In the sales department, we get calls from customers who are researching machines, Most people have usually narrowed it down to a few machines that fit their needs. Those with budgets in the $1000 range for a machine, they inevitably consider the Rancilio Silvia and the Gaggia Classic.
I love getting these calls, because whichever way the customer goes, I know they will be satisfied with the machine, whichever one they choose. Each machine has reasons it would be a slightly better fit for a particular customer, and I regularly talk to customers who have had either one of these models for 10 years plus. So what are the pros and cons of each machine, and which one fits you best?
Gaggia Classic: Pros and Cons
Let’s start off with the Gaggia Classic. It is a proven model that has been around for over 25 years. The Classic can compete with a number of machines, not just the Silvia.
Pro- Small volumetric boiler – Gives you a quick heat up time. The machine will give you a ready light in about three minutes but it is really ready to rumble in about five minutes.
Pro- All stainless housing, rocker switches, 3 way solenoid valve – All great features that really make the unit stand out. Striking looks with the stainless housing, durable rocker switches that almost never wear out, and the three way solenoid that makes for easy clean up and adds to the machine’s life-span.
Pro- Includes pod, pressurized and non-pressurized baskets all in a commercial portafilter – The Classic is one of the most versatile machine that we sell. It can brew pods, pre-ground with the pressurized baskets or for the ultimate control, non-pressurized baskets. The chrome-plated brass portafilter also lends to a stable brew temp across the machine.
Con- Small boiler – The double-edged sword of the smaller boiler is that if you need to steam a lot of milk, over 10 ounces, you will notice the machine’s boiler size, and inherent lack of ‘steam stamina’.
Con- Aluminum boiler – This is a non-issue to some people. Others don’t like aluminum being the primary component of the boiler’s alloy. It’s actually because of the aluminum boiler that it is able to heat up so quickly.
Con- Water reservoir placement – While refilling it is easy due to a funnel through the middle of the machine. But removing the reservoir for cleaning does require that you first remove the drip tray. Not a huge con, but it can become a nuisance.
Rancilio Silvia: Pros and Cons
The Rancilio is another proven machine that has been on the market for about 12 years and has a near cult following. So loved, this machine has a number of after market modifications for it, and we’ve heard back from people that they have had the housing anodized with other metals to completely “trick” their machine out.
Pro- All stainless housing, rocker switches, 3 way solenoid valve – Like the Classic above, the Silvia also sports a stainless steel housing, with a nice black accent down the middle. The rocker switches are nice and durable. Silvia has the ever-important three-way solenoid valve. (check out my blog ‘A Three Way Solenoid? What is That?’ for a better understanding of this feature).
Pro- Large 12 ounce boiler – The Silvia sports a beefier 12 ounce boiler, made out of brass. The Silvia benefits better ‘steam stamina’ from the larger boiler size.
Pro- Commercial portafilter with non-pressurized baskets, and pod adaptability – The Silvia’s commercial portafilter made of chrome plated brass and works extremely well with the non-pressurized baskets, gives you great control over the shot with your grind and tamp techniques. And if you wish, there is a pod adaptor kit that is sold separately and allows you to brew pods.
Con- Finicky of the grind – The Silvia is very particular of the grind fineness and consistency. You will need to buy a Gaggia MDF or Rancilio Rocky to brew at it’s best.
Con- Larger 12 ounce boiler – Requires a longer warm-up time. About five minutes for the ready light to come on, but really ready to rumble in about seven minutes.
Con- Pod adaptability – While pod capable with the adaptor, the machine is a one or the other machine. With the pod kit actually changing the group head, you cannot do ground on a pod-kitted Silvia and vice-versa.
Both are Winners…
If you need a machine that heats up quick, can brew out 2-3 long shots to fill your travel mug as you run out the door, the Classic may be more suitable. If you’re looking to have a latte for you and each of your family every night as you wind down for a moment together, the Silvia would fit better for you.
But the floor is open to debate. Which machine do you have, and why does it fit you better?