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Saeco Aroma – Hidden defects [updated]

As you might have guessed i snagged up another espresso machine. I was told the machine started leaking water after being descaled and that somehow it wouldn’t switch off anymore. Having seen some of the pictures of the machine before committing to the sale it seemed like an easy fix. When i picked up the package it came in this afternoon it all went south though.

Shipping

Truth be told the package looked good from the outside, it was taped together well and i didn’t notice any parts moving around freely inside, unlike the Astoria grinder i picked up a while ago. When i opened the box i quickly noticed that the watertank had been broken because the powercable was put behind it. Not startled just yet i put a little water in the tank (just enough to cover the waterinlethose) and plugged it in. While the machine was described as “not switching off anymore” i couldn’t get it to do anything. The powerswitch didn’t do anything and neither did the steam or brew switch. Oddly enough the lights in the kitchen wouldn’t turn on anymore either and it became clear the machine had tripped the breaker and had a short in it somewhere.

Autopsy

When i reset the breaker and opened up the machine i noticed that it looked a lot like the Isomac Giada i recently repaired. On a hunch i pulled the two connectors from the heatingelement and plugged the machine back in. The lights didn’t go out this time and the machine appeared to be working, except for the heatingelement obviously. Bad news.

Opening the boiler revealed a couple of odd things. The first thing i noticed was the sheer amount of calcium deposits and flakes in it, even though the seller told me it was recently descaled. The heatingelement looked a little twisted too and when i cleaned out the scaling it suddenly made sense why the machine tripper the breaker. I assume the previous owner tried to remedy the leaking boiler by trying to tighten the two nuts on the heatingelement. The problem with that is however that the heatingelement will twist if you use too much force with the risk of damaging the heatingelement. In this particular case the heatingelement had to endure a tremendous amount torquing which lead to two individual rips in the metal of the element.

To be continued

Obviously i am going to need new parts to fix this one and i’ve already contacted the seller to see what we can work out. The machine clearly had a bunch of hidden defects that weren’t mentioned when i bought it. For now this project is on hold =(

[Update] The seller has stepped up and offered to pay for the new waterreservoir. I’ll pay for the new heatingelement (and various other parts) and then call it a day.

12 Comments

  • Paul says:

    Dear Sebastiaan, my Seaco Aroma also leeks. The water is comming from under the nut entrance of the heating element. I replaced the rubber o-rings and the heating element. But when I put the new ones in they looked a bit small. Do you think something else could cause the leek.
    http://paulfoole.nl/saeco.JPG

    • Sebastiaan says:

      Hi Paul, the rings that you mention are not supposed to be rubber! Normally there are two soft plastic rings used to seal them off. I recommend replacing them as soon as possible to prevent any possible electrical damages.

      But beware, there are two types of heating elements with different diameter threads and different diameter rings. If i’m not mistaken there’s a 12mm and a slightly bigger imperial sized version. If you need any further help don’t hesitate to contact me =)

  • juan says:

    Hello, i have a ferrari cremosa, looks like is a saeco aroma clone, is just like it buty black.
    i’m a newbie on coffe, but i know this, a presurized portafilter is almost bulletproof for newbies, and non presurized need a good grinder, cuz you need a specific type of grind depending on your machine….

    mine come without the presurized pfr, so if i send you some photos can you tellme if the saeco aroma ptf could work on mine ?

    regards

    • A pressurized portafilter definitely is more forgiving in terms of what coffee you use and its coarseness. However, you don’t absolutely need a $/€ 1000 grinder to get good results. In fact, I’ve used my Nemox Lux ($/€ 100 used) for the longest time for espresso with my La Pavoni and let me tell you, that La Pavoni is rather picky about what it does and doesn’t like in its filters. Really as long as you can adjust the grinds coarseness on the grinder and you can get it fine and consistent enough, you can use pretty much any grinder, even hand grinders! Do you have a grinder of some sort already?

      As for the portafilters being interchangeable I wouldn’t count on it, I’m not saying it’s impossible but highly unlikely. You can compare your portafilter to the one in the pictures in the Saeco Aroma – cleaned, repaired and ready for action post. I sadly have since sold the machine so I don’t have the portafilter on hand anymore to take any measurements.

  • Tony T says:

    Dear Sebastiaan.
    I have a Saeco Aroma tradional it’s been a while now. The other day I turn it on and noticed the green light on the on/off switch flicker off. I proceeded to turn it on and off again, but no luck…. I then tried to use a different outlet in another room but nothing,it wont turn on. Can it be that id have to reset my thermostat? Where is it located.
    Thanks

    • That could be any number of things. I’d check the power on switch first. Flickering lights usually mean a wonky contact, could be either the switch or the power cord. Check if those two are working.

