Breville Barista Express Vs Rancilio Silvia: How Are They Different?

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Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia: It is easy to come to the conclusion that the former is the overall winner, and here is why.

The Breville Barista Express is one of the best entry-level espresso machines available today. It comes with a great set of attachments and has a wide range of settings for you to achieve that perfect shot. I also loved that it has a high-quality burr grinder with up to 16 grind settings. What’s more, it heats up very quickly with a Thermocoil heating system.

For newcomers to the world of espresso, the Rancilio Silvia could be more of a challenge than a joy. In addition to frothing milk with its manual wand, you will need to practice “temperature surfing” due to its absence of PID temperature control. Moreover, it offers zero customization options for espresso extraction, which could be a sticking point for some.

Breville Barista Express Vs Rancilio Silvia: Comparison Chart

Image
THE WINNER (#1)
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, Brushed Stainless Steel, BES870XL, Large
THE RUNNER-UP (#2)
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machinet,0.3 liters, with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch
Model
Breville Barista Express
Rancilio Silvia
Dimensions/Weight
12.5 x 13.5 x 16 inches/26 lbs
9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 inches/30.8 lbs
Heating System
Single Thermocoil Heating System
Single Boiler System
Interface
Buttons
Buttons
One Touch Drink Options
2
2
Spigot Type/Cup Clearance
Dual/4 inches
Dual/3 inches
Water Reservoir/Bean Hopper
2 liter/0.24 liter
2 liter/None
Pump Pressure
15 bars
15 bars
Built-in Grinder
Stainless Steel Conical Burr Grinder
Grinding Settings
16
Pre-Infusion
Filter
Yes (Optional)
Milk Frothing System
Manual Steam Wand
Manual Steam Wand
Compatible With Pre-ground Coffee
App Connectivity
What I Like
Price
$698.99
$865.00
THE WINNER (#1)
Image
Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, Brushed Stainless Steel, BES870XL, Large
Model
Breville Barista Express
Dimensions/Weight
12.5 x 13.5 x 16 inches/26 lbs
Heating System
Single Thermocoil Heating System
Interface
Buttons
One Touch Drink Options
2
Spigot Type/Cup Clearance
Dual/4 inches
Water Reservoir/Bean Hopper
2 liter/0.24 liter
Pump Pressure
15 bars
Built-in Grinder
Stainless Steel Conical Burr Grinder
Grinding Settings
16
Pre-Infusion
Filter
Yes (Optional)
Milk Frothing System
Manual Steam Wand
Compatible With Pre-ground Coffee
App Connectivity
What I Like
Price
$698.99
More Info
THE RUNNER-UP (#2)
Image
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machinet,0.3 liters, with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch
Model
Rancilio Silvia
Dimensions/Weight
9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 inches/30.8 lbs
Heating System
Single Boiler System
Interface
Buttons
One Touch Drink Options
2
Spigot Type/Cup Clearance
Dual/3 inches
Water Reservoir/Bean Hopper
2 liter/None
Pump Pressure
15 bars
Built-in Grinder
Grinding Settings
Pre-Infusion
Filter
Milk Frothing System
Manual Steam Wand
Compatible With Pre-ground Coffee
App Connectivity
What I Like
Price
$865.00
More Info

Last update on 2024-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Breville Barista Express Vs Rancilio Silvia: Differences

The Breville Barista Express beats the Rancilio Silvia with a 4-2 win. The following are the details of this uncompromising confrontation.

Coffee Flavour

Winner: Breville Barista Express

Built-in Grinder

The Breville Barista Express features a stainless steel conical burr grinder that is based on the awesome Smart Grinder Pro from the same brand. Having a built-in grinder is great since it not only saves so much time and effort but also saves you counter space, and you don’t have to worry about finding room for an extra unit. Sadly, the Rancilio Silvia has no grinder, which is a disappointment considering its nearly $1000 price tag. Rancilio also sells some grinders of their own separately.

the conical burr grinder on the breville barista express
The conical burr grinder on the Breville Barista Express

