Repairing a Superautomatic Espresso Machine⎮How to Avoid Expensive Repair Bills
You can avoid costly repairs if you take some basic steps to maintain your machine but, if you need to get it repaired be sure you are working with an authorized service centre. Read on to learn more about how to maintain your machine and what to consider before you repair it.
Saeco introduced superautomatics back in1985 and some customers are still using the first superautomatic they ever purchased. This machine pictured here was purchased by one of my clients in 1995 and he is still using it today.
What to Consider Before Buying An Espresso Machine
Everyone has become aware that many appliances are now built with an expiry date, meaning they are built to last only a certain number of years before they are intended to be replaced. . With this in mind, manufacturers do not make replacement parts readily available.
Therefore, before you even buy an appliance consider options should it break down
Two important considerations should come into play when considering the purchase of an appliance:
- the price of the appliance and how long you can expect it to last, and
- the availability of parts and qualified technicians to service and repair the product so it can continue to perform as expected.
In some instances it makes financial sense to kick the appliance to the curb but in other instances it is environmentally, financially (and in some cases) emotionally sound to keep the machine you have and get it repaired.
The fact remains that espresso machines that are well maintained last a long time. Pictured below is a Saeco Royal Cappuccino that has made over100,000 coffees as seen on the display panel.
Although, it has had the boiler replaced three times, we can safely say the return on investment is incredible. This customer says he loves the coffee the machine makes, he describes it as a workhorse and he wouldn't ever think of replacing it, For him, the cost of the repairs was well worth it.
Saeco Royal Cappuccino that has made over100,000 coffees
What ensures superautomatics espresso machines last a long time?
There are three main requirements to ensuring the investment you made in an espresso machine brings you years coffee enjoyment:
- regular maintenance in the form of cleaning and descaling,
- avoiding overly oily coffee beans, and
- professional service which can give your machine a tune up and make necessary software updates if necessary
Cleaning and Descaling Superautomatics
In order to ensure your superautomatic fares the test of time, ensure you follow a regular cleaning schedule. User's manuals provide clear and detailed instructions for each model. This includes some regular cleaning (every few days), some weekly maintenance, and finally, a more thorough cleaning, including descaling.
Descaling is one of the most neglected tasks in the maintenance of espresso machines; yet it is by far the single most important task in ensuring the longevity of your machine. It is really quite simple and requires minimal time.
All machines will require descaling at some point. Usually superautomatic espresso machines require descaling every, one to three months, depending on usage and more specifically water hardness.
Descaling is the process of running a descaling solution through the internal boiler, pump and various valves of the espresso machine. To descale a superautomatic espresso machine, use a descaling solution specifically made to clean an espresso machines. A great advantage of superautomatic espresso machines is that most of them are programmed to give you prompts and guide you through the descaling process.
Types of Descalers
There are three types of descalers on the market:
- liquid, and
All are equally effective. If you are using the powder, be sure to dissolve the packet of powder fully in a 32 oz. bottle of warm water. Once dissolved, you can pour the solution into your water tank.
If you use a liquid descaler, you can pour the amount as directed into 32 oz. of warm water and pour directly into the water tank.
Once the solution is in the machine, activate the descaling prompt on your model. Put a container under the steam wand and in some units, put a container also under the coffee spouts to catch the solution.
Reviewing your user manual is recommended to ensure proper procedure is followed.
At the end of the descaling process, be sure to rinse your water tank and allow your machine to dispense one to two tanks of fresh water to ensure all traces of the descaler have been removed. It is also advisable to make a couple of coffee and throw then out.
Oiliness of Coffee Beans
The beans you use in your superautomatic espresso machine can significantly impact the longevity of your machine as well as the taste of your coffee. Using oily beans will wreak havoc on superautomatic epresso machines over time.
Many beans are labelled “espresso beans” to inform the consumer the intended brewing method of the beans. This gives the consumer only part of the information they need to make an informed choice about the beans they are buying. What you need to know to determine oiliness is how long the beans have been roasted.
Coffee beans roasts can range from light to dark. Beans that are roasted in the medium to medium-dark range are those that are most suited to making espresso. The longer beans are roasted, the more oil develops. Beans that are too dark will have very oily exterior. Avoid beans labelled dark roast.
