Rancilio

  • Top 3 Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines of 2020

    It’s time for one of our biggest best-of categories of the whole year - semi-automatic espresso machines! We love our brew, our grinders, our superautos, and everything else that we give top 3s for each year. With that said, semi-automatic espresso machines are one of the most complex products we offer (alongside superautos), so we take them quite seriously. This year we’re breaking this category into two. First, we’ll talk about semi-automatic espresso machines that can fit into a fairly wide range of budgets, and closely consider value in our picks. Later we’ll have a list of skies-the-limit high end machines that might be a little high dollar for the typical shopper. Let’s get started!

    Rocket Espresso Appartamento Nera

    The Rocket Espresso Appartamento is a longstanding entry on this list, and one of our most popular machines. If you know us, you know we love Rocket Espresso to the moon and back, and there’s a reason for that. This is a brand that focuses extensively on performance, reliability, and providing an authentic Italian espresso experience. All of these tenets are clearly present in the Appartamento. This year this machine saw some new styling in the form of the Nera, so naturally we’ve decided to put that version on this list!

    The Appartamento Nera starts with the incredible Appartamento as its base. If you’re not familiar with the Appartamento, here’s a primer!

    The Appartamento features a 1.8-liter heat exchanger boiler that gives you the power to brew and steam milk at the same time. On top of this, the heated E61 grouphead helps heat up the portafilter, which keeps water temperature consistent as it passes through the portafilter. These two elements alone make the Appartamento a really compelling machine at its price point. While there are other brewers in this range that offer similar prosumer features, the Appartamento also does it with a high degree of build quality and striking design. It also squeezes all of this into a small footprint that can fit most kitchens comfortably.

    The Appartamento, like every Rocket Espresso machine, also offers ultra tactile controls that are a joy to use. From the action on the brew lever to the twist of the steam knob, you’ll really feel each part of the drink crafting process here. It gives you that barista feel without the cost of a commercial machine.

    The Nera is a visual update to the Appartamento that trades the shine of the fully stainless case for a slick new side panel style. Don’t worry, the stainless case is still there under the powdercoat, but the black sides at a new level of elegance to the already striking cutouts that make the Appartamento so visually striking. With multiple insert covers, you can get just the right look for your Appartamento as well. This machine really is one of the best of the best, and now it’s got a new look too!

    Rancilio Silvia Pro

    The Rancilio Silvia is a legendary machine in its own right. Many new espresso users start with a Silvia to learn. While it can be a challenging machine to dial in, it’s still a great way to get started with more serious brewing and steaming. This year, Rancilio has finally introduced a new offering, the Silvia Pro.

    The Silvia Pro really is a whole new beast. First of all, this machine is equipped with not one, but TWO boilers. A 1-liter steam boiler powers the steaming, and a 300ml brew boiler is dedicated for your shots. This means that you can brew and steam at the same time, giving you that true barista feel. Both of these boilers are controlled by dedicated PID controllers. This gives you rock solid temperatures as well as control over each boiler’s temperatures. You can also turn off the steam boiler, which gives you improved recovery times for brewing multiple shots when milk frothing is optional. 

    Additional features like auto-on programming, energy saving, a shot timer, and a hot water spout round out the package. All of this combined really makes the Silvia Pro a huge upgrade over the base model. We think it’s a great time for it too. If you’ve had your Silvia for several years, you might be ready for an upgrade yourself, and the Silvia Pro really delivers. 

    We think this machine offers really fantastic shots, a range of great features, and truly efficient operation. It’s an easy pick for our Top 3 Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines.

    Solis Barista Perfetta

    New to Seattle Coffee Gear this holiday season is the Solis Barista Perfetta! We normally like to give machines some breathing room before we put them on this list, but this is one special semi-auto. Coming in at an entry level price point for unpressurized espresso brewing, this machine really punches above its weight. We’re thrilled to be able to offer it to all of our budding baristas out there.

    The Perfetta’s thermoblock boiler offers quick heatup times with consistent temps that stand shoulder to shoulder with other brewers in its pricing level. It’s also got the pump to deliver with pressurized and unpressurized portafilters. The Perfetta’s portafilter also works with E.S.E. pods without needing an adapter, a real plus for newbies. Other features like hot water, strong steaming performance, and an easy to read pressure gauge place the Perfetta on equal footing with similarly priced machines. What really impressed us here is the extra details.

