Saeco Aroma – cleaned, repaired and ready for action

Saeco Aroma Espresso machine, pressurized portafilter, basic basket and basket with podadapter

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.

Déjà vu

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.

Cleaning

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.

Pressurized portafilters

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.

Worksheet

  • 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

For sale

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.

33 Comments

  • bohn says:

    where you get your parts?
    part good pricing?
    Thanks

  • PeterH says:

    Hey, da ich mich auf Kaffee-Netz zwar gerade angemeldet habe, aber (noch) nicht posten darf, hier meine Frage: Ich arbeite für eine NGO der zwar das Wohl Ihrer Mitarbeiter am Herzen liegt, die aber Filterkaffee für absolut ausreichend hält, um den Kaffeedurst dieser Mitarbeiter zu stillen;)
    Da ich mir privat ursprünglich aus Kostengründen die Aroma holen wollte, mir dann aber wegen der “Aluproblematik” nach langem Hin und Her die Silvia gegönnt habe, überlege ich jetzt die kaffeesüchtigen KollegInnen zusammenlegen zu lassen und deine Maschine zu kaufen.
    Wir haben momentan 5 Kaffeetrinker und kommen so auf 5 bis 10 Tassen täglich – meinst die kleine Aroma könnte das aushalten…?
    Ich möchte da jetzt keine Garantie von dir, letztendlich ist bei uns einfach preislich nichts anderes drinnen;)

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hallo Peter,Den Saeco musste 5 bis 10 Tassen täglich ganz schon hinkriegen. KeinenAhnung was ich weiter noch dazu sagen muss haha. Garantie kann ichleider auch keinen geben aber ich erwarte keine Probleme mit de Saeco.Falls irgendwie etwas schief läuft bin ich immer per Mail (oderWebsite) erreichbar.

  • PeterH says:

    And here’s the Aroma in its new surrounding:

    We just moved into our new office and there`s still so much to do, at least now we can make some decent espresso to keep us going – thanks Sebastiaan!
    Don´t know if the “refurbishing business” is sth you do on a regular basis, but buying from you really was a pleasant experience and I would like to recommend you to my friends!
    Thanks again and take care!

  • db says:

    Apologies for posting to an old entry, but: How the heck did you get the portafilter back together? I cannot get the plastic inner mechanism to stay in place due to the large circular wire spring. So when I try to wed the upper with the lower pieces, things will not align correctly.

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi DB, no worries about replying to a dated post, i’m here to help ;) Anyways, There are supposed to be two springs in there but neither should really cause any problems. The best way to do it is to put the aluminum part on the table with the bottom up. Then put the assembled white valve on top of that and put he handle on top of that. The more or less V shaped spring should stay in place and normally is of no concern since it doesn’t interfere with the black bottom. The spring in the middle will slightly press up against the bottom of that same handle but you can just press through that.

      It’s best to make a picture and post it on here or mail me a link to it so i can see what you’re having problems with exactly.

      Hope this helps!

  • mw says:

    Hallo Sebastiaan,
    Thanks always for the wonderfully detailed write ups you have restoring these amazing pieces. I’d recently received a La Pavoni Espresso Plus (not sure the build year, but late 90s I would imagine). It has a similar pressurised portafilter, but I was wondering if it would take to a normal 53 mm portafilter instead. If so, could you advise a suitable one? Would espressoxxl.de carry something like that? Thank you for your time.

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi MW,

      the Saeco Aroma uses a pressurized portafilter that you can easily de-pressurize by taking out the white plastic valve and the so-called crema disc. It’s completely reversible so it won’t harm the resell value. You could however opt for a second portafilter. After a bit of research i found that apparently certain Isomac portafilters should work, however EspressoXXL.de doesn’t seem to carry them. I did find one at Caffé Milano. If you’re looking for a rather fancy version though, Seattle Coffee Gear has this one:
      Seattle Coffee Gear - Saeco Aroma upgraded portafilter
      Link

      If you have some measurements of your current portafilter i can compare them to the Giada portafilter i have on hand at the moment.

      Let me know what ends up working out for you!

  • MW says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,
    Had the opportunity to take some measurements of the LP 53 mm portafilter for comparison with the Isomac Giada’s, they are:
    Internal Diameter (filter basket removed): 55 mm
    Outer Diameter (without locking lugs): 60 mm
    Outer Diameter (edge to edge of locking lug to locking lug): 67.5 mm
    Circumference of Locking Lug: 19 mm
    Locking Lug (thicker section): 5 mm
    Locking Lug (thinner section): 4 mm
    Height of metal portion (before the plastic handle ring): 20 mm

    Let’s hope they match up!

