In this edition on brewing from home we’ll be covering an easy, step-by-step guide on how to properly ‘pull’ a great shot of espresso, using the awesome, reliable Rancilio Silvia espresso machine.
Making espresso at home
The process of successfully pulling a great shot of espresso can be very delicate and complex. Which is why, most of us love getting our morning coffee fix at our local coffee shop to start the day.
But what if you wanted to replicate that same feeling you get from visiting your local café everyday? (minus the long lines or rush). That rewarding pleasure of enjoying a delicious quality coffee beverage at any moment -even better, from the comfort of your home or office is readily available with a home espresso setup.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Benefits of owning an espresso machine
You might be wondering what the benefits of having an espresso machine at home or the office are and you’re not alone. In fact, aside from the long term benefits of the money you save along the way by brewing your own, an espresso machine essentially opens up a whole world of many new and exciting coffees that become instantly available for you to try.
A deep appreciation for coffee and wanting to achieve the exact results you want in your favorite coffee drink, is one of the best reasons for owning your own espresso machine.
Since 1997 Rancilio has been producing this high quality home espresso machine. Since then, it has become an industry staple in the coffee community for both beginners and baristas alike for it’s professional grade parts, consistency and how easy it is to use.
Overview : Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
Let’s begin by identifying all the main parts of your Rancilio Silvia espresso machine :
- Water tank
- Coffee switch
- Hot water switch
- Steam switch
- Group head / Porta-filter
- Cup-holder grid
- Cup tray
- Light – <<Power ON>> green
- Light – <<Boiler heating>> orange
- Steam / hot water tap (knob)
- Main switch
- Steam Wand / Hot water spout
- Drip tray
” The Rancilio Silvia could very well be everything you need in an espresso machine to get you started brewing café quality coffee drinks at home, any time.”
How to set up the Rancilio Silvia
What you will need ( Essential tools )
Aside from your espresso machine and the accessories that are included with the Silvia, this list goes further than being “nice to have items”, and are more like : The necessary tools every espresso home setup needs.
- Tamper ( 58mm )
- Gram scale ( digital smart scale for weighing )
- Knock box ( safely discard coffee pucks from portafilter )
- Latte art milk pitcher ( 12oz )
- Microfiber cloths ( bar cloth , portafilter cloth, milk cloth )
- Tamping mat
- Espresso coffee grinder (We recommend the Rancilio Rocky)
- Your favorite coffee cup (demitasse)
Once you get all of these items ready, you’ll have a complete home espresso setup. Enjoy a smoother work flow and spend more time making great coffee.
Getting started : Making the perfect espresso
Espresso recipe : Ratios & extraction time
For this recipe we’ll be using a 1:2 brewing ratio. This means that for every gram (1g) of dry coffee, we will extract two grams (2g) of espresso.
For the Rancilio Silvia we like to use :
• Input : 17g fine, fresh ground coffee. for an Output : 34g of espresso.
• Extraction time : 25 – 30 seconds; This will give us an espresso shot that’s balanced in sweetness, acidity and bitterness. An excellent starting point for building your favorite coffee drinks like: lattes, cappuccino, macchiato, flat white and more.
Let’s begin : Step by step brew guide on pulling the perfect espresso shot with the Rancilio Silvia.
* Your expected brew time (extraction) should be between 25-30 seconds, for 34g of espresso. Total process time (once machine is started up) may vary around 3 – 4 mins total, including coffee grinding and milk steaming.
Total Time: 3 minutes
Fill water tank
After setting up your espresso machine, the first thing you want to do is to fill up the tank with fresh filtered water (not distilled). The water tank is easily accessible near the back of the machine.
* Tip : Make sure you fill the tank to the recommended line, being careful to not exceed the maximum capacity of water the reservoir can hold.
Turn on the machine
Making sure all the switches are placed in the ”OFF” position, connect the power cord from the machine, into a safe power outlet nearby. Next, turn the machine “ON”.
You’ll know when it’s reached the ideal temperature for brewing when the orange boiler light (next to the power button) has turned off.
This is also a good moment to place your espresso and latte cups on your machine’s cup tray to warm them up.
Tare the weight of the Portafilter
Place your clean portafilter on the scale and tare to zero.
– This will help you know how many grams of coffee you are dosing.
Grind your coffee
After warming up the machine and taring your portafilter, make sure you have fresh coffee beans on hand ready to grind for the best results during the extraction process.
• Grind and dose 17g of finely ground coffee into your portafilter
• Your coffee grind should be of an even, fine ground, similar to table salt or sand (not too fine, not too coarse).
* Tip : If your espresso is running too fast : set your grinder to a finer setting. If your espresso is running too slow : set your grinder to a coarser setting.
Coffee Grind Consistency :
Tamp ground coffee
• Use a dry microfiber cloth to make sure your portafilter is clean
• Evenly distribute your coffee grounds within your portafilter
• Place the group handle on a tamping mat or steady flat surface
• Lightly tamp the surface of the grounds, then tamp firmly to finish the seal on the compacted grounds.
The main idea with tamping your coffee grounds is to consistently create a ‘flat compact bed‘ allowing the water to pass through cleanly.
* Tip : Evenly distributed coffee grounds from consistent tamping will give you a better extraction over time as this allows the high pressured water from the espresso machine to flow evenly through the coffee.