    For starters, the Perfetta is solidly built with a quality case that combines some metal and plastic elements in a way that feels more premium than some entry level machines. It also features auto-purge solenoid valves, which really make brewing unpressurized more enjoyable. Where other machines might produce some soupyness or spray when trying to brew with an unpressurized basket, the Perfetta performs on par with far more expensive machines from a pressure perspective. This is a really great feature that will help newer users get more life out of this machine, and transition to a more prosumer option smoothly. 

    The Perfetta’s manual single hole steam wand also mimics more expensive machines, and while it does take some practice, you’ll get some great milk from this machine. You can also program in shot times, which really helps you to understand the process of brewing espresso on a deeper level, and aids with dialing in. Adjustable temperatures give you a little more control over your brew than what we’d expect as well. Finally, the Perfetta squeezes all of this into a compact footprint that should fit on any countertop. 

    These are a lot of terms to throw out, but they all mean one thing when you put them together. The Solis Barista Perfetta is one of the best starting points for any new user. It lets you start with pressurized brewing, either with grinds from your brew grinder or E.S.E. Pods. From there you can learn how to dial in an espresso with a dedicated grinder, and steam up some really great milk drinks. It’s something we’re so happy to bring to our customers, and it’s our new favorite starting point for new users.

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines - Part 1

    The semi-automatic espresso machine is the cornerstone of the serious home barista setup. A semi-automatic machine is the sort that requires the user to manually grind, tamp, and brew espresso. It takes finesse and practice that a superauto cuts out, but the reward is worth it. While superauto machines make some great drinks, there's nothing like pulling just the flavor you're after from a tricky single origin.

    But it can be daunting to get started with semi-autos. There's a lot to choose from! For this reason, we're taking a look at some great initial buys in part 1 of our guide. Next time we'll cover some upgrade options. For now, we're going to talk about a couple of first time grinder and machine options to get you brewing!

    Choosing a Grinder

    Choosing a grinder is one of the most important parts of your first espresso setup. Grinders can elevate a less powerful machine by producing perfect, consistent grounds. This is why we recommend budgeting around your grinder first, if you're not looking at an all in one machine like the Breville Barista Express. So what are the best options? One of the most solid options for your first espresso grinder is a Breville Smart Grinder Pro. This grinder is easy to use, offers features that punch above its price point, and most importantly, will grind fine enough for unpressurized espresso brewing. That last point is key, because many other grinders that do this are well above this price point. Another option is the Rancilio Rocky, which is also a consistent, excellent grinder that may last you longer than the Smart Grinder Pro. It does come at a higher price point and with less fancy features, though. Either way, both of these grinders will provide a solid foundation for years, and allow you to upgrade big on your machine choice!

    Choosing a Machine

    Here it is, your big choice, what machine will you start with? Thankfully, recent years have provided some excellent starter options. First of all, there are the Breville machines. The Barista Express combines grinder and brewer into one affordable package. This is a great way to get started, but is inflexible, you can't upgrade the grinder separate from the machine, or vice versa. The other Breville options is the SCG Exclusive Breville Bambino Plus. This is the same machine as the Bambino Pro you can find at other retailers, but includes an unpressurized portafilter. We've talking about filter pressurization in the past, but having the option to go unpressurized is really great! Paired with the above grinders, you'll be able to pull delicious, cafe quality shots from the Bambino Plus.

    Odds and Ends

    There's some other odds and ends that you might want to consider with your first setup. First of all, a knockbox like this one from Dreamfarm is a great addition to your set up. It'll allow you to eject pucks from your portafilter without carrying it to the trash can. A tamping mat like this Rocket Espresso offering will also help you keep your station clean. Finally, it might have to be an upgrade option, but a scale like the Brewista Smart Scale II is a great way to weigh your shots to dial in the perfect flavor with your machine.

    We hope this helps you make some choices for your first machine! We'll be back soon with some fantastic upgrade options for those jumping up to a more expensive machine.

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Crew Review: Rancilio Rocky Grinder

    It’s not hard to see why the Rancilio Rocky is one of our most popular grinders. Built with all the fixings you find in Rancilio’s commercials grinders, the Rocky is a sturdy workhorse for home baristas. It’s equipped with tempered steel burrs, stepped grinder adjustments, and comes in a doser or doserless model to fit into any home barista’s lifestyle.
  • Crew Comparison: Rancilio Silvia M vs Crossland CC1

    How Does It Compare?

    The single boiler espresso machine continues to be one of our top sellers with crowd favorites like the Rancilio Silvia M and Crossland Coffee CC1 at the front. Both semi-automatics recently underwent minor updates so we decided it was high time for an updated comparison. The Silvia owes its prominence to a commercial-quality build and consistent production since the 1990s. It still features a basic interface and no programmability—but we have some good news for you, coffee friends! We offer a PID installation with a warranty so you can upgrade your Silvia M with more control.

