Rancilio Silvia PID Temperature Controller Installation

This isn't a post about coffee brewing technique - there's lots of great sites and posts dedicated to this on the interweb. I love my Rancilio Siliva - I look at it as a simple, rugged, reliable machine for making coffee. It has it's limitations however, and one of them is the ability to manage brewing water temperature. There is no temperature indication on the stock Silvia, and the brew water thermostat on the boiler has just two setpoints - water heating lower limit, and upper limit.

Auber PID Temperature Controller - White LED version
The installation of a PID (proportional–integral–derivative) temperature controller is designed to resolve these limitations by providing temperature display, and automated brewing and steaming functions with the ability to customize key settings - such as brew water temperature, brewing time, and so on.

Completed PID installation on the Rancilio Silvia - note the box to the right of the group head with the white LED temperature display. 

PID Installation

The Auber installation manual is clear and self explanatory. I don't intend to reproduce a manual here, just provide some photos and tips / observations from my installation experience. 

Installation of the SSR (solid state relay) is fairly straightforward. It installs next to the pump on the main chassis of the machine. The Auber kit comes with one nut, bolt and washer for installation through the bottom vent holes. I drilled a second hole and added a second fastener to help hold the SSR a bit more securely, and ensure the bottom surface and heat transfer silicone is as tight as possible for best possible heat transfer and component reliability. 

Hole drilled in chassis for second fasterner

Note the heat transfer silicone - I cleaned this up for a neater final installation. 

Top view. Note the scale on the black chassis to
 the right of the SSR from a leaking high pressure hose fitting. 
One other tip - this installation places the SSR almost directly below the high pressure stainless braided hose. I made sure to correct a leak in the 90 degree elbow fitting using some pipe dope. I also added a small plastic sheet to deflect any water from the SSR in the case of a future leak.

Wiring the controller was straighforward, again, the instructions were quite clear. Just one tip - I inverted the machine for performing the wiring and prep for adhesive tape installation. This made it very easy to access the connections, and apply pressure to the PID when applying the adhesive tape. 

I temporarily taped the PID enclosure to the steam wand to keep it out of the way during wiring termination.
PID Controller Wiring Complete
Note - when I cleaned the surfaces for installation of the PID - most of the ink came off the UL certification label. I ended up removing the certification label to ensure a clean surface for intallation of the PID. I don't recommend removing the certification label. One other thing I did was to use a heat gun to heat the metal sheet where the PID was to be installed, and gently heating the adhesive also. This allows the adhesive tape to completely adapt to the surface inconsistencies for the best possible bond.

Cleaning the PID Controller installation surface
Certification Label
PID Controller installed. Working with the machine inverted makes it easy to apply pressure to improve adhesion.
One other thing to consider when installing these kits - the Rancilio Silvia has PVC electrical wiring insulation - which becomes brittle with heat and time. My machine is 12 years old - and I was very careful to avoid cracking the wiring insulation and terminal insulators. Some of the terminal insulation broke anyway. When I insulated the boiler using fibreglass insulation - I was careful to reorganize the wires, zip tie them together to avoid having any wires or connectors too close to the heating elements. See photo below. This should enhance reliability of the connections. I can see that if I expect to get 20 years out of the this machine - I may end up having to replace the wiring.

Wiring organization using zip ties


How does the new PID temperature controller work? Simply fantastic - it's great to have fine control over brew water temperature, and a much better understanding of what's happening with the critical brew variables. Result - better tasting coffee (although I still have a long way to go). I wish I had got this upgrade done years ago. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to Amazon.com in the United States. I purchased my PID kit directly from Auber Instruments: https://www.auberins.com/ My go-to place for genuine Rancilio Silvia parts in Canada is Espressotec.com.


