DeLonghi Magnifica S Coffee Machine

Repair for small beans: A magnificent brew from the DeLonghi Magnifica S Coffee Machine

With more knobs and whistles than the Star Ship Enterprise, it’s no wonder that coffee machines like this have become very popular among coffee lovers. From the comfort of your own kitchen, you can brew-up in much the same way as a skilled barista in your local coffee shop does. With a machine like this, you will rarely ever make a mistake, since all measurements and mixes are made at the touch of a button. It’s a compelling package for the coffee nerd.

However, as we all know from school, the more complicated we make something, there’s an increased likelyhood of it going wrong at some point in the future.

I mean, they’re just so darn complicated. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the mechanical packaging and clever processes within these machines, but if just one small part of the mechanism goes wrong, the whole thing fails and the machine is then useless. And these things are not cheap.

The Magnifica S is a premium machine and Delonghi have been making these products for many years, so luckily, some parts are available for when things fall over. In my experience, DeLonghi coffee machines are of reasonable quality.

Make and model: DeLonghi Magnifica S (ECAM 22.110.SB)

Fault reported: Major leak

Cost of replacement: £330-400 when new

Manufacturer support:  5/10

Cost of parts: £1.50

My repair time: 2 hours

Tools needed: Small screwdrivers, small levers, cutters

Sundry items: Cable ties

Cleaning materials: WD-40, damp cloth, soap and water

Repair difficulty: 6/10

Cups of tea: x2

Cups of coffee: x1

Biscuits: Ginger nut x2

The owner of this machine used it everyday and upon delivering it to me for repair, was anxious to get it back soon for his daily caffeine hit as soon as possible.

I had to explain that my ‘shed hours’ are part-time and that I would do my best, but that I would make sure the (assuming I could fix it) it would be returned soon, as good as new. I know how to set myself up (eek).

Appliances like this have lots of ‘vanity’ panels, pieces of trim and general niceties that ‘clip in to place’ without a separate mechanical fixing like a screw. When dismantling, it’s often these parts which take the longest to remove since there are rarely any notes available out there. It’s often the lion’s share of the overall repair time. You just have to go slow and take things easy. That moment when a small plastic tang or lug goes snap is heartbreaking.

Luckily here, the DeLonghi designers had some foresight and the product came apart with care, albeit with some hairy moments.

A water leak had been reported to be coming from the front of the machine during operation. With so many pipes in the machine, the source of the leak could have been anywhere, but fortunately the cause was soon identified. A small silicone (high temperature) hose had ruptured from the boiler valve area to the milk frother wand. Although it wasn’t always in use on every occasion, the pipe’s rupture seemed to be causing a consistent leak with any coffee brew operation. All other areas of the machine seemed dry. With a Chinese original supplier of coffee machine silicone pipe on eBay coming to the rescue, the part I needed was delivered in a week for under £5.00. Result.

The old hose simply came off by temporarily unclipping the metal spring clips at each end. The new pipe simply clipped into place, with a little attention paid to length, so that no pinch-points occurred.

Back to my original point about ‘complication’. I’d ‘got away with it’ on this repair, there’s no getting away from it. A small silicone hose was an easy fix, with just the overall repair made complicated by the machine’s packaging.

If a valve or plastic water vessel had failed, I suspect that the repair wouldn’t have been possible. As another part-time hobby, I source repair items from all over the world (insert environmental case study here!) and it’s usually tricky to get parts like that, if they’re available at all. When repairing, I use a mix of second-hand, generic and original equipment to achieve a balance of quality, cost-effectiveness and minimal environmental damage. It’s not easy. The problem for repair agents is that it takes time to work all of that out before the repair begins…it’s a constant dilema and blog article for another day.

When doing a job like this, it makes sense to make sure that all things that can’t be cleaned easily when assembled are inspected and washed as required.

The coffee group head was one such item. While it is possible to service this item with the machine fully assembled, it’s easier to clean it when it isn’t. I hope that the owner noticed a boost in coffee strength as many of the small water holes in the group head were blocked. Of course, I made sure that everything else was ship-shape too before reassembly.

After reattaching all of the appliance’s panels, it was time to give the machine a portable appliance test (PAT) and brew-up. A sucessful repair for small beans.