    Silvia’s main competition, the Crossland CC1, has a built-in PID operated by a user-friendly digital display—seriously, the navigation is seamless. Customize your coffee using the PID to set the temperature and save up to three espresso profiles. It’s perfect for a family or small office with different preferences! The CC1 offers more customization but the Silvia M features a tried-and-true build with and without the PID. Read on to find out which single boiler machine is right for you.

    The Crossland Coffee CC1 features a programmable PID and three espresso profiles. The Crossland Coffee CC1 features a programmable PID and three espresso profiles.

    Shot

    Equipped with an intuitive interface, customizing our coffee on the Crossland Coffee CC1 is effortless. Once we’re in the main menu, we can customize the pre-infusion, wait and brew time for each of the three profiles—that’s a lot of options for a single boiler machine! Also, we can adjust the PID to get the boiler within a degree of our ideal brew temperature. And, we know when the boiler’s ready thanks to the temperature displayed on the screen.

    The CC1 comes with a 58mm non-pressurized portafilter. The CC1 comes with a 58mm non-pressurized portafilter.

    The Rancilio Silvia M features simple switches that customers love—we’re on board with the experience too! If you purchase the Silvia M with PID installed by SCG, though, there is a slight learning curve to the operation. To pull a shot you engage the coffee switch and then press the pause/start button—that’s it! The PID has programmable pre-infusion, wait time, brew time and, if purchased through SCG, each PID comes pre-programmed and optimized for your espresso—you’ll reap the benefits without having to program it!

    Pro tip: If you purchase the Silvia M with PID, please reference our resources to help you get started!

    Steam

    Since both machines are single boilers we have to brew and steam one at a time—a task we’re willing to do on these machines! Why? To start, when it comes to steam, the Rancilio Silvia M packs more punch than the competition. It brings the whole boiler to steam temperature and is easy to bring back to the brew temperature by flushing hot water through the steam wand. However, there is a downside; the Silvia M takes longer to rise to steam temperature from initial start up or after brewing. So there will be a wait time between making multiple lattes—honestly, single boiler espresso machines in general take longer to make multiple drinks than heat exchangers or double boilers.

    On the other hand, the Crossland Coffee CC1 has a trick up its sleeve—this single boiler espresso machine uses a dedicated thermoblock for steaming. When the thermoblock kicks, it reduces heating time! Not to mention, we prefer the CC1’s steam wand over the Silvia M. The Silvia M’s limited rotation, short cup clearance and L-shaped design made it difficult to angle a pitcher and ultimately affected our experience frothing milk. While the CC1’s features the same L-shape, it had a higher cup clearance and longer wand for better access.

    Thanks to the thermoblock, the CC1 gets up to steam temperature quicker. Thanks to the thermoblock, the CC1 gets up to steam temperature quicker.

    Style

    Both machines feature the sharp, boxy body outfitted with industrial stainless steel. And you know what? We love the look! The Crossland Coffee CC1 has a digital display that adds modern flair and, most importantly, the ability to customize. Built with a large, stainless steel drip tray and cup warmer, the CC1’s sharp design is functional. Our only beef with the CC1’s design in the front-accessible water tank. You cannot remove it when the portafilter is in place and it takes patience to maneuver it in—but come on, it’s a water tank!

    Coffee connoisseurs appreciate the classic boxy body and L-shaped steam wand. Coffee connoisseurs appreciate the classic boxy body and L-shaped steam wand.

    The Rancilio Silvia M’s updated design features a new green light that indicates that the machine is on. The orange light is still present but smaller and flashes while it’s heating up. While those updates were great, we would have loved to see a redesign with the steam wand. For those of you new to the Silvia M, the body design has the same industrial look from its original conception. Overall, the Silvia M has a style that appeals to a wide crowd and features an intuitive interface that makes making coffee enjoyable.

    Conclusion

    The Rancilio Silvia M and Crossland Coffee CC1 are two single boiler espresso machines that have something for everyone. When you’re considering between these two machines, one of the highlights is the  built-in PID on the CC1. While the Silvia M features an add-on, it only has one profile to customize. Both machines are excellent choices whichever way you decide. Which machine would you take home? Tell us in the comments below!