Rancilio Silvia Noise Reduction Project

The Rancilio Silvia has a vibratory pump. The principal advantage for a home machine is that the vibratory pump develops pressure quickly and is relatively compact. The principal disadvantage - significant vibration and noise. The engine of the vibratory pump is an electromagnetic coil attached to a fluid piston. The coil moves back and forth when energized with alternating current - in just the same manner as a loudspeaker coil. This drives the piston back and forth - pushing water through a one way check valve to pressurize the boiler with water.

Rancilio Silvia - Vibratory Pump Installation
You can see in the photo that the pump is supported by two rubber mounts designed to allow the pump to move laterally and offset the vibration of the piston motion. These mounts are 12 years old, and have partially collapsed under the weight of the stainless braided discharge hose.

I did a fair bit of research online before coming up with my noise reduction strategy:
  • Improve the pump installation and correct the collapsed rubber mounts;
  • Add vibration damping material (Dynamat or Noico) to as much accessible sheet metal as possible;
  • Add cushioning to the drip tray and drip grille to reduce rattling. 

Pump Installation Upgrade

Let's start with the pump installation. I was into the repair project before I realized that I should replace the pump rubber mounts, so I wasn't able to get replacement parts in time. So - I reversed the mounts to try to correct the sagging, and I added some closed cell foam underneath the pump to help support it from sagging under the mounts.

Vibratory Pump Installation Upgrades - Reversed collapsed rubber mounts, added closed cell foam under pump
I made sure to install the discharge hose in such a way to ensure it wasn't touching any of the metal panels of the machine, to help avoid transmission of vibration to the sheet metal. I also corrected the leak in the stainless steel 90 degree fitting at the pump outlet.

Vibration Damping

The next tactic was to install vibration damping sheet to as much of the accessible sheet metal on the machine, with the aim of reducing vibration transmission. A common brand name for vibration damping material is Dynamat. I ended up using Noico sheets - just because I found a format and quantity online which was well suited to the size of the Rancilio project. One thing I checked was the operating temperature of the Noico sheet - it's rated to 210F (about 98C).

I was careful to avoid placing this material too close to the boiler or group head components, and I insulated the boiler to help reduce the temperature within the front case.

I was also installing a PID controller, so I had to disassemble the machine anyway. I did the PID installation at the same time as the vibration damping sheet installation, saving time.

I installed damping sheet on the following components:
  • Main frame - side columns and base
  • Rear cover
  • Front cover
  • Pump cover
  • Top cover
Sound damping sheet installation underneath base

Sound damping sheet installation front cover

Sound damping sheet installation main frame around pump

Sound damping sheet installation pump cover

Sound damping sheet installation pump cover
I used a 2" rubber ink roller to roll out the damping sheet, and make sure there were no gaps in the adhesive or air bubbles under the sheet.

Sound damping sheet installation rear cover

Sound damping sheet installation top cover. Note installation of strips only to allow heat to warm top cover to keep cup heating function.

Sound damping sheet installation - with front and rear covers and pump cover installed. 


So - what's the net result of the noise control work? A fairly noticeable improvement in noise control. One problem however - the drip tray grate still rattles during a shot - so I added some cushioning to reduce the impact of the rattle since it wasn't practical to add sound damping material to the grate.
The machine runs quite quietly now and I can make coffee in the kitchen directly below the master bedroom, without waking up my significant other. Worth the effort? Definitely!

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to Amazon.com in the United States. My go-to place for genuine Rancilio Silvia parts in Canada is Espressotec.com.


Rancilio Silvia Upgrade and Maintenance Project

I recently completed a fairly extensive upgrade to my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine:
The machine was purchased in July 2008 - so at time of the project it was 11 1/2 years old. I've been pretty good with routine boiler and pump descaling, however, I've never changed the group head gasket, and I had leaks around the portafilter when brewing. I purchased the PID kit 6 years ago, and never took the time to install it. I also wanted to be able to run the machine early in the morning while the rest of the family is sleeping, so I was also interested in quieting the machine when brewing. 

Here's a photo of the completed machine. I'll tackle each of the upgrades as separate posts. 