Fetch me a coffee Parker… Yes Milady!

A Gaggia Milady gets unblocked

Despite various warning labels and advice from manufacturers, sometimes it’s better to ignore official advice and just dive in, especially if something has stopped working altogether.  Gaggia coffee machines of this vintage are well supported by various online parts suppliers, so when your machine stops making the perfect brew, the chances are that it can be sorted out with a little know-how…

Parker
FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20 Aloysius Parker from Thunderbirds (picture from Wikipedia)

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, June’20, Gaggia Milady.

I couldn’t resist a reference to one of my favourite childhood programs…

Make and model: Gaggia Milady Coffee Machine

Fault reported: No coffee/ blocked group head

Cost of replacement: £300 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  3/10

Cost of parts:  £0, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour

Hours spent on finding parts: 0 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, spanner, pliers, drill, tap set

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, water safe silicone lube, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 4/10

Cups of tea:  X 2 (and one coffee for testing purposes)

Biscuits: None (Ice Cream X 1)

Someone got in touch to see if I could repair their much loved Gaggia Milady, after receiving some unhelpful advice from the UK distributor.  A new Gaggia had already been purchased, but the owner was missing the ‘solidness’ of his original machine and wanted it back working again.

Fault reported:  Heater working, pump running, no water at all at the group head, therefore no coffee.

Opening the machine’s lid reveals lots of cables and pipes, so if you’re attempting this repair yourself, I recommend making notes and taking photos, carefully marking the location of all the positions.

I suspected a blockage from the boiler to the group head, as sometimes happens with older machines, as scale builds up on the inside.  In cases like this, de-scaler is usually no good and more drastic action is required.

Removing the boiler on this model is similar to many other Gaggia machines, the only variant differences usually being cosmetic.  Just four screws usually hold the boiler to the cabinet.  I suspected that there was a blockage between the boiler area and valve to group head ‘jet’ and in order to access it, a few layers of metal work needed to be removed.

 

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Just one screw holds the strainer, but removing the head involves removing two bolts, which secure two halves of the group head.  The trouble is that over the years, corrosion makes the two halves ‘weld’ together and the only way to split them is to use a little ingenuity.  Fortunately, there are four water holes in the head which make ideal leverage points and with a small M5 tap, those holes become anchor points for the two bolts holding the head together.  Winding those bolts into the new threaded holes forces the two halves apart…

…Revealing the brass valve base.  Using a 10mm spanner releases the valve’s spring and valve rubber.  In this case, it was full of scale and debris.  A thorough clean using WD40, wire brushes and wire wool and the group head was ready for reassembly.

All surfaces scrubbed, all rubber seals cleaned and treated to some water-safe lubricant, the group head back together, the boiler was ready to be re-installed into the machine.  After some careful re-plumbing and re-connecting, the machine was ready for testing.

Just one more job.  Make the coffee for Milady!

Another machine dodges the tip with only a small tin of elbow grease used. F.A.B!

Gaggia Espresso Machine with a nasty blockage

A Gaggia Espresso machine gets a rebuild.

Home coffee machines are very cool.  Home espresso machines are even better as they’re the closest you can get to a coffee shop brew, in my opinion.  Due to heat, water and coffee mixing up on a regular basis, they need ownership with care for long life.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Gaggia Espresso Machine.

Top tips for longer coffee machine life:

  • Use filtered water, especially if you live in a hard water area
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Keep all rubber seals, especially those around the main coffee making area, clean with a damp cloth

Someone got in touch with a machine that was a few years old, but had once made a lovely cup of coffee.  The owner had used it daily but recently it had begun to leak and not perform at its best.  The machine had also been to a UK repair specialist, but sadly, they couldn’t solve the problems.  I always test appliances when they arrive to confirm the fault and as expected, water came out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

I’ve worked on a few of these machines, so I know the drill.  Remove the lid, make a note of the wiring connectors, the pipes and remove the bolts holding the main boiler in place.  I also ordered a service kit (new seals) for a reasonable £7.99.

The main boiler separates into two halves which reveals the main boiler chamber and exit for hot water.