  • Crew Comparison: Breville Infuser vs. Rancilio Silvia M

    When it comes to purchasing a solid semi-automatic machine, the Rancilio Silvia M and the Breville Infuser both would be a welcomed addition to any home! But hey, we're in the business of making choosing easier for you, so we’ll give you our two cents on which machine would be better for a beginner and experienced barista. Watch the full video below for the full comparison on the Rancilio Silvia M versus the Breville Infuser.

    Breville_Infuser

    To all those new to coffee out there, welcome! We’ve all started our coffee journey somewhere and what’s a better place to start a beginner than with a Breville Infuser? This semi-automatic machine is filled to the brim with convenient features for—you guessed it—beginners. The 54mm stainless steel portafilter has a pressurized basket that helps get a delicious espresso shot out of subpar coffee grinds. It also comes with non-pressurized baskets that would be great for people looking to perfect their craft after practicing with a pressurized basket.

    Pro Tip: We  recommend if you’re interested in brewing with semi-automatics that you start by purchasing a high-end grinder. The flavor, texture and enjoyment of your cup come down to consistent grinds and high-end grinders will answer the call to this task.

    The Infuser also comes with a  tamper that sits nicely up in the machine. There aren’t a lot of machines with tampers built-in like that and it’s a sweet bonus for people who haven’t purchased a tamper yet.

    This machine also has some programmable features such as two volume controlled buttons and a PID. On the side, you can flip a switch between hot water and steaming. The steam power on this machine, however, is weak. Although, we think that the Infuser’s softer steaming gives espresso newbies a chance to learn how to froth milk on a traditional steam wand, so you can’t go wrong with that!

    Rancilio Silvia M

    If you want to brew with the big boys, the Rancilio Silvia M has a lot of the same features but with more advanced skills needed. The professional grade 58mm portafilter only comes with non-pressurized baskets—meaning you’d want to purchase a quality grinder to get the grounds just right.

    Both machines have a PID but there is an additional cost to adding it on the Silvia M. The extra cost does mean extra precision! The PID on the Silvia M controls the temperature between one degree of where you set it and keeps it there, sets the pre-infusion time, the wait time between pre-infusion and brewing, and the brew time.

    Here's another hot-shot difference. The Rancilio Silvia M is built for steaming. You can see in the video at 5:40 Gail demonstrates both machine’s steaming power and the Silvia M blows the Infuser out of the water with performance. The traditional steam wand on the Silvia M will create fluffy microfoam and hot milk at lightning speed. It's easy to see that this high-powered machine would be a great addition to an intermediate or experienced barista’s home.

    We'd recommend if you're new to coffee to purchase a machine like the Breville Infuser. It's simple, sweet and gets to brewing without too much fuss. The Rancilio Silvia M, though, is the machine for you if you're looking to upgrade from an entry-level machine like the Infuser. It's built with power that an intermediate or experienced brewer would love.

    Didn’t see a video you were looking for? We’re open to suggestions! Drop us a comment on our YouTube channel and tell us two machines you’d like us to compare.

  • Crew Review: Rancilio Silvia M

    Say hello to the latest version of Rancilio’s Silvia, the Rancilio Silvia M. Like it’s predecessor, it features an all-over stainless steel body, traditional steam wand, and non-pressurized portafilter, but with some technical (and rather handy) upgrades. Check out the Crew Review video below to see the new additions at work.

    Rancilio Silvia M

    For those of you new to the Silvia, the machine features a traditional steam wand with a hot water feature and comes with a 58mm chrome plated brass portafilter—the same ones found on their commercial machines, so you know it’s good stuff—and stainless steel single and double shot baskets. It is a durable machine with equally reliable accessories, and we only recommend upgrading that plastic tamper for a metal-bodied one.

    So, what has changed? The Silvia M has a new green “on” light. It may sound trivial, but as the machine is heating up, the orange light (directly below the green) will be on and then it’ll turn off. Since the green light will remain on, when the orange turns off it’ll be easy to see when your machine is ready to brew.

    The Silvia M is still a single boiler machine, which means you’re steaming and brewing one at a time, so the two lights will help you temperature surf from steaming to brewing to get you ready to brew!

    Inside the machine, there is a new the lead-free boiler and insulation wrap around the boiler. The heating element is still removable in case you do happen to get burnout, which will reduce the costs to fix it (but no worries there, our techs got you covered!).

    In short, the heavy duty materials that make up the Rancilio Silvia M complement this hard-working single boiler machine and is for someone looking for control and quality in their espresso.

  • Comparison: Silvia vs Barista Express

    In corner number one we have the Rancilio Silvia. An iconic single boiler machine, ready to brew up anything you throw at it.

