Similar problems with my new Rancilio Silvia

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#1: Post by gardoni »

Hello all,

I just finished reading this very interesting thread started by Daniel N.: Problems with my new Rancilio Silvia. First off, I would like say that it is an amazing thing that Daniel N. got his Silvia in good shape right for the holidays. Reading this thread has made me reconsider a lot of things regarding my use of my Silvia in the last month. I have always used pre-packaged beans because it is really hard to find freshly roasted coffee in Mexico City, but just yesterday a friend of mine brought back some Black Cat Intelligentsia beans for me. So I started this morning and after two and a half hours of varying my grind, my tamp and my temp surf. technique I finally gave up. I went through half a pound of Black Cat and got nothing but Sink Shots. I will attempt to describe the best shot:

at 12 on the Rocky Grinder, (might be closer to 11), using a naked portafilter and about 18 grams of coffee this is what happened:

I preheated Silvia for about 45 minutes as I always do.
I then let out some water to activate the pump, as soon as the boiler light went on I sopped letting the water run and waited until it went off. According to what Dan wrote on Reverse Temperature Surfing- Thanks again Dan!- I waited for two minutes once the light went off and then pulled the shot. I got a very slow flow of coffee on the Naked PF( about 38 seconds) and as soon as it blonded I stopped the shot. I didn't take a picture but the shot was bubbly and the crema dissipated rather quickly. So I tried again and again.

I bought my Silvia around 2002 so I am guessing that the Thermostat is one of the older ones on which Dan did his testing, not one of the new ones which requires less Temp Surfing. So what do you guys think? Is my temperature surfing way off? or is it a Grind/Tamp/Dose problem? I am really at a loss here, and would appreciate anyone's help.

The roast date on the Black Cat is Jan the 8th 2007.

Thank You,


#2: Post by DigMe »

I'm not a Silvia owner but I'm wondering if it could have something to do with elevation?


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#3: Post by edwa »


Pretty good timing on the roast delivery. Here in Los Angeles I just got my Kid O today also roasted on the 8th. Although you could say there might be some residual degassing, tomorrow should start the prime time! Before I boxed up my Silvia and put her in the attic I had tried both the Black Cat and Kid O in her and I have to say the machine pulled its best shots ever. My Silvia was manufactured in 2002.

I'm not familiar with your grinder but from the description you gave and the 38 second count I would recommend that you not grind so fine. This next thought goes counter to conventional wisdom. Although I use the WDT on my Bric, I had better results on the Silvia with a naked PF if I didn't. I did however do a Portafilter Bounce with a Stockfleth and then a 30 lb tamp. My shots also improved when I switched from a flat tamper to a convex tamper. Your mileage may vary, but still it sounds more like a matter of grind and PF build when addressing the 38 second count. How did your shot taste? Once you get a good pull then the taste will hopefully help you fine tune your temp surfing.

Another consideration, I have to grind coarser in the morning down here closer to the ocean (not at- unfortunately), than I do in the afternoon or evening. Take into consideration your humidity, especially since you're getting closer to the equater. If I remember Mexico City is pretty high up in elevation, you might want to do a search for input from folks making espresso in other high altitudes.

One problem I had with my Silvia is she ran hot. I can not begin to tell you how many different timings I charted. The caveat being I was using a K type thermocouple snaked up through the PF spout and reading it in Celsius on my cheap Tech TM-125 Multimeter (without a sponge for resistance). It did consistently read boiling water at 99 C. Nevertheless she was still able to pull some tasty shots. In fact I remember the 1st succesful Black Cat shot after dialing in the grinder. It was one of those fly catching, open-jawed, "Oh my god!" exclamations. I'd never seen Miss Silvia look so sexy before. :wink:

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gardoni (original poster)

#4: Post by gardoni (original poster) »

Edwa and Digme,

Thank you so much for your replies. I will now consider the altitude factor. I had thought about it but it had not been an issue with Pre-packaged beans (i.e. Lavazza and Danesi) However, it might be with freshly roasted coffees such as Black Cat. I wonder if I need to buy a Thermostat portafilter in order to get a good shot with Silvia??? Anyway. I really appreciate your advice.


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#5: Post by edwa »

I was hoping you would focus on you grind, dose, and distribute. Could it be that the prepackaged coffees that you used were dryer from age and need a heavier tamp than the fresher moister Black Cat? Consequently, your muscle memory is used to doing the heavier tamp and the fresher grounds suffer for it.

Check out Cannonfodder's new thread on Dialing in a new machine.


#6: Post by coffeeboy »

I have to say the best thing I have done with Miss Silvia was a PID. Takes the whole surfing/guessing temp out of the equation and the shots improved right off the bat Bottomless Pf, fresh beans (of course), good grinder = huge Hersey Candy Kiss looking shots
I went with the SD3C kit.. install was super straight forward and well worth the coin.

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gardoni (original poster)

#7: Post by gardoni (original poster) »


I did. the thing is I was taking some photos of the whole process. I will post them soon. Also, thanks for the 411 on Canonfodder's thread.


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gardoni (original poster)

#8: Post by gardoni (original poster) »


I have been seriously thinking about a PID. Thanks so much for the link.
So i finally took some photos of the extraction process using Black Cat Espresso that was roasted on the 8th of this month. I still have not been able to get a decent shot. I hope that after seeing the photos you will be able to help me find some definitive answers to my problems. Thank you all.


Here they are:

Rocky Grinder on a 13 Setting.

hard tamp about 30lbs.

Here's the temp surf technique, let water through boiler and start counting 2 minutes after light goes out.

The extraction took about 28 seconds before blonding:

Here's what the shot looked like. Pretty bubbly...

Here's how the crema dissipated after about 45 seconds

And finally here's the puck:

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Team HB

#9: Post by luca »

Hi Gardoni,

Crema fading that quickly is often a sign that your coffee is too fresh. A good test is to pull a shot into a 30mL shotglass and just let it sit for a few minutes. The crema on coffee that is too fresh will fade away and you will have a significant reduction in volume.


LMWDP #034 | 2011: Q Exam, WBrC #3, Aus Cup Tasting #1 | Insta: @lucacoffeenotes

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#10: Post by edwa »

As if in support of what Luca wrote, I was just saying to my wife this morning how today (Sat) the Espresso Torro was producing the best shots so far. It was roasted on Sunday.

Otherwise, you might try experimenting with just a bit smaller of a dose. The photos looked good what's the time lapse from the 1st to 2nd photo? Did the 3 streams converge right away or stay separate. Any chance you have a movie mode on that digital camera and can upload it to google video?

Still, most importantly, how did it taste?