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Tech Tips: Temperature Surfing on the Rancilio Silvia

Oh, Miss Silvia! A beloved home espresso machine among many a household, she can pull an Rancilio Silviaespresso shot like nobody's business. However, like other single boiler espresso machines, you need to do a bit of temperature surfing after steaming your milk in order to get a quality shot of espresso. Unlike regular surfing, though, you don't need to wear a bathing suit, so that's pretty sweet.

Why do you need to temperature surf? Well, steam temperature is right around 212 degrees F, whereas brewing temperature is between 195-205 degrees F. If you steam your milk and jump immediately into the brewing process, you're at far too hot a temperature for a tasty shot of espresso. Yes, it will still pull the shot, but there will be plenty of burned taste to be had!

Luckily, Gail and Brendan are here to walk us through the simple process in the video below. And let's try to keep daydreaming about the beach to a minimum, shall we?

3 thoughts on “Tech Tips: Temperature Surfing on the Rancilio Silvia”

  • Chris

    Great point regards siphoning of the milk into the steam wand! I remember getting the gist of that direction when someone said it was good practice to turn off the steam as you're pulling away from the milk. I too added the steps of wiping down the outside of the wand each drink; and after rinsing off the graduate I draw my espresso into, filling it with cool water, then using the steam wand to bring that water nearly to boil... let sit for a moment and then blow the water which had been drawn into the wand into the catch tray. This does a very good job of demonstrating to me I've got a clean wand and the nozzle(s) on the steamer are cleared.

    Thanks for the demo on thermal surfing!

  • Bill Schafer

    Hi Gail, I mostly agree with your Temp surfing comments, HOWEVER:

    Based on the Rancillio manual, you should actually activate the extraction switch instead of the Hot Water Switch. This is how you "prime" the boiler, which is essentially what you are trying to do. While the extraction switch is on, you open the steam knob to vent out any remaining steam. Here is my process that I have been using for at least 5 years on my Silvia:

    1. Activate the steam switch and wait for the light to go off. While this is happening I am filling my milk pitcher and preheating my cups using my sinks hot water tap (more on this to come)
    2. Steam the milk and end by turning off the steam switch
    3. Wipe down the steam wand to remove any milk residue
    4. Place a cup under the steam wand and either shot glasses or the cup you intend to use for the shot
    5. Turn on the extraction switch (wand is in and locked without the portafilter)
    6. Open the steam valve until water flows clear out of the wand
    7. Time the remaining extraction to stop just prior to the light coming on. I do this by using shot glasses where I stop just as I get one shot. Set aside the shot glasses.
    8. Remove the wand, insert the portafilter, and prep the wand for the shot (add coffee grounds and tamp
    9. The light should have gone off after reheating and is just about ready for extraction
    10. Load the portafilter into the Silvia and if the light has been off for 15 sec or so, begin extraction per all of SCG fine instructionals.

    I can steam and extract about three shots per reservoir fill using this method. I like extracting into shot glasses to help get the grind and time set right. As the beans age, the grind usually needs to be adjusted finer to compensate. NOTHING will compensate for stale beans, read: more than 3 weeks old from the roast date.

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