Dancing with Miss Silvia

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Dancing with Miss Silvia

Postby gfoster » Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:43 am

I haven't been spending time with my Silvia espresso machine lately. Her and Rocky (my grinder) have been getting lonely and the wife has been pissed that I shelled out 750 beans or so for the pair and haven't been using it.

I've been reading up on the super automatics like the Lattissima which will do everything (including steaming the milk for you). I have been considering trading in the finicky Miss Silvia for one of the new sleek pushbutton super automatic jobs.

Miss Silvia is a finicky wench. Making a cap, pulling a shot, requires practice and skill. She definitely rewards patience and practice though, and if you spend the time with her she FAR FAR exceeds anything I've had from one of those fancy automatic machines. Even with my merely average barrista skills I can make velvety smooth microfoam and carmelly sweet nutty espresso with just a little bit of practice.

Well, I spent some time with Silvia this morning, shining her up, cleaning her and generally paying attention to her. I decided I'd give her one last chance. I steamed a little bit of milk and hit the sweet sweet microfoam spot with just a little bit of stretching. I ground up some fresh harrar beans, started the temperature "surf" dance and nailed it on the downswing.

Normally I have to pull several shots and toss them to get that perfect shot. Not this morning. She's been neglected and she chose this morning to strut her stuff and tell me EXACTLY why she may be finickier than those prettier, sexier, sleeker automatic models that are at your beck and call but also why SHE rules the roast, (pun intended).

First shot of espresso was that mythical God shot. Topped with a splash of microfoam and one spoonful of homemade vanilla sugar and oh yes, I'm back in her sweet sweet embrace. I'm sorry I ever thought of pushing her aside for another woman.

Even my wife (who's very much a coffee connoiseur and quick to point out bad shots to me) smiled and said "oh my..." when I gave her a sip.

Image

We still may save up for one of the super ones for every day use and use Silvia when we have time to devote to her, but I most definitely will be dancing with Miss Silvia again and again and again.

Matt, I know you read this section. Bring me some Espresso/Italian roast when you're here next week and drop by. We'll geek out :)

-- Gary F.
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Postby Saco_De_Toro » Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:03 am

Ha! This is the first time I've perused this forum and... I have a Silvia too! I've had her for about 7 years now. She doesn't get a ton of use, but I must agree, she is a little finicky. I've no issues foaming milk, but I have found that she's very particular when it comes to the grind for a good pull of espresso with a nice crema. The bean grinder I had wasn't fine enough, even on the lowest setting. I just get Peet's to do a #2 grind and that seems to work well. Still, it requires a hearty tamp on the coffee grounds. I've also noticed that she works much better when she's been warmed up and used for at least a half hour.

BTW, my drip tray is simply perforated and doesn't have the slits like yours. Not that it matters...
- Julian

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Postby gfoster » Wed Mar 05, 2008 8:12 am

Yeah I grind my own, so that I can tweak the grind settings as I go along. If I try to grind everything up front, its less fresh and invariably the grind isn't quite right.

I put a PID on her last week to hold the temp steady so now I can pull shots at will without temp surfing. I can also dial the temperature in for the particular bean that I'm using. It has made her a WHOLE lot less finicky, let me tell you.

I agree on the warmup, I have her on a timer so she starts up before I get up in the morning and is ready to go when I am.

-- Gary F.
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Postby Saco_De_Toro » Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:03 am

How'd you go about hooking up your PID? I've heard the temp calibration from the factory isn't the best.
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Postby JP » Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:34 am

Gary you are a weird little monkey.
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Postby gfoster » Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:40 am

Saco_De_Toro wrote:How'd you go about hooking up your PID? I've heard the temp calibration from the factory isn't the best.


I bought one of the auber kits. It was about $150 or so, from http://www.auberins.com

They are a single setpoint PID, unlike the ones from MLG (which have two setpoints, one to maintain steam temp and one to maintain boiler temp). The steam temp one is kind of a red herring, you can't maintain it with the steam wand open anyway, so it really doesn't accomplish anything.

The single setpoint PID still reads the steam boiler temp so you know when to start steaming (I start steaming at 270 and the boiler will stay on the entire time which is what you want). The auber kit was very professional and it looks like it's part of the machine... it mounts between the group head and the steam wand instead of sticking out the side like a wing (like the MLG ones). I'll try and upload a pic if I remember to take one.

Took me about an hour to install, it came with absolutely everything it needed, all connectors, etc and extremely detailed directions with good full color pics. You'd have to really work at screwing up installing it following the directions :)

And from what I can tell, the temp calibration is dead nuts on. I set my boiler temp for 228 and that gets me 200 at the grouphead. I can dial that up or down to wherever I want. It seems to be rock solid to me and all the reading I did on it agreed that the PID calibration is pretty dead on. The factory calibration (unpidded) is pretty good, but the problem is there's a wide deadband and when your deadband is 20 degrees or so and even a 2 degree change in water temp can screw up a shot...well that's why people "temperature surf" to learn to nail it at the right time. Luckily, with the PID installed it's dead on every time, and I just pull whenever I'm ready instead of surfing it.

JP wrote:Gary you are a weird little monkey.


Pot... kettle... black.

-- Gary F.
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