Coffee & Tea 101 | How to Steam & Brew on the Rancilio Silvia

This step by step guide covers the recommended method of steaming milk and brewing espresso on the Rancilio Silvia.

We recommend that you start by steaming the milk, cool your machine and then pull your espresso shot. The Rancilio Silvia is a single boiler espresso machine and must be heated to a higher temperature for steaming than brewing. If you follow the process we have outlined below, you will minimize the wait time between steam and brew, ensure that your boiler is always refilled and produce the best quality shot of espresso and latte.

Silvia - Step 1 - Turn on the Silvia

STEP 1: Turn on the Silvia

 

First, we need to heat the Rancilio Silvia to steaming temperature.

Start by turning on the power switch. The longer vertical light next to the switch indicates the boiler is heating.

Silvia - Step 2 - Turn on Steam Switch

STEP 2: Turn on Steam Switch

 

Turn on the Steam switch. The top of the switch will be pushed in and the light will be on. The brewing and water switches above should be in their off positions.

The Silvia will take approximately 2 to 5 minutes to heat depending on whether the machine was already on our heated from cold. Either way will work fine. Once the machine is heated to steaming temperature the vertical light will go out. The Silvia is heated up and ready for steaming.

Silvia - Step 3 - Pour Milk in Pitcher

STEP 3: Pour Milk in Pitcher

 

Fill a frothing pitcher about 1/3 full with icy cold milk to prepare for steaming. For best steaming results, use lower fat milk and the milk should be very cold -- about 34F degrees. A good frothing thermometer can help you gauge the proper starting temperature.

Tip: You can keep the steaming pitcher in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it very cold. Really good microfoam depends on starting with icy cold milk.

Silvia - Step 4 - Remove Excess Water

STEP 4: Remove Excess Water

 

We need to start by letting excess water out of the steam wand.

Place a cup under the steam wand and open the knob counter-clockwise to allow water and steam to start flowing. Once a nice dry blast of steam is coming out, close the knob by turning it clockwise.

Silvia - Step 5 - Start Steaming Milk

STEP 5: Start Steaming Milk

 

Place the frothing pitcher under the steam wand and bury the tip under the surface of the milk. Open the steam knob to begin steaming.

You can open the knob more or less to vary the intensity of the steam to make more or less foam.

Silvia - Step 6 - Work Surface to Foam

STEP 6: Work Surface to Foam

 

For a latte we want to create a small amount of fine foam with a predominance of heated milk. To do this, work the tip of the steaming wand near the surface to incorporate some air. Be careful to not create large bubbles.

Tip: For a latte you'll create a small amount of foam, for a cappuccino you would really work the surface to create a larger amount of foam.

Silvia - Step 7 - Roll the Milk

STEP 7: Roll The Milk

 

Once you've worked the surface to create some initial foam, you will need to bury the steam wand deeper in the milk while tipping the pitcher slightly to get the milk rolling. This will help refine the foam and create microfoam.

Steam the milk to a temperature between 140F and 180F degrees. If you do not get the milk hot enough, it will taste chalky; too hot and it will taste burnt. You can use a frothing thermometer to help with this.

Tip: You should work the surface of the milk quickly (5 to 10 seconds) as you'll need to bury the steam wand for most of the steaming process.

Silvia - Step 8 - Wipe off the Steam Wand

STEP 8: Wipe off the Wand

 

Once you are done, remove the pitcher of steamed milk and wipe the steam wand with a damp rag to remove milk residue before it hardens.

Set the steamed pitcher of milk aside while we pull a shot of espresso.

Silvia - Step 9 - Clean the Steam Wand

STEP 9: Clean Steam Wand

 

Move the steam wand over the drip tray and briefly open the steam knob to spray out any milk residue that may be inside the tip of the wand.

 

Silvia - Step 10 - Cool to Brew Temp

STEP 10: Cool to Brew Temp

 

To prepare to pull a shot of espresso, first we need to cool the Silvia back down to brewing temperature.

Start by turning the steam switch to the off position.

 

Silvia - Step 11 - Turn on Water Switch

STEP 11: Turn on Water Switch

 

Next, we need to run some of the hot (steam temperature) water out of the boiler. This will help cool the machine to brewing temperature.

Start by turning on the hot water switch as shown in the picture above.

Silvia - Step 12 - Cool Machine

STEP 12: Cool Machine

 

Place your latte cup under the steam wand and open the steam wand to run some hot water into the cup.

You will need to run approximately 1/2 cup of water through until the boiler light comes on. Once this happens, close the steam knob. Empty the cup to prepare for the latte pour.

