Rancilio Silvia Mega-Mod part 1 Introduction
Avi's Silvia Mega-Mod
My way to a better coffee...
It is well known that Rancilio Silvia is one of the popular and reputable espresso machines that is used by many coffee enthusiast hobbyists all over the world.
Miss Silvia (as its official model name) is well built and has a modern style stainless steel cubic design.
It is a single 0.3 Lt. boiler machine with a commercial design 58mm portafilter, 2 Lt. water tank, steamer and takes only 290x235x340mm (11.4×9.3×13.4″) space. Weight is ~14 Kg. (31 lb.).
If you take good care of it, use soft water and clean it periodically, it will serve you for years.
But, Silvia has its drawbacks, thing that makes a user spend time with the learning curve of using it correctly and with the consistency quality of its coffee shots.
All those drawbacks would not be present if the manufacturer, Rancilio from Italy, had added means to view and control the boiler temperature and pressure, which unfortunately was not made.
During the time since Silvia was introduced in 1997 and until 2013, Rancilio made some improvements in the Silvia design and released 3 versions known as V1, V2 and V3.
All versions kept most of the external design and none has temperature / pressure reading or means of accurate controlling it.
Rancilio does not officially use the term ‘version’ nor ‘Vx’ to describe its Silvia line, it is rather a common name that was given by Silvia’s fans to each major change made to the Silvia machine.
V3, the one which this guide deals with was introduced in 2008.
Since than, few more versions were developed and introduced, with the following changes/additions.
Pay attention: the Mega-Mod project was designed for V3.
It may not OR may partially conform to other versions of Silvia coffee machine.
V1 – 1997
V2 – 2000
- OPV had 2 models:
Earlier model had fixed OPV. Its pressure could only be reduces by adding copper washer/s.
Later model had adjustable OPV as also found in V3 and later models.
- Redesign of boiler’s top part starting ~2006.
- New plastic chrome plated group-head cover.
- New drip tray design.
V3 – 2008
- New portafilter handle design.
- New steam wand and steam nozzle.
- New steam valve knob, partially chrome plated.
V4 – 2013
- The heating element (made of copper) was redesigned to a removable/replaceable element that screws from the inside of the boiler for easier replacement.
V5 – 2016
- Comply with EU regulations on energy save:
The boiler was insulated and it auto switches to standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity.
- The new power switch features 2 LED’s, for power and for heating activity.
V6 – 2020
- The heating element is made now from stainless steel rather than copper for better resistant to corrosion.
- The steam wand was upgraded to stainless steel and smooth design that helps cleaning of it and it has a single hole.
- The group head cover was replaced with a matt Black Polycarbonate cover that has a better heat insulation and does not peel-off as before.
- The buttons printed icons were redesigned.
- There are 2 machine models: ‘E’ model that has a boiler auto turn-off after 30 minutes of inactivity and the ‘M’ model that has no auto turn-off function.
- IMS 8 Gr. And 16 Gr. baskets are supplied as standard.
- Stainless steel tamper with wooden handle is supplied as standard.
- Optional colors for the front + rear covers: shiny stainless steel or matt Black similar in color to the group head cover. (additional ~USD 60 apply)
Silvia Pro – 2020
In late 2020 Rancilio introduced the new Silvia-Pro coffee machine, a new ‘pro’ addition to the Silvia line.
Silvia-Pro is a dual boiler (0.3+1.0 lt.), dual pump coffee machine with PID controlling both boilers, water level sensor, a shot time counter that only displays the brew time, not controlling it, a single wake-up/shut-off timer and more.
Some of these functions were implemented by me years ago in the simple, single boiler V3 model as can be seen in this Mega-Mod project.
The Silvia-Pro dimensions are HxWxD 390x250x420mm (15.3×9.8×16.5″), weight of ~20Kg. (44.1 lb.) and it is priced (Sep.2020) ~USD 1,500.
Silvia Pro-X – 2021
In November 2021 Rancilio introduced the new Silvia-Pro-X coffee machine, which added some features to the pro version:
- 4 available colors: matt pink, matt black, matt white, and stainless steel.
- A brew pressure gauge.
- New portafilter handle, similar to the professional Rancilio RS-1 line.
- Variable “soft infusion”. This regulates the pressure over the extraction time. It is done via a setup of a switch and of the PID.
The concept remineds the “Flow control” system but with less control.
- Dimensions and weight are the same as of the Pro model. Price is ~USD 1,900.
This method is known as ‘temperature surf’ combined with ‘cooling flush’ and you’ll find many articles on it.
If you have a Silvia, you probably use both methods to reach correct brew temperature. Temperature surf involves few steps preparing the machine for brewing at best temperature and pressure, all those steps are done without any means of measuring nor displaying temperature and pressure.
Some users over the world took these methods further, a variety of mods appeared and you can find over the internet many modifications that can be added to Silvia which makes it more easy and simple to control.
Instead of guessing, you get a precise and advanced control of temperature and other parameters that seems to be missing in Silvia. Some dealers also offer Silvia with a controller as a standard machine add-on.
Silvia’s relatively basic construction and the ease of altering it helped a lot for this modifications trend.
You can find modification from a simple float meter that tells if the drip tray is full to fully computerized controlled machine.
When I have decided to mod my Silvia, I chose to combine few mods and this is why I call this project Silvia Mega-Mod. My target of doing this project was to start and finish it in one session, I hate doing a job slice by slice.
Parallel to this project I also made some mods to Rancilio Rocky grinder that you can see here.
In the following posts, you’ll find some information and thoughts based on my experience with modding of Rancilio Silvia V3.
Before I begin, I wish to thank my dear friend Asher, a gifted model maker and owner of Yisum-Modeling who helped me a lot with transforming my ideas into real working solutions. Without his support this project didn’t have a chance.
Thank you Asher.
DISCLAIMER - Important!
It took me few months to understand what I’m about to do, planning it and gather all needed components.
The advantage of doing it over a long period of time gave me enough time to read, study the subject and better understand and plan my steps.
Some major considerations, questions, and decisions I asked and took before I started:
First: ‘What do I want to achieve, what’s the target ?’
My main target was brew + steam temperature control + brew timer + pressure reading. The rest of the mods were added as add-ons.
Second: ‘How do I make the above?, What method / technique should I take ?’
a. I decided to use a PID controller (Proportional Integral Derivative) to control the temperature in order to get precise, efficient and energy saving control. I decided to go with on-the-shelf controllers rather than starting a computer-based hardware and software project such as using Arduino system. I knew I might be missing some great options going that way, but seeing my requirements I came to a conclusion that using a PID is more than enough for my needs. I really didn’t see a need for me to communicate and control my Silvia over the internet nor with a laptop or iPhone.
b. I decided not to use mechanical relays to drive the heating element because of relays lifetime and noise.
Using SSRs (Solid State Relays) seemed more reliable for this job.
c. I decided to preserve Silvia’s brew switch functionality and allow using it parallel to the controller (to allow rinsing, backflush, cooling flush etc.).
Third: ‘Where do I place all the components ?’
This can be internal, external or a combination of both. In my case, I decided to place the controllers in an external box and the pressure gauge and the rest of components inside Silvia that has some free room for it.
OK, let’s begin…
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