Posted on 25 April 2011 by Nate
One of the most popular aftermarket modifications for the Rancilio Silvia is the PID kit. The PID, or proportional integral derivative, unit is an electronic device which can be installed on the Rancilio Silvia to offer added control over the boiler heating element within the machine.
Once installed, the device will adjust the boiler temperature within the machine in small calculated increments, which achieves a predetermined temperature referred to as the set value. Essentially, the micro-management of the internal boiler temperature provides the user with incredibly stable temperatures and thus, better espresso. In a previous article, we discussed the inherent temperature range of the stock Rancilio Silvia as well as the reasons why a more stable boiler temperature increases the quality and flavor of the coffee.
The stock Rancilio Silvia controls the internal boiler temperature through the use of a mechanical thermostat and this out of the box unit actually allows the temperature within the boiler to swing by up to 40 degrees, which is a massive amount of fluctuation. The PID can generally maintain temperature stability within 1 degree and sometimes even less. Not bad, is it?
There are actually several additional benefits to installing a PID unit on your Rancilio Silvia as well. Many users believe that the increased temperature stability can decrease wear and tear on the machine and extend its useful life. This makes sense, as the stock temperature swings require the heating element and the boiler itself to undergo many large heating cycles. This brings up another benefit: energy usage. With the addition of a PID unit and the temperature stability it brings, you’re actually using less electricity. The heating element uses quite a bit of power to bring the boiler up to temperature during each heating cycle.
Some PID users also note that they need to descale their Rancilio Silvia less, since the boiler does not reach incredibly high temperatures which can lead to mineral scaling. Less scale within the boiler can extend its life as well.
But what about the real reason for considering a PID: better coffee? Consistency in temperature eliminates one of the largest variables in making good espresso. With a consistent and stable temperature, you can turn your focus to bean selection, grind settings, and tamping technique to refine your home espresso production. Aside from the brewing pressure, temperature is one variable which doesn’t rely on user technique, but machine function.
So how difficult is it to install? With the advent of Rancilio Silvia PID kits and their widespread availability through online vendors over the last few years, installation is relatively simple for the mechanically inclined. Generally, the kits which are available on the market come with excellent detailed instructions which include in-depth photos to aid you in the process. Most users who have carried out the installation themselves state that it’s about a 3 hours process to have the PID installed and functional.
If you’re serious about making great espresso with your Rancilio Silvia and are a tinkerer by nature, check out the PID kits online and think about taking that next step to the perfect shot!