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Troubleshooting Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

Troubleshooting Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
Category: Troubleshooting
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Synopsis: Here are some of the common problems with Semi Automatics we hear about from customers with suggestions for correction by any home user.

TROUBLESHOOTING SOME COMMON ISSUES

Here are some of the common problems we hear about from customers with suggestions for correction by any home user.  If the suggestions don't work, we recommend that you bring the machine to an authorized service centre for your brand.  We do not encourage anyone to open up the machines and try to repair them and if you choose to do so, it is at your own risk.  We are not giving directions for anything that should be done by an authorized technician.  Some of these problems are not covered under warranty (usually cleaning/descaling issues and foreign items caught in the grinder are not warranty covered) so rule out what you can at home before sending in for repair.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to fully read and understand your user manual, which usually will help you prevent many issues.

 

PUMP-DRIVEN SEMI-AUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES

No espresso is coming out when I turn the pump on.

  • Check that there is water in the reservoir or, for plumbed-in machines, that the water is turned on.
  • For boiler machines, make sure that there is water in the boiler by priming the pump.
  • Coffee may be too finely ground, or tamped too firmly or there might be too much coffee in the basket.
  • Mineral deposits from the water may be clogging the pump or other parts.  Try descaling.
  • The screen inside the group head may have a build-up of coffee residue.  Use a screwdriver to remove the screw holding the screen in place and clean the screen well.

The pump is making a loud noise.

  • Check that there is water in the reservoir or, for plumbed-in machines, that the water is turned on.  
  • For boiler machines, make sure that there is water in the boiler by priming the pump.
  • The coffee may be ground too coarsely.

The steam wand is not working properly.

  • Dried milk may be clogging the wand. Remove it from the machine and take apart any pieces that can be removed and clean thoroughly. Run water through the wand once it is back on the machine to make sure it is clear.  Remember to always wipe down with a clean cloth and run some water through immediately after every single use.
  • The machine may not be in steam mode or it may still be heating.
  • Mineral deposits from the water may be clogging the boiler or elements.  Try descaling.

The espresso is coming out too quickly, too watery and with little or no crema.

  • The coffee may have been ground too coarsely, providing too little resistance for the water as it runs through.  (The water will be moving through the holes between the coffee grounds instead of through the grounds themselves.)
  • The coffee may not have been tamped strongly enough or may have been unevenly distributed.
  • There may not be enough coffee in the portafilter (fill to recommended level, usually 6.5 to 7 grams for single).
  • The coffee might not be fresh.  Try to grind it immediately before use if possible and buy whole beans within a couple of days after roasting.

The espresso is coming out too slowly and tastes bitter or burnt.

  • The coffee may have been ground too finely, providing too much resistance for the water.  When it takes longer for the water to go through (extraction time), it will absorb too much from the coffee.
  • The coffee may have been tamped too strongly, also making it more difficult for the water to flow through.
  • There might be too much coffee in the portafilter.
  • The screen inside the group head may have a build-up of coffee residue.  Use a screwdriver to remove the screw holding the screen in place and clean the screen well.
  • The pump might not have enough pressure, either due to lack of water flow or pump age/defect.

The portafilter doesn't stay in place in the group head while brewing.

  • There might be too much coffee in the portafilter. Try filling the portafilter as usual and placing in the group head and then removing it again without brewing.  If you can see an indentation of the shower screen, you have dosed too much.
  • The portafilter handle may not have been properly secured in the group.
  • The coffee may have been ground too fine.

Water is leaking from the group head or portafilter.

  • There is a rubber gasket inside the group head that can wear down with use and lack of cleaning.  Try cleaning it well or replacing it.
  • There may be coffee grounds around the rim of the portafilter after tamping, which would disrupt the seal.  Always make sure the rim is clean before attaching the portafilter to the group head.
  • The coffee may have been ground too fine.  If the water cannot go through the coffee, it will move in other directions.

  Water Tank Empty Light comes on even though the Water Tank is Full.

  • There is a magnetic floater in the back corner of most water tanks signaling when the water level is low.
  • Most likely the floater is stuck at the bottom.
  • Try cleaning it and loosen it from being stuck there. It should freely float up and down.
  • There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges.

  • There is a magnetic floater in the back corner of most water tanks signaling when the water level is low.
  • Most likely the floater is stuck at the bottom.
  • Try cleaning it and loosen it from being stuck there. It should freely float up and down.
  • There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges.

 

  • There is a magnetic floater in the back corner of most water tanks signaling when the water level is low.
  • Most likely the floater is stuck at the bottom.
  • Try cleaning it and loosen it from being stuck there. It should freely float up and down.
  • There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges.

