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May 19, 2007 08:59 AM

Home Espresso Machines

I am looking to invest in a good home espresso machine. I just returned from a trip to Paris and the apartment where I stayed had the Rancilio Silvia machine. In looking at previous posts, many Chowhounds recommend this machine.

Can someone tell me about the new version of the machine with the computerized temperature gage? It costs almost twice as much. Would I need this or want this?

Also, I would love to hear any other reccomendations on semi-automatic home machines.

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  1. My best advice, other than make sure you spend for an equally good grinder which is just as important as the espresso machine is to research the coffee, espresso specific forums such as

    3 Replies
    1. re: chipman

      That is the best advice!!! I have a Solis SL-70 which besides it's crappy 53mm portafilter does make pretty good espresso for the money. The Silvia is better in some departments but not in others. Back to the point, I have a Solis Maestro Plus grinder that I used for espresso but upgraded to a Mazzer Mini. The quality of my espresso increased ten fold with the better grinder. The Silvia is a solid machine that has tons of supporters, just make sure to budget enough for a top notch grinder. The home-barsita site has a wonderful comparative review of the top espresso grinders. These grinders have great resale value should you ever tire of the hobby.

      1. re: scubadoo97

        53mm makes it non-standard but it doesn't make for a crappy espresso machine (or a crappy portafilter). My Elektra Microcasa a Leva, which got 9/10 on a detailed coffeegeek review, has a diminutive 49mm portafiter, and I will gladly compare the shots I pull (LITERALLY pull!) with it to any- ANY- espresso machine. I sometimes prefer the shots I get with it to what I get, same Hines Public Market beans, from my favourite coffeehouse here- one that has a La Marzocco FB-80. Even the rare professional machine (like those made by La San Marco) have portafilters less than the standard 58mm.

        Oh, for OP, Silvia is not just a great machine, but you also have a huge community of owners to train and troubleshoot with. It's a great machine at a decent price.

        1. re: John Manzo

          John it's not so much the size as the non standard design which is similar to the low end Saecos. Actually I like my SL70 using the non-pressurized baskets of course. Good electronics make for consistent temperatures with little temperature surfing and loads of steam power to get great microfoam. I did have to get to my OPV which was closed shut and adjust it to decrease the brew pressure. That really improved my shots

    2. Silvia is a good machine. I have had one for several years. However it is as totally manual as a machine can be, and sometimes that is a pain in the rear, at least for me.

      When I bought her, the automatic machines were coming into their own - I didn't trust them, figured there would be less control over the process, and assumed it would be just more moving grinding, tamping, extracting, emptying parts and automation that could break. If I were buying a machine now, I would definitely consider one. has good feedback as well. Just set your browser to search groups and start browsing.

      1. After owning and never using my Francis Francis machine, I got a Nespresso D290. I know a lot of people who will simply say it doesn't produce "real" espresso, but I will tell you it does, consistently. It's easy enough to use that I don't hesitate making myself a drink when I have no time. When I have house guests, I show them how to use it once and they are happy not to have to wait for me to wake up and make them an espresso drink. Actually, two of my previous house guests actually bought thier own after going home. Just my 2 cents.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

          >> I know a lot of people who will simply say it doesn't produce "real" espresso

          That would be the least of my worries...just as long as you enjoy it.

          1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

            My question to you is, if you are satisfied with the 'espresso' that you get with the Nepresso, why didn't you keep the Francis Francis and use pods? It seems a shame to waste $500. And even the biggest coffee snob, me, thinks that the FF is a pretty cool looking espresso maker.

            1. re: chipman

              I agree... My FF looked amazing on my counter top (I had it in Red), but even with pods it wasn't consistent. I love the variety Nespresso offers in capsules.

              1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                I love my Francis Francis, both for the looks and the espresso that it makes. It's by far the best espresso machine I've owned. None of the others were able to produce the crema like this one does.