A big plus about the burr grinder on the Barista Express is that it is actually quiet during operation, ensuring that your early morning coffee rituals won’t disturb anyone’s sleep. Better yet, it delivers a consistently uniform grind, paving the way for full-bodied, perfectly balanced espresso shots. Also, there is a dial to the left of the machine that allows you to toggle between 16 grind settings to tailor your brew to perfection.

the breville barista express has up to 16 grind settings
The Breville Barista Express has up to 16 grind settings

Speaking of the portafilter, the Barista Express uses a 54-mm portafilter, while the Rancilio Silvia takes the lead with a commercial-grade 58-mm portafilter. They both feel well-made and are among the nicest portafilters out there for home-use machines. The 58mm portafilter is the gold standard for pulling exceptional espresso shots and is commonly the go-to choice in professional coffee houses.

The Barista Express has four filter baskets, including pressurized and non-pressurized options for both single and double shots. Meanwhile, the Rancilio Silvia only comes out of the box with two non-pressurized ones. Pressurized filter baskets are forgiving for beginners or those using subpar grinders, but non-pressurized ones can produce better-quality espresso as long as you get excellent grinding results.

the barista express comes with four filter baskets
The Barista Express comes with four filter baskets

I was pleasantly surprised that these machines come equipped with high-quality stainless steel tampers that are far superior to the cheap “knock-off” ones that come with some of the Gaggia units I’ve tested. The Rancilio Silvia offers a bit lighter tamper, but its lighter weight serves a purpose—it attaches magnetically to the machine for convenient storage.

Heating System

They are single-heating system machines, so they can’t pull espresso while you froth milk with their wands. When switching between brewing and steaming, they need to adjust their temperature settings, which takes time and results in a wait time between these two tasks.

But this is, in my opinion, not a deal breaker for the Barista Express since it boasts a thermocoil heating system, which quickly heats water on the fly for approximately a minute. Believe me, this makes a big difference compared to traditional boilers, which take about 20 minutes to heat up. Personally, I preferred to give the machine a few additional minutes to allow the group head and portafilter to fully heat, making for an optimal brewing environment.

On the other hand, the traditional boiler on the Rancilio Silvia takes about 15 to 20 minutes to heat up. In fact, it is made from marine-grade brass instead of stainless steel or aluminum. This alloy contains copper and zinc, so it doesn’t have the thermal conductivity of pure copper, but it does excel in corrosion resistance and is a cost saver for a boiler.

The thing is, unlike the Breville Barista Express, the Rancilio Silvia has no PID temperature control. This one just uses a thermostat, and the temperature of its boiler constantly goes up and down. Hence, you will need to practice “temperature surfing” to achieve convincing results. This technique might involve waiting for the boiler to cool down slightly after using the steam wand or timing your shots in relation to when the machine heats up.

Temperature surfing, no doubt, requires a good understanding of your machine’s behavior and its temperature fluctuations. This skill may initially seem daunting, but trust me, with consistent practice and experimentation, you’ll find it becomes second nature before you know it.

Looking for an alternative to temperature surfing? You have the option to retrofit a PID controller to your existing Rancilio Silvia, but this is another challenge. Fortunately, you can opt to buy a Rancilio Silvia that comes with a PID controller pre-installed, but be prepared to dig a little deeper into your wallet. By the way, you might want to consider the Rancilio Silvia Pro X, which has not only a built-in PID controller but also two boilers.

Brewing System

The role of pre-infusion in a well-rounded espresso shot is undeniable. During this brief stage, hot water is gently introduced to the coffee grounds under low pressure before the full brewing process begins. This helps release flavorful compounds from the coffee grounds, contributing to a richer and more well-rounded flavor profile.

The Breville Barista Express has the pre-infusion function, while the Rancilio Silvia technically lacks it. I said “technically,” as there is a trick here. This involves opening up the steam valve a quarter turn before pushing the coffee switch. This will redirect the majority of the pressure away from the group head. Once you reach your desired pre-infusion time, just close the steam valve, and the extraction process will begin.