 

  • There is a magnetic floater in the back corner of most water tanks signaling when the water level is low.
  • Most likely the floater is stuck at the bottom.
  • Try cleaning it and loosen it from being stuck there. It should freely float up and down.
  • There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges.

 

  • There is a magnetic floater in the back corner of most water tanks signaling when the water level is low.
  • Most likely the floater is stuck at the bottom.
  • Try cleaning it and loosen it from being stuck there. It should freely float up and down.
  • There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges.

 

Additional resources:

 
We find the following websites very useful in trouble shooting most problems:
 


Comments on Troubleshooting Semi Automatic Espresso Machines

Jay S. 18/09/2016 00:04
I have a Delonghi Magnifica (4500/One Touch) - water and steam still hot, still froths milk great, but milk temp no longer hot. Everything is clean, descaled, and the heating element seem fine (water/steam great).
What could cause milk temp to drop off?
Administrator Note:
95% of times it's due to a non sanitized milk foaming device (automatic former head). Try to soak all the parts in Urnex Rinza Solution.
James 04/06/2016 20:29
Does anyone know what mean "There may be coffee grounds or scale build up around the edges". I have Delonghi Perfecta cappuccino coffee machine and have the Water Tank Empty Light comes on even though the Water Tank is Full problem. I clean the floater see the floater is at the higher level position, but the light never gone.

Help appreciated!
Ann G. 27/04/2016 19:45
I'm trying to descale a Delonghi Lattissima plus Nespresso Single Serve machine using the Nespresso Descaling kit and am following online instructions. When I hold down the Espresso and Longi buttons to start the descaling process I can't get any flashing lights . Please advise. Ann
Administrator Note:
Dear Ann, please read the instructions carefully. You need to install the descaling tube in place of the milk container. You can find the descaling tube underneath the drip tray on the RH side. No need to press any buttons. The machine will go automatically into descaling mode once you attache the tube.
Jeannie 30/03/2016 20:52
I have a DeLonghi and it spits water and grounds out from around the top of the portafilter. I suspect I should not have stored the portafilter snugged up against the rubber gasket...I think I've smashed the gasket and it now won't seal. I'll order a new one but wanted to put out this warning.
Administrator Note:
Thank you for this. Yes, the gaskets have to be replaced once in a while as they are normal wear and tear parts. Don't over tighten. Clean the rim of the filter basket from ground coffee before inserting the portafilter.
Michelle 29/02/2016 15:36
My Saeco won't run its telling me "ventilate " can't find troubleshooting info.
Administrator Note:
This means there is an air pocket inside the water path. Purge water thru the steam wand until you have a steady stream of water.
Tracy Allen 09/01/2015 18:28
This is a great article. I have a De'Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso Machine and I can't seem to get it to pour the espresso shot. The Portafilter fills with water but it will not do anything but drip a few drops. Am I tamping it too hard/too light? Could it be the espresso wasnt ground properly by the barista? Thanks
Administrator Note:
Thank you for your feedback.

Yes, it sounds like you're tamping too hard or the grind is too fine.
Boun Caffe 330 user 23/10/2014 13:13
Hi there,
I absolutely adore my BC 330 espresso machine and I de scale it at least twice a year, clean it well after every use and take generally, very good care of it. However lately I encountered a problem with my steam. It starts off very normal and then maybe 30 seconds into the steaming process, the steam strength and speed picks up drastically to the point where the milk I am using blasts everywhere and all my foam is destroyed and even if I let machine cool back down, I never get enough of steady, slow steam to actually make sufficient foam. Please help with any advice. I have tried de calcification, probing the steam wand with a paper clip, cleaning the entire machine very thoroughly and am still having this problem.

Very desperate,
Shellyene
Mike 04/06/2014 06:50
Having problems getting the milk to froth. I have lots of experience with this machine and others and know the technique. Is there something with the machine that needs servicing?
Administrator Note:
Dear Mike, hard to help without knowing which machine you are using. If the issue just came up and you had success before, your steam wand may be clogged or you are starting to have scale issues. If this is a new machine, may be investigate the steam tip nozzle design. May be it has one hole only and you are used to a four hole design etc.
Carolyn 07/03/2012 18:45
Ok, so why does the cap on top where you fill the water steam to the point of dangerous issues=I can make expresso, but I cleaned my frother wand and it steams from the cap..a new machine no doubt, My old one never did this???

From Espresso Planet:
Hi Carolyn, I think your machine is a steam-driven machine. Unfortunately, we don't deal with those so I'm not sure what is behind the cap you refer to. I would suggest looking to replace it with a pump-driven machine and you won't have that issue and your espresso will improve greatly. Unfortunately, steam-driven machines also don't make true espresso as they don't provide enough pressure. See our buyer's guide for more information: http://www.espressoplanet.com/Coffee-Makers-Espresso-Machines-Buyers-Guides/


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