      The old style thermal fuse is non-resettable and needs to be replaced when it trips. The fuse is held in place by a small metal bar on top of the boiler. The newer thermal fuses auto reset, the only thing you need to do to reset it is to let the entire machine cool down. If it’s still not working after cooling down, replace it.

  • N Padgett says:

    Dear Sebastian, I wrote to you about a year ago with a problem with my Saeco Aroma extruding very little coffee. You replied with instructions on how to troubleshoot. The long and the short of it: my engineer husband helped dismantling per your slide show and poking around. We discovered a plastic part in the portafilter had completely broken. No fix from us was going to help, so I ordered a new portafilter. Now my Saeco works like new. Thank you again for all your help.

  • Mauricio says:

    Hi Sebastiaan, I bought the very same aroma model for my father and he did not use it for a year. It was stored clean, so when I set it up last month I simply put water and turned it on and ran the hot through it for a few seconds before attempting a brew.
    It did brew a nice coffee and the crema looked nice. I did however notice it seemed to take too long for the pressurized portafilter to open up, like the pump was struggling. after a few attempts it seemed to work fin so i left it and dad made coffee for a couple weeks. when he told me it stopped working I had a look and noticed that when plugged it the unit would not switch on. I thought it must be a fuse but upon opening i realized there is only the thermo unit and i could see no reason why it would not turn on. I tried bridging the contacts on the power switch with a screwdriver and voila it turns on. So after removing the switch I noticed on one side there was melted plastic and realized the switch failed. I have swapped the contacts to the other side of the switch (no light for now) until i replace the switch. I thought maybe the pump was clogged and was working to hard? I removed the pump and opened it up and it looks clean like new!
    I will replace the switch but I am stumped as to why the machine seems to be struggling to get the portafilter open.

    Any advice would be great.

    • Hi Mauricio,

      the pumps on these machines are very basic vibration pumps. They have spool inside that is magnetised by putting a voltage across it. The spool then pulls or pushes the plunger inside the pump. The phase of the power alternates 50 or 60 times a second (depending on where you live) which reverses the polarity on the spool making the plunger go back and forth 50 or 60 times a second too. Even if the pump was completely frozen, it would most likely not cause the switch to fail. A plugged or worn out pump builds less pressure, but it’d have to be really bad to be unable to open a pressurised portafilter.

      On the subject of the portafilter, have you tried using the portafilter without any coffee in it? If it still doesn’t seem to want to push through you should try to listen to the pump. If no water comes through but the noise that the pump makes changes that means it is at least building up pressure. If the sound does change, take apart the portafilter and its valve and give it a good cleaning.

      Now for the switch issue, replace that thing asap. The switch failing could be simply by corroded internal contacts in the switch. Corrosion impairs proper conductive contact and when that happens… stuff gets hot, melts and potentially starts a fire. If you want to be on the absolute safe side, label all the wires on the switches, remove all switches, replace the faulty power switch and do a continuity test on every other switch with a multimeter. Visually inspect the other contacts, plugs and connectors for any corrosion and replace where necessary.

  • Joel says:

    Hi Sebastian,

    My Saeco Aroma SIN015 actually does the same thing as your seller reported, after descaling I do a coffee and after a few second when the pressure is building again in the machine it start leaking water then steam.
    When I try to make another coffee it takes a few seconds to pour like the pump is discharged.

    Any idea how to fix that ?

    Thanks

    • Hi Joel,

      chances are that you too are dealing with a lot of scale inside the machine. The little silicone plunger that is supposed to keep the grouphead sealed until it reaches a certain pressure is more than likely not fully closing due to a small flake of calcium getting stuck. The same thing could very well apply to the steam valve, if anything is stuck in there it’ll keep the valve from closing completely and will then let pressure + water out through the gap.

      The best solution is to simply take the boiler out, open it and clean it thoroughly. Make sure you replace the boiler gasket though. However, you can try descaling with a citric acid solution again, make sure it’s in the boiler for a good while (15 – 30min). Then, flush the boiler, pull in some more citric acid solution from the tank and leave it sitting for another 15-30 minutes. Do that until the tank is empty. Run some of the solution through the wand too by powering the pump on and opening the steam wand.

      To clarify, the machine should be off during those 15 – 30 minute periods. The boiler should be warm so let it warm up for a minute (max) and then shut the machine off and let it sit.

      After the tank is empty, run a few tanks of clean water through the machine and the wand, rinsing it thoroughly. Let me know how it goes!

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