Almost two weeks ago I posted an article on my most recently bought Espresso machine, the Saeco Aroma with a couple of hidden defects. Once things were sorted out with the seller and the necessary parts were ordered I could finally get to work.
Like I wrote in the article mentioned above, the innards of the Saeco Aroma look a lot like the Isomac Giada I repaired earlier. In fact, the only real differences are to be found in the material used for the boiler and a few minor differences like the number of temperature sensors, switches and the mounting of the steamvalve / pressurerelief on the boiler. It also uses a single hose water system, which basically means that the hose used to pull water in is also used to relieve excess waterpressure from the boiler.
Once I took the machine apart and ordered all the necessary parts, all I could do in the time in between was cleaning the frame and parts. The stainless steel frame is spotless, not a speck of rust (no surprise there) and in terms of scratches it’s quite pristine as well.
While I had the boiler apart I put it into a citric acid bath and let it soak for a few hours. Normally about half an hour is long enough but since the upper part of the boiler has a fixed baffle in it I let it soak a little longer so that all possibly hidden calcium deposits (or scale buildup) would be gone as well. The steamvalve and paranello were cleaned the old fashioned way, with dishwashing soap and a sponge. The sad part? I had ran out of things to clean…
Out with the old, in with the new
With all the parts cleaned it was just a matter of waiting for the replacement parts to arrive and once those landed on my doorstep it was time to get cracking. The obvious parts to be replaced are all the rubber o-rings and the heating element. I also like to install a new powercord on all the machines that I get my hands on.
First I put the top half of the boiler back together. When I pulled the top half apart earlier I noticed the three temperature sensors where sticking to the stainless steel boiler, later it occurred to me that it wasn’t grease or glue rather than thermal paste to create an optimal thermal connection between the boiler and the sensors. When applying thermal paste it is important to not go crazy with it, just a small drop will do. With all three sensors in place I reinstalled the sensor retainingclip and tightened the assembly with the two nuts on the heatingelement. To prevent damaging the heatingelement by using too much force while installing the element, place top half of the boiler with the element in the palm of your hand. The nuts should be tight but the element should not twist!
At first I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to replace the grouphead seal because it wasn’t in a bad condition at all, but when I eventually made the order I included the grouphead seal as well since practically every other seal and gasket would be replaced as well and it made sense to completely freshen up the machine.
The hoses were probably the first thing that yelled “Replace me!” when I initially looked at the machine. There was scale buildup inside them and I just didn’t want to even think about drinking the espresso’s that were made with water that was drawn through those hoses. Replacing them was quite easy, I used the old ones as a guide to cutting the new ones. I did a quick mockup with the boiler unit (partially) in place and attached the hoses to make sure none of them would be too short or too long.
Whenever you start taking things apart, whatever it may be, it’s best to make as many notes as to how they once fit together as you can. It doesn’t matter how you make those notes, write them down or like me, take lots and lots of pictures. The mechanical parts of these machines are quite simple to put back together, the electrical part however is quite a different story. I always refer back to my notes and pictures to verify that I reconnected everything as it was connected before I started working on the machine. In this case however I forgot to specifically take written notes of the order of the temperature sensors, my other photos however showed me exactly which one went where and which wires were attached to them.
The standard portafilter for this machine is different from regular portafilters, it actually is a key component in making the espresso. Normally the portafilter is just a handle that keeps the basket with the coffee grounds in place. The coffee grounds are packed tightly into the basket so that the machine has to force the water through the dense puck of coffee. This machine however has a pressurized portafilter which means that you don’t have to actually tamp (actually you shouldn’t tamp at all) the coffee grounds and the grounds don’t need to be as consistent as with conventional machines.
Aside from the pro’s and con’s of pressurized vs. conventional portafilters it also means that there are actual parts inside the portafilter, which explains why it is quite a bit taller than most normal portafilters. These parts always end up coming in contact with the coffee you’re making and that was quite obvious when i disassembled the portafilter. Luckily a lengthy soak in a Pully Caff bath did wonders. After that all the parts were cleaned with regular dishwashing soap and then reassembled.
- Fully cleaned
- Completely descaled
- New heating element
- New waterreservoir
- New grouphead seal
- New steamvalve seals
- New paranello seal
- New boiler / grouphead bolts
- New watersupply hoses
This machine has been fun to get to know and it certainly threw me off for a bit when i first got my hands on the portafilter. However, to keep new projects coming in i will have to sell this one as well. It’s a great little machine, doesn’t take up too much space unlike many other machines. The pressurized portafilter is very forgiving in terms of grounds so you could even buy pre-ground coffee from the supermarket and still have good results. It definitely is a great entry level machine and with the new parts and the amount of time i spent on it it has a whole new lease on life.