are two places that sell PID kits for the Rancilio Silvia.

Auberins and PIDKits both selk them.  The kits from PIDKits are more expensive, although I'm not sure why.  I wanted a kit that controlled both the brew temperature and the steam temperature with the PID (most kits either control only the brew temperature and let the stock thermostat control the steam temperature, or control the steam temperature with a more tightly configured bang-bang thermostat), so I bought mine from PIDKits.

Looking at the websites you noted, Auberins also has a controller for both:

Both

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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From the description I would say that it controls the steam temp with a tight bang-bang controller.

from the webpage: "The steam temperature is controlled by the same controller that controls the brew water temperature."

My reading is that it would be PID rather than a bang-bang.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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"Controlled by the same unit" isn't exactly the same thing as "controlled by the PID." Otherwise, why would they say that it's "controlled to 1 degree (F or C) difference" when a PID would be accurate to within one-tenth of a degree?

Things are explained a bit better on the PIDKits site, and their equivalent offering describes it as: "Control of brew temperatures is still very tightly controlled using the highly accurate PID algorithm built into the SD3C. But now, we can add a second output to this versatile controller. This provides tight deadband ON-OFF control for steam temperatures as well."

The Auberins SYL-1512A 1/32 DIN entry-level PID sold by Auber has two possible modes: PID and on-off. I assume that they configure it so that the steam temperature takes advantage of the on-off mode. The Watlow Series 96 1/16 DIN dual display PID that PIDKits sells has, among other capabilities, the ability to have two different pre-programmed setpoints for the PID. This is a capability that the Auberins PID does not have.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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  • 2 weeks later...
"Controlled by the same unit" isn't exactly the same thing as "controlled by the PID."  Otherwise, why would they say that it's "controlled to 1 degree (F or C) difference" when a PID would be accurate to within one-tenth of a degree?

Things are explained a bit better on the PIDKits site, and their equivalent offering describes it as: "Control of brew temperatures is still very tightly controlled using the highly accurate PID algorithm built into the SD3C. But now, we can add a second output to this versatile controller. This provides tight deadband ON-OFF control for steam temperatures as well." 

The Auberins SYL-1512A 1/32 DIN entry-level PID sold by Auber has two possible modes: PID and on-off.  I assume that they configure it so that the steam temperature takes advantage of the on-off mode.  The Watlow Series 96 1/16 DIN dual display PID that PIDKits sells has, among other capabilities, the ability to have two different pre-programmed setpoints for the PID.  This is a capability that the Auberins PID does not have.

I checked with Auberins and you were right; this is their reply:

"The steam control uses the same controller. However, instead of PID mode, on/off mode is used for the steam control. The reason is for fast response. The original steam control on the machine is a thermostat with 10C(or 18F) differential between on and off. That is due to the nature of the mechanical switch. With our controller, the differential is 1C or 1F. The result is a much stronger steam."

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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