Investing in a high quality tamper is always a good idea as you continue on your espresso making journey given how critical this tool is for maintaining your espresso consistency.
Extract the coffee
Before sliding in your portafilter, give the group head a quick purge by clicking on the ‘coffee switch‘ located on the top left.
After a quick rinse, bringing the machine to temperature, you may place your digital gram scale beneath the group head, and your demitasse on top of the scale (tare to zero) to weigh your coffee extraction. * Starting a stopwatch will also help you keep track of your espresso’s extraction time.
• Insert the portafilter in the machine group and extract the coffee immediately. Your espresso shot should brew between 25-30 seconds, yielding 34g total.
• The espresso shot will start as a slow drip, then progressively develop into an even, thick stream nearing the 30 seconds at which point the extraction process will finish.
“A great espresso base is the foundation for every excellent coffee drink”
1. Once your espresso shot is ready, press the ‘steam switch’ button. (This button is located near the bottom-left, front side of the machine).
• This will activate and build up the internal boiler’s steam pressure and usually takes about 25 seconds. (You’ll know it’s ready to go when the orange light turns off)
2. Purge the steam wand to get rid of any residual water.
3. Steam the milk. (*milk steaming tips from Chef Steps) :
a) Fill the pitcher about half way with cold milk.
b) Set the wand into the milk so that the line at which the tip screws in is level with the surface of the milk. The wand should be at about a 15°-degree angle from the side of the espresso machine and slightly off center in the pitcher, with the handle of the pitcher running parallel to the wand.
c) Once the milk has increased roughly 50 percent in volume, you will drop the tip of the steam wand deeper into the pitcher until the popping sound stops and the milk starts spinning.
– During this stage, you want to create a flat whirlpool of milk without allowing the volume to rise any higher. If the volume continues to increase, turn the steam level down a bit.
After the milk reaches the preferred temperature, turn off the steam valve. Before pouring into your espresso, swirl the milk to polish and incorporate the milk and micro foam, next lightly thump the pitcher on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles left. At this stage you want it to look glossy like “wet paint”.
d) Incorporate and pour your milk at a steady pace over your fresh espresso shot, however you like and enjoy! For additional help with steaming milk, check out this awesome resource: Step by step guide by Chef Steps on steaming milk for latte art.
How did you do? We know that with great determination, and lot’s of practice you’ll be making the most delicious coffee. Take the time to enjoy the process of making great quality espresso and your patience will be rewarded.
You are now on an enriching journey connecting with friends, family and yourself, one coffee at a time.
FAQ’s – BREWING ESPRESSO
What if my machine doesn’t start?
Verify to see if the main switch is on. Are the fuse, the electrical plug and cable ok?
How long does it take for the Rancilio Silvia to heat up?
It can take around 10 or more mins to fully heat up your machine.
What kind of water should I use?
Pure spring water or water that has been run through an active carbon filter. If your area is known to have a lot of lime scale then bottled water would be best. Do not use distilled or naked water.
How do I empty the boiler?
To do this start by removing the drip tray cover and the filter handle (portafilter):
• Open the steam valve, place a cup beneath the wand, and turn on the power switch and coffee-brew switch.
• Remove the 2 hoses from the water tank, keep the pump running until no water comes out
• Cycle the coffee brew-switch 3 times, finishing in the off position.
The portafilter doesn’t fit well (won’t tighten)
Typically this indicates that there is too much coffee in the portafilter. Try not to over fill.
What size is the group head, basket and portafilter?
Where are the Rancilio Silvia made?
Rancilio Silvia Espresso machines are made in Italy
Machine is not heating up
Where can I get a user manual?
Download the Silvia User Manual (PDF)
My coffee comes out too slow / too fast
• Are the filter and the group head ok?
• Is the coffee ground too finely / too coarse ?
• Adjust your coffee grind accordingly : Too fast – Set your grinder to a finer setting. Too slow – Set your grinder to a coarser setting.
Only water comes out of my steam wand
It is possible that the boiler is overfilled. Too much water in the boiler means there is not enough room for steam to accumulate. Activate the steam switch, open the steam wand and leave it open until steam begins escaping from the steam wand. Close the steam valve. Allow the unit to re-heat. If this does not solve the problem then the thermostat may need to be replaced.
The flavor of the milk is not very good
To get the best steam, the machine must be up to full steam temperature when the orange light turns off. Always open the steam valve and clear out any water until it produces pure steam. If this is not done prior to steaming, you will be adding water to the milk which will affect the flavor and the ability of the milk to steam up well.
My milk doesn’t foam very well
Foaming milk takes practice. We recommend whole milk; it tends to work the best for rich creamy velvety foam. Check the steam wand tip; it may also need cleaning.
Irregular steam delivery
Is the tip of the steam wand obstructed?
No coffee, hot water or steam delivery
Check to see if the water tank on your Silvia is empty.
My Silvia has an extra hose in the water tank, what is it for?
It is an expansion tube. During the heating process the water expands so water will travel through this hose back into the water tank. Please leave this hose in the water tank.
There is water under the machine
Check to see if the drip tray is full.
There is water in the drip tray
This is completely normal, you may dispose of this water once you are done using the machine.