            2. re: Gelato_in_Roma

              I have the Nespresso D100 with an Aerochino machine that steams/froths milk. I think it is the best invention since sliced bread! I too wanted to buy an espresso machine when I returned home from Europe and I really am impressed not only with the machine, but also the customer service. It is really easy to use and there is barely anything to clean. I also love the 12 choices of espresso you can choose from that go from strong to mild. They have a website you can check out.

            3. Rancilio Silvias are much more finicky as to grind and tamp pressure than either a Coffee Gaggia or Gaggia Classic. I've had a Gaggia Classic for some 15 years, and it's never missed a beat! Recently, I purchased a "prosumer" machine, and too my old Gaggia to the office, where it continues to perform superbly.

              That said, chipman is absolutely right -- make sure you get a truly good grinder! I paired my Gaggia with a Gaggia MDF grinder, and it's a great combination.

              Bottom line between the Gaggias I've mentioned and the Rancilio Silvia is "comfort." Both work great. The people who start out with a Gaggia Classic tend to prefer them to the Rancilio; the people who start on a Rancilio prefer those. BOTH can make great espresso and do an above-average job steaming milk. People fault the Gagia for a small boiler, but I've never found that to be a problem unless I'm trying to make four drinks at once, and the Silvia would face the same difficulties. (that is, it's more of a problem being a single boiler/dual use machine than the actual boiler size.)

              13 Replies
                1. re: a priori

                  Does anyone have any experience with Capresso machines? Spoke to someone recently who swears by it, after having a number of other machines. He apparently has one of the higher-end models- does a number of things automatically (grinding, tamping from what he says). We weren't at his house, so I didn't get to see it, or taste its espresso. Just wondering if there was anyone else out there with experience with this brand.

                  1. re: markabauman

                    A few years back, while working for Williams Sonoma, we had so many returns/exchanges of this expensive machine. I remember Elton Johns housekeeper picked one up for his Atlanta condo. A day later she called because she nor he could figure out how to use the "bloody" thing.

                    1. re: markabauman

                      We have the Jura Capresso F7 and love it. Very good espresso and easy to use. Highly recommended.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Thanks much, zin1953.

                        Will add this to my list of pro-sumers to consider if I need to replace my Salvatore at some point.

                        1. re: a priori

                          I dunno -- everything I've heard about a Salvatore is that they are great machines!

                          1. re: zin1953

                            I agree with Zin, the Salvadore is a really sweet machine ,in the same class as all the other really good Espresso machines in that price range. You aren't going to get much better unless you decide to go with double boiler set up instead of the HX.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            The Valentina is a light-duty commercial workhorse - much more horsepower than the typical home needs. But it's a wonderful machine and I'd love to have one for both the house and for catering jobs.

                            That said, back to the OP, there is safety in numbers. I'd venture a guess there are more tips, hacks, and cheats available online about for the Silvia than any other single brand of machine. There's value in that for someone who's just starting down the path of quality home espresso.

                            That said, seems most of the pros I know with home machines have either an Expobar Brewtus or Isomac Tea. Not suggesting either is better than anything else, but I've noticed a pattern.

                            When in doubt, visit or for equipment reviews.

                            1. re: Panini Guy

                              The Isomac Tea, as with the La Val, is a single-boiler, Heat Exchanger machine (HX).

                              The Expobar Brewtus is a double boiler machine -- one for brewing, one for steam. So, too, is the La Spaziale Vivaldi S1 and everything La Marzocco makes, including their new "home" model (but for $6K, I'll pass!).

                        2. re: zin1953

                          A pro-sumer espresso machine or grinder is a professional or commercial quality machine that is intended for individual or home use.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            A note on grinders, just to put it out there for reference... I got a Kichenaid Proline to go with my Silvia when I first got it this past winter, and even as a beginner I could tell it was woefully inadequate. I just replaced it with a Cunill Tranquilo which, at about $230 shipped from Sovrana ( seemed like the best value I could get for a high-end, espresso-capable grinder. I've been quite satisfied with it, although I'm just getting to know it.