I've been running the updated machine for about 2 weeks now. I've been making coffee in the morning with everyone else sleeping in the house, and absolutely no complaints about noise. The convenience of the PID controller is not to be understated - knowing the brew / steam water temperature is so insightful when working to improve the taste of your espresso. The warmup timer has been flawless - every morning when I come downstairs the machine is ready to pull a shot - temperature has stabalized and the coffee mugs have warmed up. The boiler insulation seems to help keep the side panels of the machine from getting too hot, and it probably helps to get heat down into the group head for more consistent brew water temperature control, and quicker temperature recovery between shots. Finally - it's nice just having a machine that looks almost like new - has been thoroughly cleaned, and no longer leaks from the group head gasket. Totally worth the effort to renovate a 12 year old machine. It really is built like a tank.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to Amazon.com in the United States. I purchased my PID kit directly from Auber Instruments: https://www.auberins.com/ My go-to place for genuine Rancilio Silvia parts in Canada is Espressotec.com.


Patio Pergola Project - Outdoor Grade Ceramic Tile Installation

The next step in the Patio Project was to select an attractive and durable concrete finish so that the two concrete surfaces - old and new - appear consistent and neat. The challenge was to come up with a ceramic tile product and installation system that could withstand freezing temperatures in the winter.
Completed Ceramic Tile Installation
See my other posts regarding the concrete patio works - enlarging and squaring off the patio with a 6" thick concrete extension and additional ground support, and the selection and installation of an aluminum framed pergola structure with retractable vinyl awning.

Alternatives Considered

  • Epoxy paint
  • Teak wood slats applied to the surface
  • Recycled plastic / synthetic planks or tiles applied to the surface
  • Ceramic tile
  • Interlocking brick
The key constraint was the lack of height between the top surface of the concrete and the door threshold entering the house. I wanted to maintain a height difference so that water during spring melt could not back up and flow into the house through the door. This effectively eliminated all the options except for epoxy paint and ceramic tile. 

My other issue was the lack of surface finish consistency of the concrete between the old and new surfaces. The old concrete had been poured on a compacted earthen berm which was subsequently excavated. The top surface was not particularly well finished or flat. The existing epoxy paint provided a consistent color, but the surface finish was slick, slippery when wet and not particularly appealing. 

So - we settled on ceramic tile as the selected finish. Next steps were to consider the type of tile and the tile installation system. Our climate is northern, with lows in the winter of -40F/C and considerable snow. The ceramic tile and installation system would need to be able to withstand freeze and thaw, and a temperature range from -40 to +40C for thermal expansion. 

Surface Preparation

There were two principal concerns for surface preparation prior to ceramic tile installation. Removal of the old epoxy paint from the 25 year old concrete, waiting time for proper curing of the new concrete extension, and sealing the interface between the old and new concrete so that there wouldn't be movement between the old and new concrete which might lead to cracking of the ceramic tile. 

First - I bonded and sealed the crack between the two concrete slabs using Sika crack fix. I got underneath the patio and sealed the bottom of the crack using adhesive tape, to help retain the Sika crack fix epoxy and manage the amount of material I would require. I then filled the crack in stages until I had pooling of epoxy on the surface. 

Note the interface between old and new concrete - sealed with Sika Crack Fix. 
 Next step was to level the concrete surface, and remove as much of the old epoxy paint as possible. My local rental center had a scarifying wheel attachment for a floor polisher which I tried and was very effective. The wheel has angled diamond cutters around the perimeter of the wheel which were effective at removing not only the paint, but the high surfaces of the concrete.
Diamond blade of the scarifying wheel.

Paint removal in process

Detail of the joint between the old and new concrete. Grouted with Granirapid.
Surface prep was completed in a weekend. 