    In corner number two we have the Breville Barista Express. With it's built in grinder and optional pressurized portafilters, brewing up great espresso has never been so simple.

    Ring the bell referee, its the Silvia vs Barista Express!

    Silvia vs Barista ExpressThe Rancilio Silvia is a single boiler espresso machine. The boiler is built out of brass and has a removable heating element, which makes repairs much cheaper if the heating element ever burns out. The case material on the Rancilio Silvia is stainless steel, so you know this machine is built to last! Our comparison showed that the steam pressure is better on the Silvia, which is to be expected given the design differences between these two espresso machines. At just 9.5 inches wide and 11 inches deep, the Silvia has the smaller footprint- but don't forget about your grinder!

    Silvia vs Barista ExpressThe Breville Barista Express has a stainless steel boiler with a thermocoil design. What's a thermocoil?  A  thermocoil or thermoblock takes water from the reservoir in an espresso machine and heats it on the fly, versus heating up a full boiler of water. The benefit is a shorter wait time for the water to come to temperature, but it is not as consistent. The Barista Express has a built in burr grinder, so for someone on a budget or with limited counter space this would be an excellent option. The Breville has several programming options, something the Silvia does not have.

    Be sure to check out our full Crew Review Comparison video below! Want to subscribe to our channel and never miss a video? Then click here!

     

  • Morning Maintenance: Programming a PID

    Time and temperature. If you break down the essentials of a good cup of coffee/shot of espresso you will arrive at two variables: time and temperature.Silvia PID

    It doesn't matter how fresh your coffee is or how expertly roasted it was. If your brewing time and temperature are not correct, you end up with something you don't want to drink. So what's the best way to control those two variables? With a PID of course.

    Especially on a single boiler machine, where the boiler temperature will fluctuate between brew temp and steam temp, a PID will help you dial in a delicious shot of espresso, every time.

    In the Morning Maintenance video below Gail will show you how to program your PID on the Rancilio Silvia. The PID's we install on the Silvia will allow you to control the brew temperature, pre-infusuion time, pre-infusion wait time, and brew time.

    Once you know how to program your machine, it's fun to experiment with different temperatures and times for the same coffee. Each variable will bring out different flavors in your cup! Yum!

    Be sure to subscribe to our channel for more videos! Subscribe to our channel by clicking here!

     

  • Morning Maintenance: Rancilio Silvia General Maintenance

    So you have been brewing up some delicious espresso shots with your Rancilio Silvia for a few months now. Your liking the taste and want this investment to last!Silvia General Maintenance

    That's good news! (You came to the right spot). We are here to share with you some tips for Rancilio Silvia General Maintenance. It's easy to do if you keep up on it!

    When it comes to Rancilio SIlvia General Maintenance, you want to hit the big three. What are the big three? We will share.

    First, make sure you blow steam out and wipe down your steam wand after frothing milk. This is something you absolutely must do every time, and immediately. Check out this video to see what can happen if you don't!

    Next, you want to backflush your machine. When you backflush, you are forcing a cleaning solution up into the brew screen and back down the solenoid valve.  Coffee is oily stuff! Using a product like Cafiza will help break down those oils, which can cause clogs if left uncleaned.

    Finally, give your machine a wipe down. When espresso shots are being pulled, or milk is being frothed, things can get a bit messy! Keeping the exterior clean is just the right thing to do ;)

    Watch the video below to see step by step instructions for all these easy general maintenance tips! And be sure to subscribe so you don't miss and episode!

  • Crew Review: Rancilio Silvia

    Rancilio SilviaUpdate! Update! We all love updates! That's right folks, we are here to talk all about the updated version of the Rancilio Silvia. Some people call this the V4, but Rancilio just calls it the Silvia. It doesn't really matter what you call it, as long as it brews up tasty espresso...am I right?

    So what is new in the latest version of the Rancilio Silvia? The boiler of course! A boiler is the heart of an espresso machine, so any updates to one makes us giddy! The boiler itself is still brass but what Rancilio has changed is the heating element and how it is connected. The heating element on the new Rancilio Silvia is stainless steel, which is a little more resistant to burning out if you did  run the boiler dry. But we never do that right...right??

    But in the event that the boiler does burn out, the new design makes fixing it much easier (and cheaper!). In the past you had to replace the whole boiler, but this new version allows you to remove just the heating element. Not having to replace the brass boiler makes for a much easier fix.

    We love this machine. Watch as Gail takes an in-depth look into this machine and brews up a cappuccino complete with some beautiful latte art ;) Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as well!

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