Tip: Run this hot steam water into your latte cup to preheat your cup.

Silvia - Step 13 - Turn off Water Switch

STEP 13: Turn Off Water Switch

 

Flip the hot water switch to the off position. The boiler light will stay on for a few seconds and then go off again. This indicates the Silvia is now at the proper brewing temperature.

Silvia - Step 14 - Prepare Espresso Shot

STEP 14: Prepare Espresso Shot

 

Fill the portafilter with coffee.

The coffee grind should be very fine -- a little finer than granulated sugar -- but not so fine that it becomes powdery or clumpy. You may need to pull a few shots to get the grind just right for the perfect extraction.

Once you get this dialed in, you should only need to make small adjustments as you add or change coffee beans.

Silvia - Step 15 - Fill to Surface

STEP 15: Fill to Surface

 

Fill the portafilter approximately level with the top of the filter basket while the coffee is fluffy.

Silvia - Step 16 - Remove Air Pockets

STEP 16: Remove Air Pockets

 

Tap the edge of portafilter lightly with tamper to remove any air pockets, which will reduce channeling.

Silvia - Step 17 - Tamp

STEP 17: Tamp

 

Tamp the coffee as evenly as possible. You'll want to use about 30 pounds of force.

Tip: You can push down on a bathroom scale to get a feel for what 30 pounds of force feels like.

Silvia - Step 18 - Polish Puck

STEP 18: Polish Puck

 

One more light tamp with a twist to polish the surface and you are ready for brewing.

Silvia - Step 19 - Remove Coffee Debris

STEP 19: Remove Coffee Debris

 

Be sure to wipe any coffee residue from the surface of the portafilter/basket so it can make a good seal with the gasket once you place it in the machine.

Silvia - Step 20 - Begin Brewing

STEP 20: Begin Brewing

 

Insert the portafilter in the machine snugly.

Place a couple of shot glasses under each of the spouts and flip the brew button to the 'on' position.

Silvia - Step 21 - Pulling a Good Shot

STEP 21: Pulling a Good Shot

 

The Silvia will begin brewing.

Ideally a shot should take about 20 to 30 seconds to brew an ounce in each of the shot glasses. If the flow is faster than this you will need to make the grind a bit finer. If the flow is slower than this or doesn't come out at all, you will need to make the grind coarser.

It may take a few tries and adjustments the first time to get an excellent extraction. When all the variables are right the Rancilio Silvia will pull an excellent shot of espresso.

Silvia - Step 22 - Espresso Shots

STEP 22: Espresso Shots

 

Your shots of espresso should be a dark and even brownish color on top.

 

Silvia - Step 23 - Prepare Latte

STEP 23: Prepare Latte

 

Pour both shot glasses into your preheated latte cup.

Tip: You can add flavored syrup just prior to adding the espresso shots to the cup if you would like a flavored latte.

Silvia - Step 24 - Swirl and Refine Milk

STEP 24: Swirl and Refine Milk

 

Tap the pitcher of previously frothed milk on the counter while swirling the milk gently.

The milk should have a glossy shiny appearance on top, similar to wet paint.

Silvia - Step 25 - Begin Pour

STEP 25: Begin Pour

 

Start pouring the milk over the espresso shots. At first you will pour through the espresso shot to fill the cup most of the way.

Silvia - Step 26 - Make Some Art

STEP 26: Make Some Art

 

As you near the surface slow the pour to allow more of the microfoam to pour into the cup. With some practice you can make some pretty incredible latte art.

Silvia - Step 27 - Ready to Drink

STEP 27: Ready to Drink

 

...or just make a tasty beverage as we did here :)

Congratulations -- your latte is ready for drinking!

Silvia - Step 28 - Empty Portafilter

STEP 28: Empty Portafilter

 

For clean-up, remove the portafilter from the Silvia.

Silvia - Step 29 - Knockout Puck

STEP 29: Knockout Puck

 

Tamp the used puck of coffee into a knockbox, sink or garbage can.

Silvia - Step 30 - Clean Portafilter

STEP 30: Clean Portafilter

 

The Silvia has a 3-way bypass valve which creates a dry puck of coffee to knock out. This leaves the portafilter pretty clean and ready for the next shot.

Silvia - Step 31 - Brush

STEP 31: Brush

 

When you are finished pulling shots you can wipe the portafilter out with a kitchen brush.

Silvia - Step 32 - Replace Portafilter

STEP 32: Replace Portafilter

 

Place the portafilter back in the Silvia to stay warm and ready for the next beverage.