Ceramic Tile Selection

We needed to consider a tile which would not absorb any water. This led us to a porcelain tile, rated for outdoor installation. We also sought tiles with a rough surface which would be less slippery when wet - to avoid falls with kids coming into the house out of the pool or in wet weather. It took some time but we finally settled on a tile from Italbec:

Italbec Basalt Gray Ceramic Tile Samples
Next task was to select the ceramic tile installation. I got into touch with Mapeii - they have a technical department which will advise on installation systems and applications. They were super helpful, and we settled on the Granirapid installation system. The Granirapid system is a modified polymer flexible grout system which dries rapidly and minimizes entrained water underneath the tiles - this has the advantages of reducing the possibility of efflorescence (white stains) and cracking or delamination from freeze and thaw movement. We added a shear barrier - Mapeguard - which helps to prevent cracking due to temperature changes between the ceramic tile on surface and the concrete structure below. In addition - we added flexible expansion joint strips every 10 feet to help manage thermal expansion.

Mapeguard Shear Barrier - Green Material. Ceramic tile installed overtop using the Granirapid mortar system. 

Tile Trim and Joint Profiles

In my research I found a Schlutter balcony edge profile which looked like it would eliminate the requirement to bond ceramic tile on the vertical edges of the concrete slab. I went ahead with these profiles - they are available in a range of heights and colors. I selected a 6" high profile (the tallest available) in metallic gray color. My ceramic tile installer had never worked with balcony edge profiles before, but it turned out well and in the end, he thinks it saved him considerable time and aggravation. 

Schlutter Balcony Edge Profile
An interesting feature of the profile is that by design, it allows water to escape from the tile system and drip down behind the profile - preventing a buildup of water which could lead to freeze cracks. The profile is easy to apply, using the tile mortar, and has corner profiles for a neat final appearance.
Schlutter Balcony Edge Corner Profile detail

Expansion joint profile running laterally in the photo


The Patio has been through 2 winters now, with absolutely no issues - no lifted tiles, no cracking or other damage. So far so good. To reduce the risk of problems, I try to keep snow accumulation to a minimum in the winter, so I don't end up with a glacier come spring time which might allow water to accumulate and penetrate the grout causing problems. 

The completed tile surface

Tile surface on the steps

Sources and Links

My local sources for the ceramic tile was Italbec in Montreal. All the Mapei installation products were sources from Ciot in Brossard. All of the metal profiles were sourced from Marty's Carpet and Flooring in New York state, who managed to get the 6" balcony profiles in a matter of days from Schlutter's distribution center in upstate New York. Thanks to all the suppliers - they were all great. 


Patio Pergola Project - Selecting the Type of Shade Structure - Palmiye Silver Pergola

This step of the process took time - about two years. What type of structure to erect on the newly finished elevated concrete patio? We wanted something that would allow us to control insects, protect us from the sun on hot days, protect us from the rain when barbequeing on wet days, and look good at all times.

The completed Palmiye Pergola Installation
We considered the following major concepts:
  • 4 season sunroom;
  • 3 season sunroom or screened porch;
  • Prefabricated gazebo;
  • Classic wooden structure pergola, with some rain protection awning;
  • Tubular structure awning with removable insect panels;
  • Metal structure pergola with retractable awning. 
Ultimately, we decided to go with the last option. We found a North American distributor for the Palmiye pergolas with retractable awnings, and thought that this would be the best fit for our needs. 

I took care of the measurements and marking up the manufacturer drawings - these are custom manufactured for particular applications and I was able to adjust the dimensions to fit our Patio perfectly. 

From order to delivery took about 6 months - these are fabricated in Turkey and were shipped by sea container to North America. Nick from Retractable Covering Solutions in Brantford, Ontario supplied the Pergola and performed in the installation. I wasn't able to find anything of similar quality fabricated in North America - if you're aware of anything - feel free to let me know in the comments. 

Unfortunately, installation had to take place in December. 
Installation took place in December, in freezing conditions, however it was relatively simple to install. Installation took three days - two days for erection, and then another day for installation of the awning motor which was delayed, and final adjustment of the awning.
Structure complete and awning installed

Structure complete and awning installed

Structure complete and awning installed

Note the steel roof sheeting which protects the vinyl awning when retracted. 
Once the Somfy awning motor was installed, and the awning could be extended and retracted, the installation was complete and functional. One nice feature of the awning is integrated LED lighting, with the electrical wiring hidden within the structure of the awning.

