Posted on 14 April 2011 by Nate
If you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time, you’ll understand that my affinity for the Rancilio Silvia is unparalleled with respect to nearly anything else relating to coffee. However, in all fairness I though it was time that we took a look at possible alternatives to the Rancilio Silvia, meaning home espresso machines under $1,000, to discuss what other machines are currently on the market and how they stack up. The Rancilio Silvia is an amazing machine, but it may not suit everyone. Let’s take a look at three of the current top sellers in the sub-$1,000 range and how they compare to Miss Silvia.
Nuova Simonelli Oscar
Nuova Simonelli’s first model was produced in Italy by Orlando Simonelli in 1936 and since then, the company has had many hits, including the Oscar. While it’s current price is right at $1,000, it does offer a few notable features that make it a worthy adversary to the Rancilio Silvia as well as a few drawbacks.
First, the Oscar utilizes an HX (heat exchanger) boiler, which is the gold standard found in most commercial espresso machines. Essentially, as the boiler approaches its optimal temperature, it is filled with one half hot water and one half pressurized dry steam. As the water passes through a pipe that is enclosed in the horizontally-seated boiler housing, it is flash heated to the predetermined brewing temperature, thus coined the “heat exchange” method. This method provides expectational temperature stability and offers unlimited steaming capabilities. Steam is constantly available by opening the steam wand (as opposed to the necessity with the Rancilio Silvia to turn on the steam function), and you can even steam and brew simultaneously.
One of the drawbacks of the Oscar is the lack of a hot water dispenser. Additionally, while its plastic housing allows for you to choose from trendy colors, it doesn’t command the respect and authority of the stainless steel housing in which Miss Silvia is draped. For full specs on the Nuova Simonelli Oscar, click here.
Pasquini Livietta T2
Pasquini tends to specialize in high-end home espresso machines, but the price is right with the Livietta T2 at around Just over $1,000. This stunningly beautiful machine does come housed in steel and has a similar look and feel to the Rancilio Silvia. It has many of the same features, although interestingly enough it uses a 57mm portafilter basket.
The Livietta incorporates dual thermoblock heating elements and is therefore know to be an absolute heat demon. The company claims that it’s ready for brewing in as little as 2 minutes after start up, although it would be wise to allow time for a proper heating. This does make the availability of steam more plentiful than with the Rancilio Silvia. It also comes standard with a 15 bar pump which provides stable and consistent brewing pressure. For additional specs and features of the Livietta T2, click here.
Gaggia Baby Twin
Gaggia has long been a staple producer of sub-$1000 home espresso machines with several major hits, including the Classic and the current incarnation of the Baby series, the Gaggia Baby Twin.
The Baby Twin comes in stainless steel construction and its key selling point is the namesake dual boilers. One boiler retains hot water for espresso brewing while the second boiler produces steam for frothing. There’s no need to flip a switch and wait for steam to come up to temperature while your espresso gets cold. The Baby Twin also incorporate a nifty iPod-esque touch ring control panel for a hint of modern European flair which also allows for adjustable programming. For a full list of features on the Baby Twin, click here.
The Bay Twin comes with a standard 58mm portafilter, class-standard 15 bar vibratory pump, and 3-way solenoid valve as with all models in this range. Its current price is very budget friendly at just under $600.
So there you have it. While the Rancilio Silvia may be the top-selling sub-$1000 home espresso machine, the field is filled with contenders to meet your unique home espresso requirements.