The pumps on both units are engineered to hit a maximum of 15 bars of pressure, which is well above the minimum pressure of 9 bars needed for effective espresso extraction. In my own tasting, the shots were rich and potent, rivaling anything you’d get at a coffee shop. Taste them side by side, and I suspect you’d find them indistinguishable.

Milk Frothing System

These espresso machines come with commercial-grade stainless steel steam wands with acorn tips. They are classic wands, meaning you will need to do a little practice to achieve the froth needed for any milk-based drink, such as a latte or cappuccino. For newcomers, panarello wands may be more forgiving and apt for generating fluffy froth suitable for cappuccinos. But they generally fall short in creating the finer textures essential for a latte.

breville barista express vs rancilio silvia's steam milks
Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia’s steam milks

The Rancilio Silvia comes with a two-hole steam wand that, in my experience, packs quite a punch. It even considerably outperformed the one-hole wand on the Barista Express in terms of steam power. So, if you’re a novice, you can fine-tune its pressure by gradually adjusting the steam dial. They can rotate freely on a ball joint, making it effortless to set them at the most effective angle for your frothing endeavors.

both have a one-hole wand
Both have a one-hole wand

Seriously, with these wands, I was able to create fluffy, thick froth for a hearty morning cappuccino and smooth, velvety microfoam perfect for a latte art game.  Once again, there’s a steep learning curve to achieve café-quality milk foam, but once you’ve mastered it, your local coffee shop visits will become a thing of the past.

Design & Usability

Wiiner: Breville Barista Express

Dimensions, Footprint, & Weight

Breville Barista ExpressRancilio Silvia
Dimensions12.5 x 13.5 x 16 inches9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 inches
Weight26 lbs30.8 lbs

The Breville Barista Express is considerably larger than the Rancilio Silvia, but it’s not a behemoth at all. These boxy machines will generally fit nicely on any kitchen counter. If you intend to place your machine beneath overhead cabinets, ensure that there is sufficient clearance above the machine to fill the water tank and bean hopper. In addition, if you opt for the Rancilio Silvia, you’ll need additional space on your kitchen counter for a stand-alone grinder.

Both have a sleek, streamlined modern design and come in shiny metal casings in addition to the matte black finishes of my options. So if you are a traditionalist, you will be glad to hear you can order these machines in stainless steel. Regardless of your color choice, you can be sure that these machines are well made and feel like they’ll last for a long time.

Regarding the control panel, Rancilio Silvia keeps things to a minimum with some switches and two LED lights. I found the power switch on my unit particularly interesting: it sports a lightning bolt symbol rather than the usual power icon, conjuring images of Zeus’s mighty weapon.

The control panel on the Breville Barista Express offers an array of clearly marked buttons and knobs, but you may need to refer to the instruction guide occasionally to fully understand the hidden customization options like water temperature, pre-infusion duration, and espresso shot volume. And let’s not forget the center-mounted pressure gauge: it might appear redundant initially, but it’s really invaluable for perfecting your espresso shot.

breville barista express vs rancilio silvia’s control panels
Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia’s control panels

Pre-programmed Coffee Options

Breville Barista ExpressRancilio Silvia
Espresso
Hot Water
Espresso
Hot Water

Unlike the Rancilio Silvia, which offers no customizable settings for espresso extraction, the Barista Express comes with almost all the settings you can think of, including the grind size, the pre-infusion time, the brewing temperature, and the length of each shot. It’s a playground for you to experiment with different settings to find the perfect balance that suits your taste preferences.

Both have a hot water function, giving you a quick way to get hot water for making tea or Americano-style coffee. But while the Rancilio Silvia’s wand doubles as a hot water spout, the Breville Barista Express has a separate spigot for dispensing hot water, meaning that there’s no risk of milk residue or flavors mixing with the hot water.

the breville barista express has a separate hot water spout
The Breville Barista Express has a separate hot water spout

Spout & Cup Clearance

Breville Barista ExpressRancilio Silvia
Spout TypeDualDual
Cup Clearance4 inches3 inches