Note the LED light fixtures on the awning crossbars.

Heres the effect with the LED fixtures illuminated.


The awning is rugged and functional, and does not need to be retracted even in heavy rain or wind. The water flows down the awning, and the front metal crossbar has an inverted U water collection channel, and water is diverted to the vertical structural members which are hollow and act as downpipes for water coming off the awning.

Water runs down the structural columns and out these spigots. 

Sources and Links

Palmiye was the fabricator of the pergola and awning system. Retractable covering solutions imported the awning and installed it.


Patio Pergola Project - Extend an Elevated Concrete Deck

Problem - how do you extend an elevated concrete deck? Ours was not square, and had a huge notch in one corner. And - the steps were settling into the earth because they were installed without foundations below the frost line.

One of the most extensive projects we undertook at the house has been a patio refurbishment. The back patio off our family room is an elevated concrete slab with concrete sonotube columns supporting it from below the frost line. A very rugged structure that does not appear to have moved since construction of the house from 25 years ago.
Demolition of steps underway

Also - very unattractive. Epoxy paint peeling. Massive 20' long concrete step was constructed on grade, and was settling / heaving with the frost. The shape was not rectangular, it had a large 45 degree corner cut from the shape which precluded the erection of a shade structure. And - it was not square to the house - it was square to the yard and pool.

Elevated Concrete Patio - Steps settling into the ground, shape not rectangular, corner cut at 45 degrees
After much thought, we decided to keep the elevated concrete patio, but demolish the steps, square off the rectangular shape and make it a bit wider, and install a smaller set of concrete steps with foundations below the frost line. 
Demolition of Steps Underway

Demolition Complete
With demolition underway, design of the concrete extension begun. I had engaged a concrete contractor to perform the work. They offered to perform the extension, but would not engage to produce any drawings or sketches. This posed a problem for building permits. I discussed the situation with our municipal planning department - they advised me that if I ever planned to construct a permanent structure on the patio, such as a sunroom or extension, they would require a structural design stamped by a professional engineer. So - I sought and found a civil / structural engineer that would prepare the extension plans - and I'm glad that I did. He recommended changing the extension thickness from 4" to 6", adding some additional screw piling suppports, and some additional rebar from what the concrete contractor proposed. Work then continued with the screw pile installation, selected to eliminate the requirement for large excavations to perform sonotubes and footings below the frost line.

Screw pile installation.
The pile is literally screwed into the ground by the
hydraulic drive head installed on a mini-excavator. 

Completed screw pile, which will support the squared corner of the patio. Note the special head designed for supporting pour in place concrete.
With screw piles installed, formwork and rebar began.

Formwork completed, ready for Rebar

Formwork detail for steps
Rebar installed, note top plate of screw pile in foreground

Rebar epoxied into existing concrete for shear protection
With formwork and rebar completed, the concrete was supplied by a mini-mix truck and left to cure for 15 days before removal of formwork. It was important to keep the concrete moist during the period so that it had sufficient water to support a strong cure. 

Fresh concrete

Fresh concrete steps

Finished, cured concrete


So - project virtually complete and ready for the shade structure. Just one step remained and that was to seal the joint between the old and new concrete with epoxy crack fill - to ensure water would not be able to penetrate the joint, freeze, and separate the concrete. More posts to follow on the Pergola and the ceramic tile installation.

Sources and Links

Cimentech was the concrete contractor. They did good work and I'm satisfied with the results. Vistech performed the screw pile installation per the engineers recommendations - and I'm quite happy with their work as well - arrived when expected and performed the work very well. Michel Kim was the civil engineer that prepared the structural drawing and documents for the building permit. He was a very practical engineer, and I think he was a big factor in improving the quality of the project.