(An experiment to see if anybody notices, Price discount on the Silvia.)
Better than new? Actually, yes.
We're calling it a Silvia "Version X."
Totally rebuilt Rancilio Silvia with the latest upgrades from Rancilo, PLUS upgrades Silvia owner's wish they did at the factory.
Yes, we put a digital controller on this (we know, "digital, yuck!") but with a machine like the Silvia with a small boiler, one can make the case for it.
You can finally see and control BOTH the brew temperature, and the brew pressure, on a Rancilio Silvia.
But let's start at the beginning.
A brand new brass boiler and heating element. This is the latest version from Rancilio, that uses a replaceable stainless steel element, instead of the previous copper one braised into the boiler (which meant having to replace BOTH the boiler and element, whenever the element burned out.)
So after that, we were like, "Oh hell, since it's apart, why not add a PID so you can see the temperature?" So we put a brand new Omron controller in.
They we thought, "Silvias are notorious for not only running too hot, but the pump pressure being set too high at the factory. Wonder if we could put pressure gauge?"
So we did.
Now it was getting out of control.
We realized we needed a new pressure control valve from Rancilio, if we actually wanted to accurately adjust the pressure. So we installed one of those.
Suddenly, the hot running, over pressured Silvia was almost tamed!
We could adjust the brew temp "on the fly," just by pushing an arrow up or down on the face of the controller, then letting the PID algo do it's thing.
The "problem" at this point was the "steam." With any single boiler machine, you HAVE to "over heat" the thing to make decent steam. Unfortunately, Rancilio made sure of that by putting a "steam" thermostat that pushed the boiler temp to a crazy 280 plus degrees! (We could see the digital reading climb towards 300, and scared it was gonna blow up! Doesn't wateer boil at 212??! The factory "steam" thermostat is fricking hot on these.)
After some thought about that, we figured out how to change swap the factory thermostat with a lower temp one.
That let us use the "steam button" on the front for steaming, and the PID for brewing. Running some water through the group after steaming brings the temp back down to brew in a few seconds.
A simple, easy to use solution to wild heat flucuations inherent in the classic Silvia was finally acheived.
There's a lot of other stuff that's new or "custom" on this, like the custom wood controller enclosure, that softens the "digital clock look" all PIDs sadly add to espresso machines, and it insulates it from ambient heat radiating from the group.
We took off the wimpy "home" steam valve, and replaced it with a La CImbali commercial one.
The steam arm is a new V3 Rancilio, with their one hole tip (good for microfoam, but takes a while.)
Of course a new portafilter gasket and screen.
And a new bottomless portafilter with double basket.
By measuring brew temperature in the basket, we figured out that the top of the boiler, where the heat is measured by the PID thermocouple, is about 10 degrees hotter than the water when it hits the grounds. So we've set it to 210. But it's so easy to change the brew temp by pushing the arrows up or down, everyone will eventually find their "sweet spot."
The pump pressure is set for a hair over 9 PSI, which we think is about perfect for this machine, but that is adjustable (although requires taking the top off) if you want to play with pump pressure.
And for "purists" note that this was built with a V1 so that the group surround is hard actual stainless steel, not the cheesy metal foil wrapped plastic Rancilio has been using on the new ones for a while, meaning never having it "peel."
We're taking a bath on this project, when you add up all the time and money spent on it, but it we wanted to see what was "possible" to do with a Silvia, while keeping it simple and useable, and maintaining the original Italian style as much as possible. Working with the PID phenomena was a great learning experience, and we may do it to a La Cimbali Junior we're almost done with.
Obviously "digital" machines are not our style at VoltAge110, so don't expect to see more around here any time soon!
If you're looking at Silvias, or "home" machines in this price range, this is one to consider.
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$675.00 Regular Price
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