Problems with my new Rancilio Silvia

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Daniel N.

#1: Post by Daniel N. »

Just bought the Rancilio Silvia with the Rancilio Rocky and I cannot make a good single espresso shot. I'm using Starbucks Italian beans grinding at the 5 setting, loading the portafilter with 7grams and tamping with the Espro 30lb tamper. I am preheating the unit for 30 minutes and using the "Cheating Miss Silvia" technique BUT I still cannot get a good espresso with crema... it comes out watery and bitter. Should I use the two cup basket to get into the right setting? What am I doing wrong? The instructions I got with the unit from 1st-line.com have not helped very much. I would really appreciate advice. Please help!!! Thanks! Daniel :(

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#2: Post by cannonfodder »

Daniel N. wrote:... and I cannot make a good single espresso shot. I'm using Starbucks Italian beans...
That is the problem. That coffee makes good compost, but lousy espresso. Order some fresh roast from an online micro roaster. Any of the HB sponsors will do nicely.
Dave Stephens

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Psyd

#3: Post by Psyd »

Daniel N. wrote: loading the portafilter with 7grams
Oh, and use the double basket. Silvia is a bit particular when pulling doubles, but an absolute bear to get the singles right consistently. Drink doubles, make a friend, or toss half of it out, but it's easier to get consistently good with the double basket. Go with 15 - 16g of coffee in it as well, and adjust your grinder accordingly. Go finer if you get over two ounces in thirty seconds, coarser if you get less than an ounce in thirty, and fine tune it for an ounce and a half in about 25-30 sec, once you start getting god results.
If you must use Starbucks beans, check with the black apron at your store. Make sure its slow when you do. tell him you want fresh roasted, within the last three days. Some of the Black Apron Exclusives arrive straight from the roaster, as do some of the beans for the baristi to utilize. He probably won't know what you 're talking about at first, or even why you'd need them within the first coupla weeks, but he should come around.
CF was right, you're probably using beans that have been on the shelf so long they're beginning to resemble it.
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175

JimG

#4: Post by JimG »

Hi, Daniel -

I'd suggest that you go ahead and make use of the Starbucks beans to practice getting your grinding, dosing, and tamping under control. (When you get fresher beans, you will probably only have to tweak the grinder setting by one notch up or down).

I find that shots that are a little slower than "ideal" usually taste OK. But shots that gush out quickly need to go in the sink. So try and err on the side of longer, smaller extractions. Regardless of time or volume, when the stream gets thin and pale, stop!

Getting rid of the single Rancilio basket is an absolute necessity. And while the double basket that came with your machine can make good shots, I'd suggest you pick up a ridgeless LM double basket next time you feel the need to order something online (I got mine from EspressoParts.com, but probably they are widely available).

The LM ridgeless basket holds a little more coffee, and it just seems to be easier to get consistent shots with it.

*Only* after you get the grind, dose, tamp routine down and are getting the consistent shots that Psyd described, you will probably want to learn to temperature surf with Silvia. Your thermostat allows a pretty wide range of boiler temperatures. Getting the brew temperature in the right range will improve your shots, too (but not quite to the same degree as those other things).

Your setup will allow you to pull great shots once you get the hang of it.

Jim

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#5: Post by cannonfodder »

jggall01 wrote:Hi, Daniel -

I'd suggest that you go ahead and make use of the Starbucks beans to practice getting your grinding, dosing, and tamping under control. (When you get fresher beans, you will probably only have to tweak the grinder setting by one notch up or down).
Jim
I will rebuttal that comment. The problem is that once you get fresh beans, your grind will change, your tamp will change and your brew temperature will change essentially nullifying everything you have done to date. Worse yet, you may pick up a bad habit trying to use old sub par beans. Keep them to do your seasoning shots after a backflush but don't try to use them for practice.
Dave Stephens

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Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#6: Post by Compass Coffee »

jggall01 wrote:*Only* after you get the grind, dose, tamp routine down and are getting the consistent shots that Psyd described, you will probably want to learn to temperature surf with Silvia. Your thermostat allows a pretty wide range of boiler temperatures. Getting the brew temperature in the right range will improve your shots, too (but not quite to the same degree as those other things).
And I'll rebuttal this statement.
Not temp surfing Silvia, ie simply pulling shot 100% at random in relation to boiler heating cycle, will result in ~30f possible temp shot variation. That is huge and will greatly effect both pour speed and taste every bit as much as grind, dose and tamp. Without consistent temp it will be impossible to get consistent pours even with consistent grind, dose and tamp.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

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AndyS

#7: Post by AndyS »

Compass Coffee wrote: Not temp surfing Silvia, ie simply pulling shot 100% at random in relation to boiler heating cycle, will result in ~30f possible temp shot variation.
Obviously there are large swings in boiler temperature due to the action of the mechanical thermostat. But these are ameliorated somewhat by the thermal mass of the group. Have you actually measured (with a Scace device or equivalent) 30F temperature variation of the brew water?

I would gladly do the experiment, but my modified Silvia no longer allows the use its original t-stat.
-AndyS
VST refractometer/filter basket beta tester, no financial interest in the company

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another_jim
Team HB

#8: Post by another_jim »

I once spent a day trying to get a good shot with the Rancilio single -- I found it impossible to even get one that didn't channel, no matter which machine I used.

The current Silvia tstat is set to 100C, and produces around 200F at the group. So just brew when the light goes out. If it's sour, hit the steam switch for about 5 seconds prior to brewing. There's no need to do the old style surfing (which was a product of the 110C brewstat)
Jim Schulman

Daniel N.

#9: Post by Daniel N. »

Many thanks to all! I will discard the single basket and use the double basket from now on. My Silvia also came with a 3 cup bottomless portafilter... any advice about this one vs the double? In the mean time I ordered a few pounds of Black Cat that I expect to arrive late Monday. I will keep you posted on my progress. Daniel

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HB
Admin

#10: Post by HB »

Daniel N. wrote:My silvia also came with a 3 cup bottomless portafilter... any advice about this one vs the double?
Jon penned suggestions in Making a beautiful "naked" triple espresso. I have a love/hate relationship the triple baskets. They can make for a decadently sumptuous espresso, but it's not a cure-all for channeling. On Silvia, it will give you a wider margin of error.
Dan Kehn