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hey, sorry about the late reply. The measurements on the Isomac Giada portafilter are:
      Inside diameter: 55.4mm
      Outside diameter: 60mm
      Inside depth: 25.4mm
      Outside diameter over notches: 66.8mm
      Notch width: 16.8mm
      Notch height (highest point): 5.75mm
      Portafilter portion above handle: 26.4mm

      Filter measurements:
      Inside diameter: 54mm
      Outside diameter: 54.8mm
      Outside diameter with flange: 60mm
      Height: 24.9mm

      Seems like a very close match although the handle will be a bit lower but that shouldn’t be a problem i think.

  • kay says:

    Hey Sebastiaan, I loved the pictures of your Aroma reboot! I made the mistake of pulling the red rubber gasket out of my portafilter and now I can’t get it back in. What did you use to get it seated properly? Thanks in advance!

  • kay says:

    Yes, that’s very helpful! I didn’t know the disc comes out of the portafilter. Mine seems welded in place–most likely by years of coffee residue! I’ll try to pop the disc out (I’ll have to hook under it somehow), then slide the rubber gasket back around it and press it back in place. Many thanks and best wishes for you on your next project!

    • Sebastiaan says:

      If i remember correctly the disc itself has a little “tube” on the bottom that is pushed into the center hole in the portafilter itself (see previous picture). If you have the handle and valve off you should be able to push the disc off/out from the bottom of the portafilter easily.

  • Mark says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,
    I’m reassembling the boiler and the nuts seem to be just slightly too large that they press up against the raised ring on the bottom half of the boiler assembly. As a result, when they are tightened, they splay outward and do not drop down directly into the four holes punched into the bottom of the frame. I think I’m using the correct order of assembly, but is there a trick to reassembling the boiler?

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi Mark, there can be a few issues here. Did you perhaps forget the portafilter mount? The correct order is:

      • bolt
      • top boiler half
      • lower boiler half
      • portafilter mount
      • nut
      • frame
      • acorn nut

      In very rare cases it might happen that the holes in the individual parts are slightly offset during the fabrication in which case you will have to rotate the parts around one another to find which orientations match best.

  • David says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,

    I’m attempting to rebuild my own Saeco Aroma, but I can’t seem to join the two halves of the boiler properly. I ordered a new OR176 silicone o-ring, which I believe is the correct gasket. When I carefully tighten the 4 bolts (a little at a time), the o-ring starts to buckle inward and partially ends up inside the boiler cavity, instead of sitting nicely in its groove. This leaves a large gap and prevents a proper seal.

    Is there some trick you used (e.g., some kind of adhesive or RTV product) to secure that o-ring in place? Did the o-ring you used have a completely circular cross-section, or was it slightly flattened to better fit the groove?

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi David,

      RTV is not suitable for use in machines that you make any kind of food with as far as I’m aware, adhesive is not an option either. Reading your topic on CoffeeGeek you mention using food-safe silicon grease on the o-ring which is asking for trouble. The ring should be clean, free of any grease and debris and the mounted on clean surfaces. Then, evenly tighten the bolts a little bit at a time.

      However, looking at your very last picture it seems like the mating surfaces of the boiler halves are somewhat warped. Can you put both of them on a flat surface and make a picture? Both surfaces should be flush against each other and therefore completely flat (except for the o-ring groove). You could try rotating the halves over each other without the o-ring in place to see if there is a particular orientation in which they fit together perfectly.

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Completely forgot about using the correct o-ring. Basically there are two boiler types for the Aroma’s, one is brass the other is stainless steel like yours. The both use different rings though. The brass boiler uses partnumber 140321262 (OR177) and the stainless steel version uses a different ring with partnumber 140322962 (OR176).

  • David says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,

    I followed your suggestion and removed all the silicone grease and re-wiped the surfaces clean. I also rotated the halves and found one orientation with slightly smaller gaps than the others. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think it works now! I just pulled 10 shots without a leak. During an earlier fix attempt, I pulled 10 shots but then suffered a major leak from that seal while the machine was cooling down (with a different o-ring, probably the incorrect OR177 part you mentioned). So far so good this time…

    Thank you so much for your help!!
    -David

  • Oscar says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,

    I just put apart and cleaned up the portafilter of my Saeco aroma for the first time, and while it was a bit tricky to put it back together, I thought I figured out the way because it just seems to work like before and seem aligned otherwise. However, the first shot of espresso after the cleaning just didn’t create the crema that it used to. I also de-scaled the machine for the first time.
    The order in which I assembled the portafilter is: the aluminum part, then the large circular wire spring, then the assembled white valve, then the spring on top of the valve, then the black handle. I did not tighten the screws too hard, just to the touch.

