Hello Miss Silvia & Mr Rocky

Miss Silvia

Yesterday i welcomed two new friends into the household. They were Miss Silvia and Rocky, both of the Rancilio family.

After a long time reading reviews and searching through websites for information about espresso machines, grinders, and all the assorted paraphenalia that goes along with using and maintaining them, i finally decided to jump in.

I found the Silvia and the Rocky both on ebay, via a private seller. The photo’s looked good, the price was reasonable compared to what i’ve seen and the dealer seemed reputable and so i went for it. I dropped my bids in with a week left to go, and lo and behold if a week later i had won both auctions !

So yesterday they arrived and after a quick check to ensure they were in good working order Sharon and I got them working.

The first few shots left a lot to be desired, and after some grind level changes on Rocky and a few back flushes on Silvia we
were back in business. I won’t say the espresso is great yet… but it’s definitely on its way.


Update: Got some great info from Dan the seller, and done a lot more reading on how to get the Silvia setup right for consistently good shots. Sharon is kicking my butt so far… She made an awesome short macchiato for me last night, don’t think i’ve tasted one as good in recent memory.

Check out the photos if you want the real deal :)

15 thoughts on “Hello Miss Silvia & Mr Rocky”

  1. Hi Matt and Sharon
    I’ll just start off by saying that I stumbled on your site while searching for suppliers in Perth for Miss Sylvia and although I’ve only have a brief read of a few posts I’ve enjoyed it already… I particularly agree with Perth getting a bit of a bollicking when being compared to Sydney and Melbourne in terms of food, wine, and shopping hours etc (oh well, I don’t really mind having to take out a second mortgage to go and buy a few groceries from Fresh Provisions when Woolies is shut).
    Anyway – a question:
    I think my mind is fairly made up to outlay the bucks and purchase my first “proper” coffee machine and grinder, and from all I can read it seems like Miss Sylvia and Rocky are the way to go. Any advice/regrets/pointers you can share? Was the ebay purchase from coffee-a-roma? If so, were you happy with them?

  2. Hey Natalie,

    Thanks for the feedback, glad you found the site useful, if only to reinforce the crapness of Perth in many areas…

    I’d have to say i don’t have any regrets about my purchases. The Silvia is an unreal machine and relatively forgiving to the newbie user. Rocky is great as well… a few slightly annoying things about it, such as beans getting stuck in the finger guard, and ground coffee not being completely cleared out of the chute etc… but for the price you can’t get anything near that good… and you’ll grow used to the peculiarities over time. One thing i’d advice is to get a doserless version of Rocky… I got the one with a doser, but now realise i will never fill it full enough to warrant even having it, and its just one extra thing to clean. You’ll also have to get yourself a decent tamp, as the standard one that comes with Silvia is a worthless plastic piece of junk thats not even the right size. A Reg Barber would be really good, but otherwise a solid aluminium 58mm one will suffice.

    I got mine through a private seller, not coffee-o-rama, but i came across their store many times in my searches. Was really lucky to get mine of a guy who wanted to get rid of his because he was going back to uni and needed some cash.

    Hope that helps !


  3. Thanks for the tips – especially about looking for a doserless Rocky. Sounds like you got a pretty good deal on your setup. I have another couple of other questions, if you don’t mind. You say the Silvia is fairly forgiving to newbies – were you a complete espresso machine virgin when you got your machine or did you already know how to use one? With that in mind, how long did it take before you were able to pull a decent shot from your machine? I’ve just been reading a couple of threads on forums where these guys talk about not being able to pick the temperature on the Silvia and then going out and spending hundreds of dollars on pretty speccy sounding thermometres and stuff – – is this necessary or are they just going nuts on extra accessories to play with? The reason I ask is that I’m a complete newbie in the espresso machine game (a professional coffee drinker though – yes, I’m committed to putting in the hours) and am wanting a machine which will have the capacity for me to learn on it, develop a skill and produce great tasting results but won’t be completly out of my league/overkill either. Also financially I’m prepared to spend the money on a good setup like the Silvia/Rocky combo but I don’t think I can justify buying $400 thermometres. I’d be keen to know what you think.

  4. Hi Nat,

    I was indeed an espresso machine virgin. Miss Silvia is the first machine i’ve owned, and other than playing with a couple of La Cimbali commercial machines before, the only machine i’ve ever really used.

    I can say that you will probably throw a lot of coffee down the sink the first day you get it, but i was getting pretty decent shots within a week.

    Miss Silvia is a very well built, sturdy machine. She’s all very manual, far from overkill, and you will learn a lot about espresso from using her…

    The temperate issue is not a big deal… people do whats called “temperature surfing” to get around it. You do not need to go and buy expensive themostats and stuff unless you really want to (and you shouldn’t). One thing to realise is that everything you read will not make sense until you start using it. I read so much stuff before i bought mine, but it only actually made sense after i had been using it for a while. So put off any decisions about extra equipment you’ve read about until you’ve gotten used to using it.

    The only thing i would recommend buying is a set of digital kitchen scales, so you can weigh the amount of ground and tamped coffee you are putting into each shot (and the proper tamp i mentioned before).

    You’ll also notice pretty quickly that the biggest difference you will make to your shots is using really good fresh coffee, and making sure Rocky is set to the right level for your beans. This will be a matter of experimentation…so never be scared to start changing things around.

    Let me know how you get along.


  5. That’s it Matt – I just want to order one right now! I’m seriously having to hold myself back and be financially resposible and pay all my boring bills before I bring Silvia and Rocky into my life… but phew – it’s hard to hold back. Finally at 27 I have learnt that financial responsibility sucks, but massive credit card debt sucks even harder. However I’ve gotta say the whole “anticipation” is kind of fun too (just humour me here – I’m trying to convince myself it is better to wait and save up).