As you might have guessed, the Barista Express can accommodate a broader array of cup sizes, including some travel mugs. To fit a taller insulated coffee mug, I discovered that I could simply remove the drip tray for added height. These machines can also brew two shots separately at once or a dual shot for stronger coffee.

breville barista express vs rancilio silvia's cup height
Breville Barista Express vs Rancilio Silvia’s cup height

Water Reservoir & Bean Hopper

Breville Barista ExpressRancilio Silvia
Water Reservoir2 liter2 liter
Bean Hopper0.24 literNone

The larger water reservoirs on these espresso machines offer the advantage of requiring fewer refills, even when the machines are placed in settings where they are used frequently. The positioning of the water reservoirs behind the machine can indeed be awkward, especially when they are placed under overhead cabinets. So it’s important to ensure that you have enough room above the machine to conveniently refill or remove the water tank.

We all know the importance of high-quality water for brewing espresso, and thank God Breville also does. The Breville Barista Express comes equipped with a charcoal water filter designed to remove impurities in mind. This not only ensures that your espresso is brewed with clean water, but it also prolongs the lifespan of your machine. While you have the option to forego using the filter, I’d recommend doing so only if you’re certain your water is already pre-filtered.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Winner: Tie

Apart from wiping and purging their steam wands after each use, you should backflush with water to prevent the buildup of coffee oils. This process involves placing the included cleaning disc into the portafilter, fitting it into the group head, and then running the machine.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how often these machines should be descaled since this depends on many factors, such as the hardness of your water, how often you use your machine, and whether you use the water filter. Anyway, descaling them is a breeze, and you should only use the descaler provided or recommended by the manufacturer.

Alongside other upkeep steps, don’t forget to empty and clean the drip tray and coffee grounds box when they become full. I also recommend giving the machine’s casing a good wipe with a damp microfiber rag to get rid of those coffee and milk stains. This might sound like extra work, but believe me, your machine will thank you for it.

Utilities & Other Features

Winner: Tie

Auto Off

These espresso machines will turn themselves off after half an hour without use. That is great for reducing electricity consumption and preventing potential hazards, but if only they allowed the shut-off duration to be changed.

Quick Rundown Of Breville Barista Express

Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine, Black Sesame, BES870BSXL, 2
  • Earn up to $200 cashback with a Beanz coffee subscription when you purchase a selected Breville espresso machine. Valid Aug 1, 2023 until Jun 30, 2024
  • The Breville Barista Express delivers third wave specialty coffee at home using the 4 keys formula and is part of the Barista Series that offers all in one espresso machines with integrated grinder to go from beans to espresso in under one minute
  • DOSE CONTROL GRINDING: Integrated precision conical burr grinder grinds on demand to deliver the right amount of freshly ground coffee directly into the portafilter for your preferred taste with any roast of bean
  • OPTIMAL WATER PRESSURE: Low pressure pre-infusion gradually increases pressure at the start and helps ensure all the flavors are drawn out evenly during the extraction for a balanced tasting cup
  • PRECISE ESPRESSO EXTRACTION: Digital temperature control (PID) delivers water at precisely the right temperature, ensuring optimal espresso extraction

Last update on 2024-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros
  • Has a well built and stylish design.
  • Offers up to 16 grind settings.
  • The pre-infusion process is adjustable.
  • A lot of adjustable settings.
  • Thermocoil system heats up quickly.
Cons
  • Quite heavy.
  • Has a single boiler.

Quick Rundown Of Rancilio Silvia

Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machinet,0.3 liters, with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch
  • Ergonomic porta filter handle same as the proven design of Rancilio commercial machines
  • Commercial grade group head for superb heat stability and extraction quality
  • Articulating steam wand offers complete range of motion and professional steaming knob precisely controls steaming pressure
  • Classic linear design fits most decors
  • Optional pod and capsule adaptor kit available

Last update on 2024-03-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros
  • Has an user friendly control panel.
  • Features a powerful steam wand.
  • Has a high-quality portafilter and tamper.
  • Compact and fits any kitchen countertop.
  • The water reservoir is large.
Cons
  • No built-in grinder.
  • No PID controller.

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