    Any thoughts why the machine does not make crema anymore? Any tips/tricks on what to look for with regards to the portafiler assembly?

    Thanks,

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi Oscar,

      it seems you’ve put the bottom half of portafilter back together just the way it’s supposed to. I trust you put the black disc and o-ring back inside the basketside of the portafilter as well?

      It is quite normal that the first 2 or 3 shots after cleaning develop a little less crema on just about any machine, it can be caused by residual citric acid from the descaling process. I use PuliCaff to remove coffeegrease and coffeeoils on several parts and that always has a temporary influence on the crema as well. That’s why the first shot is usually discarded, sometimes the second and third as well.

      How old are the beans you’re using? Did you buy them pre-ground or do you grind them right before you need them?

  • Lauraine says:

    Hi Sebastian and Oscar,
    I was reading your messages and I thought you could give help me with the following. Few days ago, the brewing light on my 8 years of usage Aroma Seaco coffee machine was not turning on anymore. I could still make coffee but I noticed that the water took longer than usual to warm up.
    Yesterday, I had left the portafilter filled with coffee attached to the coffee machine by mistake and I turned it on. When I realized that it was attached to the machine, I tried to detach the portafilter from it. Just as I was starting to untwisting it, it exploded and the portafilter dropped on the metal base while the force of the steam bent it. Wow, I cleaned everything and unbend the metal base. I left it there until this morning.
    This morning, I put coffee in the portafilter and I was unable to screw it in the machine as usual. Could you tell me what is the problem and how do I get this fixed.
    I live in Vancouver, BC. Thank you for your help. Lauraine

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi Lauraine,

      sounds like an eventful day! When a boiler takes longer to warm up its usually because of one of three things: A) the boiler needs to be descaled as the scale on the heatingelement actually insulates the element from the water, B) the heatingelement has its best days behind it or C) the temperature sensor on top of the boiler isn’t functioning well, probably bad contact with the boiler. Scale or a worn out element in itself don’t cause a lot of problems, it just takes longer to heat and it’s inefficient in terms of electricity. A bad temperature sensor is more troublesome and is easily detectable. If you’re not actually brewing but just heating to brew temperature (not steam temperature) then the boilerpressure shouldn’t really go above 1.3 bar. The boiler won’t explode since they see much higher pressures during brewing and there’s a overpressure valve on it, but it’s surely something to clear up. It has however very likely nothing to do with what happened next.

      In regards to the little explosion you’ve had, I’m going to say the puck (old coffee grounds) in your portafilter hardened overnight and prevents any water or pressure from passing through. When you turn on the machine and it warms up there’s going to be a little pressure built up. Normally when there’s no portafilter locked in (or an empty portafilter locked it) that results in a few drops of water. Now, your hardened puck prevents that pressure from being released and when you remove the portafilter that pressure creates enough thrust to bang the portafilter into the driptray. The reason why the portafilter might not be able to get locked into the grouphead anymore might be due to damaged tabs on the portafilter itself or bent / broken “threads” on the grouphead. If you want you can post a few photo’s of the portafilters’ tabs and the bottom of the grouphead, then I’ll be able to see if that actually might be the problem.

  • Jan says:

    Hi Sebastiaan,

    I have a problem with my Saeco Aroma: the machine causes a short circuit after a while. When the temperature has reached its point to press the button for making coffee, the short circuit occurs.
    I removed almost every part of the machine and cleaned the heat element. After putting all parts together the machine started leaking water. I used too much force in turning tight the side Connector to the Boiler. It just broke off(!), so the only thing I can do is order a new boiler top and a new connector.
    But before I do so, I’d like to know what could cause the short circuit.

    Hope you can answer my question. Thanks on behalve,
    Jan

    • Hi Jan,

      shorts could be caused by a number of things. Are you sure you reconnected the wiring correctly? The heating element is disabled by one of the two/three sensors on top of the boiler, if one of those shorts to ground it will trip the fuse. Another common mistake is over tightening or twisting the heating element which will tear the heating element and then short with water, but since you’re able to heat up fine I’d check the wiring first.

  • marieldube says:

    Hi Sebastien,

    Here are some pictures and thank you in advance for your reply.

    Lauraine

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