This boiler was in poor condition and years of corrosion and scale had built up and was probably blocking the main group head, the bit where you attach the group handle/ filter bit to make coffee.

Time for more dismantling.  The group head is held in position with a couple of screws, but years of corrosion had taken their toll and this head was going nowhere.  Great care was needed as the soft metal is easily damaged.

Thinking about this a bit more, I decided to cut a screw thread into one of the water holes in the head and use a bolt to lever the group head apart.  It worked.  Once off the head revealed loads of debris and scale.

The next job was to give all parts a thorough clean, re-faced with wet and dry paper as needed and use new seals as part of the reassembly.

Once back together, the boiler was reinstalled and reconnected.  After a few blasts of fresh water through the machine, it was ready to make its first proper brew.

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Cost of replacement:  £100-300.  Cost of repair:  £7.99, my time, one tin of elbow grease, one cup of coffee and a ginger nut.

 

 

A bit of 70’s fun: Sona J996 Coffee Percolator

An office find, escapes the scrap yard.

Despite the 1970’s kitsch-ness of the electric percolator, they are very good at making coffee and the delightful coffee smell you get when brewing-up is sublime.  Here’s an advert from the time.

Top tips for keeping your coffee percolator in good order:

  • Descale using a kettle descaling solution as needed
  • Keep the coffee strainer clear of debris
  • Make sure the lid always fits between the strainer and the percolator body

A colleague found this percolator while clearing out an abandoned office cupboard.  I suspect that this one might have been bought as a wedding present way back and had ended up in the office when someone had decided play the role of barista at work.

It was missing its power lead and was headed for the recycle bin, when I intervened.

The power lead needed was an obsolete design used on British appliances of the era and was similar in design to the more modern and current, IEC C13 or ‘kettle lead’.  However, modern kettle leads did not fit this percolator.

More drastic action was needed.  Luckily, I had an old appliance I no longer needed, so I scavenged a board mounted IEC C13 socket from it and replaced the one originally fitted.

After some soldering and a bit of jiggery-pokery, this Sona Percolator now brews coffee using an up-to-date power lead.

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Cost of replacement:  £40.  Cost of upgrade: £0.

Gaggia Classic machine wakes up to smell the coffee.

A Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine repair…

A simple repair…. That’s what I thought when a friend asked if I could look at his Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, which had developed a nasty little leak when in use.  The coffee wasn’t all that good either, due to the lack of pressure available, caused by the leak.  In short, it needed attention.

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FixItWorkshop, Oct’17, Gaggia Classic Coffee Machine, with a leak.

The owner had already bought a repair kit consisting of the main seals/ gaskets that commonly fail, so I thought no problem, take to pieces, replace seals, happy days.  Er, not quite.

Once I’d stripped the machine down, pretty straightforward on these machines, the bare parts were exposed, which revealed the problem.  After being fired up briefly, not to make coffee I’d like to point out, water could be seen escaping from the boiler unit, a alloy bodied lump of metal, split in two halves, held together by 4 screws.  The boiler, as the name suggests, heats the water up with one heating element  and creates steam for the steam wand, with another element, all part of the same module.

After separating the boiler halves, I traced the leak to a faulty gasket, but crucially, one side of the mating faces was heavily corroded and unlikely to re-seal with a new part fitted on its own.  Remedial action was required.

This model is a few years old and a replacement boiler is still available on a few websites and prices vary from £40 to £60 at the time of writing, so at that price, starts to make the cost of repair unviable.

I decided that the face with the corrosion had enough material to withstand loosing some, so went about sanding the worst of the corrosion away before gradually moving on to  smoother and smoother sandpaper.

Because Gaggia Classics are fairly common, I decided to video this repair process as I suspect the corrosion affects many machines with age and just fitting a repair kit won’t cure the problem on its own.  See below.  I hope it helps anyone else with the same machine facing the same problem.

 

Once I was happy with the new finish, I fitted a new gasket and reassembled the boiler.  After putting it all back together, I purged several tanks of water through the system to remove debris, before attempting a cup of coffee.  Once filled up with my favourite Lidl coffee, the machine performed well once again with no leaks and the end product tasted great.

Cost of a new machine:  £249.00.  Cost of repair:  £4.50, plus time.