Every true espresso lover dreams of being able to make coffee-shop quality espresso in a matter of minutes within the comfort of their own home.
With all of the options on the market, it can be difficult to choose between the array of comparably priced choices all claiming to offer the same next-level experience.
Today, we will compare two top contenders for affordability, ease of use, and all the feature perks they offer: the Breville BES870XL Barista Express and the Rancilio Silvia.
This comparison will give you an idea of which espresso maker will work best in your home, based on the features you need and will use. Both are solid machines, but it is helpful to know how these two comparable machines stack up in a head to head.
|Name||Breville Barista Express||Rancilio Silvia|
Size (L x W x H)
|12.5 x 13.25 x 15.75 in||9.2 x 11.4 x 13.3 in|
|23 lbs||30 lbs|
|Heavier Chrome Tamper||Plastic Tamper|
Let’s start off by taking a look at what these two machines share in common. Since they are both semi-automatic machines, they function pretty similarly and have the same general brew process.
A semi-automatic machine means that the user has control over when the extraction process begins and ends. The good news about this time of espresso maker is that it allows you to learn to create the perfect espresso shot after just a few uses because you are tamping the coffee grounds and applying the pressure before the extraction process yourself.
When it comes to aesthetics, both machines have really great curb appeal, meaning they offer the stunning external appeal of a modern, sleek stainless steel appearance. They are also mid-sized to fit well in a standard kitchen, under overhanging cabinets.
Both espresso machines also offer you the ability to texture milk at any angle you like with swivel action steam wands, so that it is smooth and intuitive to froth and steam milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
I really like that both machines also sport a roomy 67 ounce water tank and the option for either a standard single or a double shot. The water tank size is an important consideration because refilling frequently can be a pain, especially when you’re half asleep in the morning.
Perhaps the most positive feature that these two models share is that both are beloved by those users new to the “be-your-own-barista experience” AND those who are veterans of the process, which is always an important factor when weighing the pros and cons of your next purchase.
Both machines are also in the under $1,000 price range and are high-quality options in the espresso machine market.
While the Breville and Rancilio share some basic features, they do diverge on quite a few points that can be definitive in ruling which is the better pick for the home barista.
As mentioned in the similarities section, both machines offer the stainless steel housing, but only the Breville offers different color options. Now, I think most users probably prefer the stainless that the Breville and Rancilio both come in. But if not, the Barista Express also comes in a mixture of stainless steel and metallic red, as well as stainless steel and black.
Another thing to consider when it comes to the construction of the machine, is that the Rancilio Silvia is just plain heavier. It uses more commercial and semi-commercial grade materials, making the smaller sized machine the weightier of the two.
Many feel that the Rancilio Silvia is more durable because of these high-grade materials it is built with, such as stainless steel and cast iron, which are both known for their longevity. This isn’t to say that the Breville is poorly made, only that the Rancilio excels on this count.
While both machines have steam wands, the Breville has an auto-purge function for its wand, which allows you to extract espresso immediately after using the steam function, no waiting and no purging manually.
The Rancilio has a button for manual purging, which isn’t difficult to use, but it just isn’t quite as convenient as the Breville.
One main difference, obvious from the first look at these machines, is that the Breville has a built-in grinder, while the Rancilio Silvia does not.
If you already own a high quality grinder and you’re pleased with the results, then this won’t be an issue for you, but for many purchasing a new espresso machine, the built-in grinder is a nice convenience feature.
When I was purchasing my own espresso machine (I bought the Breville!), I upgraded from the Infuser, just for that built-in grinder. I didn’t have one already and didn’t want to invest in a good one until I felt like I mastered the machine and upped my skill level. It’s a conical burr style (no blades) and does a solid job of grinding fresh beans. The coarseness selection wheel is easy to use and I’ve calibrated it to my most commonly used beans for optimal extraction.
The least of the differences between the Breville and the Rancilio Silvia is the price; although it technically offers more features, the Breville costs almost $100 less than its competitor.
That’s $100 that could go towards finding the best espresso beans to grind in your Breville’s built-in grinder. If you don’t already own a quality grinder and need to purchase one, that’s also going to up the cost of owning the Rancilio.
Though both machines include a tamper, the Breville comes with a heavier chrome style that is held in place by a magnet within the machine for easy and appealing storage. The Rancilio Silvia comes with a plastic tamper and no built-in storage space, which isn’t a deal breaker, but it isn’t wow-ing me either.
I’m not a fan of cheap, plastic tampers. A tamper is actually a pretty important part of the process – the right pressure and an even tamp will really improve the quality of the shot. Luckily, tampers really aren’t expensive and if you do end up with the Rancilio, this tamper from BlueSnail is a great add-on option.
I’m a big fan of honing my barista skills and part of that is understanding if I’m getting an optimal extraction. That’s really tough to do without a pressure gauge so you can see if you’re hitting the 8-10 bar sweet spot.
The Breville offers a front and center pressure gauge that the Rancilio Silvia is lacking. Now, if you aren’t really into the finer points of espresso making and just want to pull a good shot for your morning latte, this really isn’t going to matter. If you really want to perfect your espresso game, this might be a reason to select the Breville.
All-in-all, both machines offer an excellent user experience, depending on what you are looking for. If the purchase of a high-quality grinder, such as the one that is built into the Breville, would cause you to spend an additional $150+, then the decision to purchase the Barista Express is a simple one.
Like the Rancilio, the Breville is a high quality machine, costs less by nearly $100, and has more quality and convenience features that will make you feel like an experienced barista after just a few extractions.
If you already own a high quality grinder, and the durable materials that the Rancilio Silvia is built outweigh the pressure gauge, color choices, and purge feature of the steam wand on the Breville, then the Rancilio is worth considering.
Overall, the Breville is my top pick in this match-up.
Chatting about coffee is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better.
I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!