The Breville BES870XL Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia (v3, hsd) question is one that many soon-to-be home baristas and espresso lovers ask before they buy an excellent espresso machine.
Espresso is enjoyed by fans, whose educated palettes can detect a wide range of flavor profiles, and (more commonly) newbies who aren’t aware of such nuances. In any case, to truly appreciate it, quality equipment is a must.
If you are looking for this level of espresso machinery, then you are indeed serious about making espresso at home. You have no intentions of dallying around with a junk espresso machine. And you shouldn’t! According to the experts, those cheapo eighty buck (and cheaper) espresso makers don’t make very good espresso (at least not according to the coffee snobs).
Fret not my friend, the hard part is over. You’ve narrowed your espresso machine search down to two good options. My goal is to help you decide between the two. Continue reading below.
How Is Espresso Made?
Espresso is made when a small amount of near boiling water is pressure forced through finely ground coffee beans. It is also the base for many other coffee drinks; like cappuccino which requires frothed milk.
The water for the espresso requires a different temperature than the milk frother. Coffee extraction for espresso requires a temperature between 198 and 204 degrees (just below boiling), while the milk frothing process requires steam at a much higher temperature.
Double Boilers vs Single Boilers
There are different espresso machine designs, and they handle temperature variation in drastically different ways. In general, espresso makers can be divided into single boiler and double boiler.
The most popular kind of single boilers are “lever” and “heat exchangers”, also known as hx. For a technical overview of how these two single boiler styles work, click here , but what’s most important to know is that the heat exchange is more efficient and consistent than the lever styled espresso makers.
Dual boilers have two separate boilers and thermostats. They have an advantage over single boilers as they allow you to brew espresso and froth milk at the same time. Although convenient, it’s probably not a deal breaker for most people.
In a commercial setting, the double boiler is preferred as it is best at cranking out espresso after espresso. But this lovely feature does come with a disadvantage; added cost from additional power consumption.
For the home brewer, the single boiler style is just fine (as long as it is an hx). Both of the machines in the Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia debate use hx single boiler technology. I feel confident that either of these machines could handle any volume you can realistically throw at it.
Aesthetics is always a matter of opinion, but the Breville looks better..to me. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an appliance brand that makes better-looking products than Breville. I can appreciate the classy well-thought-out look and feel of the Breville line.
The Rancilio HSD-Silvia looks good too, but its more industrial design would be better suited in a coffee shop or other business atmosphere.
The Breville Barista Express has superior features, and it ain’t even close. So, while the Rancilio brand is historically used in commercial environments, the Silvia doesn’t have those convenient features that the home barista might want.
For example, used coffee grounds are compacted into a “puck” for easy dispensing. It also has a built-in conical burr coffee grinder with a ½-pound hopper attached. This is very a beneficial feature. A good coffee grinder cost at least a couple hundred bucks.
The Rancilio Silvia has a commercial-grade group head (the mechanism that controls heat stability and extraction quality), and this probably would give it a slight edge in performance over the Breville; however, when you read on below, you’ll understand why this isn’t the case.
Both of these machines can make great espresso, cappuccino, and other coffee drinks. In fact, on Amazon you can see pics of customer creations using the Breville Barista Express, just scroll down to the customer reviews, pics are on the right side. Pretty cool stuff.
Breville BES870XL Customer Opinions
I read over lots of customer reviews and below are some of the things that stood out to me:
- There are some customers that really appreciate the pressure gauge. It is helpful in determining where you might need to adjust your process, i.e. tamping, amount of coffee, temperature.
- Milk is easy to steam. Some have pointed out that this is not the case on some other machines
- Makes a good shot of espresso, latte, etc. (as long as you use fresh beans)
- There are lots of youtube videos that will help you make a great cup of espresso with the Breville bes870xl
- This machine is a single boiler, so you will not be able to extract a shot and use the steam wand at the same time.
- According to some, the coffee grinder isn’t the best. You may need to purchase a separate one. Coffee experts say that you must have a good grinder in order to make “good” espresso.
Rancilio Silvia Customer Opinions
- Makes good espresso/cappuccino/latte as long as you know what you’re doing and have the right equipment, i.e. tamper, grinder.
- For the price, it’s a good machine to learn on
- This is a single boiler machine so you won’t be able to use the steamer at the same time
- Some complaints of the design being outdated
- No P.I.D., so you don’t get any control over the temperature
Breville Barista Express – read some customer reviews
Rancilio Silvia – read some customr reviews
The Deal Breaker
To get the perfect shot of espresso, you need the right temperature (and pressure). To the espresso connoisseur, the slightest change in temperature to the 1/10th degree can be detected. I’ve seen coffee experts claim to perceive flavor notes ranging from citrus to chocolate with just a small change in temperature.
To consistently get the taste that you desire, you will need control of water temperature. So, I have an acronym for you, and maybe you’ve heard of it, P.I.D. It stands for Proportional-Integral-Derivative. It allows you to gradually increase the temperature of the water in precise increments and maintain that temperature while your machine is idle.
This means that you will not have to reset the temperature as you prepare to brew your next shot. A machine without the P.I.D. is going to have wild swings in temperature. That isn’t to say that you can’t learn how to make good espresso without a P.I.D. It’s just that it won’t be as easy to get your desired results.
Only one of the espresso makers in this Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia debate has the P.I.D. And that my friend, makes this a much easier decision. The Breville Barista Express does have a P.I.D. For that reason, you should choose it over the Rancilio Silvia. Unless of course, you plan to modify your Rancilio Silvia with a P.I.D.
The Breville BES870XL Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia (v3, hsd) debate has come an end. Because of its bevy of features and thoughtful design, the Breville BES870XL wins this war of espresso machines. It’s easy to clean, a light indicates when it needs to be cleaned, and includes a cleaning kit.
Optional maintenance accessories are readily available on amazon (filters and cleaning tablets).
Although there is an art and a learning curve to brewing espresso, the Breville BES870XL helps you get to barista status sooner with its P.I.D. which gives you control over temperature. It’s a feature that gives you more consistent and predictable espresso results.
At 13.2 x 12.5 x 15.8 inches and 23 pounds, it is a bit larger than the Rancilio Silvia. It will occupy a nice amount of space, though serious espresso home baristas won’t care.
In short, the Breville BES870XL offers many more features, better looks, and a lower price than the Rancilio Silvia.
Breville BES870XL – Click here to check price before you buy
Rancilio Silvia – Click here to check price before you buy