Posted on 21 February 2011 by Nate
This is the second article in our exploration of the perfect shot walk through for the Rancilio Silvia. In our last post at the Rancilio Silvia Review, we discussed the first factor of the perfect shot, bean selection. The second critical element, which we’ll discuss here, is ensuring that you use the proper grind setting.
When pulling espresso shots from the Rancilio Silvia or any other home espresso machine, one of the indications of good technique is how long the shot takes. As you may be aware, the ideal shot time is about 25 to 28 seconds. During this time, your machine should infuse the grinds with an initial burst of hot water and pressure, creating an environment which raises the temperature, moisture, and pressure within the portafilter for about 3 or 4 seconds before coffee begins to drip from the portafilter. After the coffee begins to extract into your cup, you want to see rich brown and red espresso extraction right up to about the 25 second mark. Once you see blonding of the espresso, you’ll know that you’ve reached the end of the extraction of the rich flavors within the grinds and that indicates the point at which you stop the shot. Ideally, this happens at around 25 to 28 seconds into the pull.
While the Rancilio Silvia is a terrific machine for achieving this timing, it’s easier said than done. The step to make this all work out just right is in your grinder setting selection. If you’ve chosen an adequate burr grinder to pair with your Rancilio Silvia (perhaps the Rancilio Rocky which is one of the best grinders in its class at $349), you will probably have a range of 2 to 4 “clicks” which are ideal for this process.
To be honest, there are far too many variables to discuss in detail as there are hundreds of grinders you can choose from and they all work differently. If you’ve used your grinder for some time, you will have a good starting point. Be prepared to waste some coffee during this process. When I have a new blend I want to try, I typically go straight to the most “open” or coarse setting that I know will fit into the espresso range. I pull a shot and shoot for the optimal 25 to 28 second extraction. It rarely happens on the first pull. I step over to a finer setting if the shot runs too quickly and try again. After this, I repeat until I’ve hit the 25 to 28 second shot. I generally nail it on the second or third pull from my Rancilio Silvia.
Once I have found the right setting for the blend I’m working with, I take a small arrow pointer sticker which I found in a craft section of a department store and mark that setting in case I need to readjust later in the day for drip coffee. Generally, every two or three days I move past the roast date of the espresso blend requires a small adjustment toward a finer setting. Use caution as moving to too fine a setting will choke your Rancilio Silvia, but if you start to get faster extraction as you move past the roast date of the beans, you’ll know it’s time to adjust to a finer setting.
Again, there are many variables that go into the right grinder setting, but if you take some time to pull two or three calibration shots each time you are using a new espresso blend, you’ll be able to find the perfect grinder setting for your Rancilio Silvia.