The Rancilio Silvia has earned a reputation for reliability in the domestic coffee market. Its successor, the Silvia Pro, offers what consumers love about the original with the technology to match.
The first Rancilio Silvia left the factory in 1997. In the two-plus decades since, little has changed about the humble domestic espresso machine, which can still be recognised for its sleek and simple silver exterior. According to Paul O’Brien, Area Manager – Australasia for Rancilio, that’s because nothing had to.
“We’ve sold hundreds of thousands of Silvias, and they’ve gained a reputation for reliability. I was speaking to a guy yesterday who has had his Silvia for 16 years,” Paul says.
“The Silvia is all about unfussed simplicity and has grown a cult following globally. If you took the first version from 1997 and compared it to the latest one today, you’d recognise it straight away.”
However, as the coffee industry grew, Rancilio saw the opportunity to update the classic model with new technology. The result was the Rancilio Silvia Pro, first unveiled at HostMilano in October 2019.
“The response was overwhelming. I was at the stand in Milan and we were getting flooded with texts, emails, and direct messages from Australia about the machine,” Paul says.
“The team pulled me aside and were asking about it, because they hadn’t experienced the passion of the Australian market before.”
The Silvia Pro measures in at a sleek 25 centimetres wide by 42 centimetres deep and 39 centimetres high. Despite the compact size, the dual boiler espresso machine allows different temperatures to easily be set for extraction and steam. Proportional-integral-derivative control is used in both boilers to maintain consistent and stable heat.
“The Silvia Pro is up there in terms of brewing technology with anything else on the market,” Paul says. “It’s the best of both worlds. The Silvia has legendary reliability, now we’ve got the performance to go with it.”
With the Silvia such an iconic model – Paul says it is one of the highest selling domestic machines of all time – the Rancilio team was at first reluctant to change it.
“The Silvia has been a massive success and we didn’t want to mess with our original formula. So, our biggest consideration was to keep it true to the Silvia DNA. Even if you hadn’t seen the Silvia Pro before, you’d know from 100 yards away it’s a Silvia,” Paul says.
“People spend a lot of money on their kitchens. It would be really easy for us to release a very overtly Italian, flary, chrome, shiny, glitzy, glamourous machine, but that’s not us. That’s not why people connect to the Silvia.”
With domestic coffee machines, Paul adds that usability and efficiency are key. The Silvia Pro features a similar interface and switch controls to the classic model, with the addition of a digital display showing the temperature of the boilers. Small buttons bearing a plus and minus on either side of the display allow for easy temperature adjustment.
This, combined with a digital shot timer and multi-directional, stainless-steel steam wand, allows the user to produce coffee as they would in a café setting and at the same quality.
“It’s made for anyone who wants amazing coffee at home,” Paul says. “The Silvia Pro will perform and look amazing whether it’s on a building site, in a garage, or part of a million-dollar kitchen in Toorak [in Victoria].”
Paul says smaller domestic machines have their advantages, including the ability to heat up within minutes.
“People don’t want to wait, and the coffee machine needs to heat up quickly,” Paul says.
“The challenge in Australia is that it’s a demanding market. Customers want their quality, they want their consistency, and they want their outstanding performance, but they want it ASAP. Every box needs to be ticked, which we’ve achieved with the Silvia Pro.”
A domestic machine as advanced as the Silvia Pro requires a sophisticated grinder to go with it. Rancilio has provided this with the V50, a grinder featuring a horizontal motor and 50-millimetre vertical flat burrs.
The on-demand grinder’s dosage can be pre-set or manually adjusted using the knob on the right. The front ring control regulates and can mark preferred grind size, allowing for different coffee recipes to be set on the fly. Paul says the grinder was designed to minimise retention, a practical necessity when catering to the at home market.
“We’ve never released a zero-retention grinder before, so the V50 is significant for Rancilio. Its development was considered in terms of size, application, and performance,” Paul says.
“The home market is interesting for grinders because people do such low volumes. The challenge is achieving the quality and the performance of a commercial grinder with less waste.”
This is particularly prominent in Australia, where coffee drinkers will pay good prices for great beans.
“If you’re buying 250 grams of coffee for $20 or $30 and you’re holding 100 grams in retention, that’s a problem,” Paul says.
While designed for home use, the V50 can fill a niche in a busy café setting as a secondary grinder for single origins. Paul says this reflects the seriousness with which Rancilio approaches domestic coffee making.
“It’s such a big part of the market. Coffee is for every occasion, not just at cafés or work, but at home too. It’s a very different market that requires a different type of machine,” Paul says.
“The Silvia has succeeded for so long because of its humbleness. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a workhorse: reliable, simple, and effective.”
He adds that the Silvia Pro maintains all of these qualities, while upping the performance to meet the high standards of the local market.
“Australia is a leader in coffee because we innovate. We create our own trends rather than follow others, because we are on different time zones and so far away,” Paul says.
“It’s not specific to the domestic coffee market. As a whole, Australians do their own thing down here and we’re not afraid to experiment.”
With the Silvia Pro arriving in Australia during the first half of 2020, Paul is excited to provide the Silvia’s fans with “what they’ve been asking for”.
“It has been years in the making and following the response from Host, to be able to see it embraced firsthand, on our home ground in Australia, is going to be pretty exciting,” Paul says.
“The Silvia Pro is a step up in technology, but it comes from humble beginnings.”