Remember, labelling , descriptions and word choices on products are very subjective. Sometimes the only way you can know if bean are oily is by buying the beans and examining them yourself.
Overly oily beans will leave a greasy residue on all your machine components like the bean hopper and brew unit. Overtime, this oily residue will become sticky and gummy which can cause damage.
If you have been using overly roasted or oily beans or really dark roasts, be sure to clean components to ensure your machine will produce an excellent espresso. You should really consider if the roast you are using is really too dark.
Bean hopper on a Saeco machine that has build up from use of very oily coffee beans.
Taking care of your espresso machine over the years
Every year or two, your machine can use a tune-up. Just like cars benefit from regular tune ups and multi-point inspections, and software updates, so does your espresso machine.
Software updates are especially important. Just like our phones or computers, the software in espresso machines needs updating too. This is where you may need to access a trained professional.
Things to consider when looking for qualified repair technicians
- The service centre is an authorized service centre meaning the manufacturer works with this establishment and knows they are working on their machines. These service centres will also have the proprietary programmers needed to update software in the machine.
- Technicians are factory trained. These guys will know the ins and outs of your machine.
- The service centre uses original parts, like O-rings.
- They tell you in advance exactly what they will be doing to your machine and provide an estimate of any costs.
Keep these points in mind and you will can rest assured your machine is in good hands.
It is always best to do preventative maintenance rather than waiting until your machine completely bites the dust. Can you really afford not to have your morning coffee?
Common espresso machine repairs worth the investment
Espresso machines may need repair due to simple wear and tear and use over time. Here are some common issues which are well worth the investment.
Indicator: Your machine is producing a coffee that is weak and a watery coffee due to poor extraction. The coffee is not being ground to the same consistency.
Cause: Your machine has made 10,000 cups of coffee (as indicated on the counter). Foreign object (rocks, twine) have lodged inside the grinder. Oily beans have left a gummy residue on the grinder.
Repair required: Grinders need to be cleaned or replaced.
Grinder in a Saeco machine which is clogged from debris and coffee oils.
Indicator: An error code will appear on you display screen. Codes vary from model to model or manufacturer to manufacture. Consult your manufacturer’s user guide to understand what each code means.
Cause: It is impossible to speculate what may have prompted the error code. Call an authorized service center to give you hints on how to power up your machine. They can often give you hints on what you can do to clear the code.
Repair required: It may time for a general tune up. Some models require software updates after a few years.
Rebuilding steam valves
Indicator: The steam valve is consistently leaking while brewing.
Cause: The water used in the machine may be hard water. The machine hasn’t been descaled regularly or consistently.
Repair required: Rebuilding or replacing solenoid valves or rebuilding mechanical valves. Be sure to check the hardness of water you are using with a water test strip. If you have hard water and want to lengthen the intervals between descaling, it is advisable to use the water filters available for most models.
Lack of pressure
Indicator: The coffee is flowing too slow or not at all
Cause: Ensure there is no blockage in the brew unit. This is where having a superautomatic with a removable brew unit is really helpful. It may be that the filters on the brew unit are plugged up. This can be caused when you are grinding the coffee too fine. Alternatively, there could be blockage in the system which could be cause a pump to run on low pressure. This would require finding the internal blockage.
Repair required: Dismantling and cleaning the filter on the brew unit. Finding any internal blockages, replacing any tubing that may be damaged.
Water leaking from the machine
Indicator: Water on the counter.
Causes: The drain lines could be plugged up. A line or fitting could be damaged resulting in water leaking.
Repair required: Replacing lines, checking fittings.
Indicator: The temperature of coffee or hot water is lower than when a machine was new.
Cause: Limescale in the boiler. Temperature sensors are not working correctly.
Repair required: Replace boiler.
If you are considering buying a superautomatic machine, rest assured that your investment on this appliance is a good one. With regular maintenance you can rest assured the machine will provide great tasting coffee for many years. If and when the machine needs some repairs, you can feel confident that replacement parts and qualified technicians are available as well.
Have you had your espresso machine repaired? What has been your experience? Leave us a comment below.