    Thanks for all your jargon-free advice – it’s great.


  6. By the way, when do you sleep? Between 3am and 6am or something? Is all your nocturnal posting activity an offshoot of having easy access to great tasting coffee?

  7. Hi Natalie,

    Glad to hear another of another successful conversion. If i could somehow make some money out of this myself i’d make it a full time job…but i can’t… so jargon free advice is all i’m good for.

    And yes, even at the tender age of 26 i am aware of credit card debt, and the problems that are caused by living beyond ones means… But i console myself in the fact that everything i buy will last at least as long as it takes for me to want something better.

    And sleeping comes low on my list of priorities, behind eating, drinking, and typing meaningless crap onto my blog… So i hope you enjoy the fruits of my labour… :)

    Just for you there’s a subscribe to comments checkbox below… so you’ll know exactly what time of the night/morning i’ve replied.

  8. Hi Matt
    I too have spent many hours searching for info on coffee machines since my Russell Hobbs decided to pass away. It was one of those that builds up steam pressure – we used to make big mugs of “frothy coffee” with it. Then naively I bought a cheap thing off the net that has the water reservoir and 15 bar pump blah blah blah, eagerly set it all up the day I got it, yuk first coffee was cold even though the green light was on, the steam pathetic. Bucket loads of coffee later and still not happy. Now I’m looking at machines that cost as much as my new fridge (is it all worth it?)because now I have read on forums people were saying the same thing about expensive machines until they perfected their technique. I has become a bit overwhelming but there is no way that I will ever make instant coffee at my house again.

  9. Hi Michelle,

    All i can really talk about is my experience, which has been great. I still love my Silvia and Rocky and would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone.

    What i will say is that unless you’re using fresh coffee, and have a quality grinder, you can’t expect to get good espresso from *any* coffee machine. So yes, it is possible to make very bad coffee on a very expensive machine.

    I would recommend buying as good a grinder as you can afford, look up rancilio rocky, Iberital, Nemox, and Mazzer Mini (top of the line). I’ve also heard good things about the new Sunbeam conical burr grinder (which at around $180 is very good value). A good grinder will outlast many espresso machines.

    For an espresso machine, it depends on what you prefer to drink and whether you entertain much. The Rancilio Silvia is an excellent machine for its class that can make really great steam for milk based drinks, but is a bit slow for making lots of drinks at once (single boiler as opposed to heat exchange…which is a whole other level).

    At around $700 – $800 new (and rising), you’re not talking small money… but a machine of that class will last you for many years to come. There is not one cafe in this city that I would prefer to go to for my coffee over what I can make at home.

    Hope that helps.

  10. Hey Matt,

    Just a quick hi to say great blog site. Love your passion for food and coffee.
    I am in the same boat as Natalie above in regards to considering Silvia and Rocky for some time now… years! But will hopefully pick up one by end of year hopefully (my wife says she’ll get me one for my b’day – yippee! all those little hints and brainwashing by me).
    Just some questions for you… Do you plumb your Silvia to filtered water? or no need to?
    And where do you get your fresh beans from?

    Thanks heaps!


  11. Hey Zach, thanks for stopping by.

    I know how it feels to be contemplating the jump for a long time. I spent about 6 months looking up different machines, comparing prices, reading reviews, stalking baristas… before I finally decided to just go for it. I can honestly say It was one of the best coffee related purchases I’ve ever made.

    The Silvia isn’t plumbable (well, not unless you’re this guy …and speak Chinese ). I just run Brita filtered water through mine, which does a reasonable job of making Perth’s water drinkable. I descale her with a Citric Acid solution every 6 months or so to get rid of scale.

    Assuming you’re in Perth, I can recommend none better for beans than Five Senses. They are local roasters who supply a number of great cafe’s in Perth, and also sell directly to the public through their website.

    Of course, if you’re a die hard, you’ll eventually end up roasting your own… which is what I do most of the time these days.

    Hope to hear great reports soon :)


  12. Thanks Matt, will keep you posted on how things pan out.
    Yes I’m in Perth, my Chinese is kinda rusty so plumbing is out of the question, will stick to filtered water then.
    Have heard good things about Five Senses (Lemon Espresso, Core Espresso use them but u know that already!), so when/if the machine arrives will give them a go for sure. As for roasting my own, one step at a time :)
    Just tried Boucla for the first time this morning, nice little place, had a nice flat white with rosetta :)
    Will have to go again to try a short mac or espresso next time.


  13. Cheers Zach… In terms of roasting… you’ll be suprised how quickly the bug catches you… If you’re bothering to search the web for info in the first place, then you may just be the kind of person who gets sucked into the inevitable spiral of seeking coffee perfection.

    Boucla is a great little place indeed… not sure if you saw my photos of it on flickr… definitely a good find.

  14. Hi Natalie, if you haven’t already purchased Silvia I highly recommend that you do, I’ve had mine for 3 months after using a Saeco Via Venezia (good little machine), but since Silvia arrived my family are in seventh heaven with the coffee I have been serving them. After sorting out the grind, tamp and ins and outs of the machine I am now producing consistently good espressos. It took me a while to master steaming milk, but a workshop at Epic Espresso helped me out no end and that facet is now under control and I even produced my first latte art, which my son was more than impressed with.
    So join the club, you won’t regret it…………

  15. Sadly you’re about a year too late there Trevor… but your advice is still good. Glad to hear you’ve got a nice setup at home and have been mastering the art for the benefit of your family :)

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