Tech Tips and Troubleshooting

One of the great things about Italian coffee machines and Italian coffee grinders is that they are simple to maintain, service and repair. Of course, prevention is always better than cure so see my Maintenance Guide to learn how to keep your gear in great shape.

Of course, issues pop up from time to time. If you have a technical question please start with my Troubleshooting FAQs below. If you can’t find the answer in my FAQs you can contact me, Andrew, for Support


Coffee Machine Troubleshooting FAQs

+ Why won't my coffee machine heat up?

First check that the coffee machine hasn’t run out of water as all of my coffee machines will automatically turn off when the water level runs low.

If water is in the water tank, turn the machine off, pull the tank out and put it back in to re-set the internal low water switch, then turn the machine on again. If it doesn't work the first time, try it again. Note that sometimes the water tank will need a little jiggle and sometimes the machine will need to be switched off and then on again to reset the low water switch.

If the machine still doesn’t turn on and your machine has a magnetic float in the water tank the float may be unseated. To fix this simply remove the housing cap, re-seat the float so that it freely slides up and down, then replace the housing cap.

To stop this from happening again it's important to remember to top up the water tank regularly. The automated cut off is helpful but don’t rely upon it. Best practice is to keep the water topped up.

+ Why is there low (or no) flow from the group?

If you suspect low flow rate, run your coffee machine's pump for 10 seconds and measure the water that comes out. If you get less than 50 ml you have a problem.

The most likely cause of low (or no) flow from an E61 group is a blockage caused by water scale. Coffee machines have many water pipes as well as small diameter restrictors that regulate water flow rate. Without water filtration these restrictors can block up regularly. Even with water filtration this issue may still occur from time to time.

If you suspect that scale may be the problem, the best place to start is with the E61 group mushroom. Remove the mushroom, dismantle it and clear the small holes with a pin. Once you know how to do this it’s a simple 10 minute job.

Other possible causes of no flow from an E61 group are either a faulty pump or a faulty solenoid valve. Most coffee machines have solenoid valves which control water flow. Engaging the group lever causes these valves to open. When you engage the lever you should hear a click. If your don’t hear a click the valve may be stuck closed. Pump and valve problems are rare but they can happen.

+ Why is my coffee machine making weird noises?

There is a range of “normal” noises for Italian coffee machines including squeak, hums and rattles. Even when comparing brand new machines there is a range of sounds that can be considered normal. These coffee machines are made by hand, not my robots, so every machine is a just little different.

Over time its normal for sounds (squeaks, hums and rattles) to change and to come and go. Some machines will get louder as they age. Some machines will get quieter as they age. They are all unique.

Expect minor changes. If you get significant changes it may be time for a service.

+ Why is my coffee machine squeeking?

Squeaking noises on coffee machines with E61 groups are often a sign that the E61 group needs a little extra lubrication.

Why is extra lubrication sometimes needed earlier than expected? A simple reason. Too much backflushing. Backflush detergent dissolves not only coffee oils, it also dissolves the good lubricating grease in the E61 group.

I learned this from experience when I over-loved my own first E61 coffee machine. I backflushed daily and after just a couple of months I has a squeeky group. This is why I recommend backflushing only monthy, to keep your machine clean without removing the lubricating grease.

If you are handy and willing take a look on YouTube. You will find plenty of step-by-step videos that show you how to disassemble and re-lubricate your espresso machine’s E61 group. All you will need are some basic tools and some food safe grease.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty take it to a coffee machine technician for a basic service. Group lubrication isn't covered by warranty but don't worry. It won’t cost much at all.

+ Why won’t the low water light turn off?

All coffee machines that I sell cut off when the water tank runs empty to prevent the boiler/s from running dry. Most machines detect water by sensing conductivity between two detectors near the water intake. Some machines use an in-tank magnetic float sensor in addition to the water conductivity sensor.

Many machines also have a low water indicator light. This will switch off when a water conductivity sensor detects low water. However, the indicator light will not switch off when a magnetic float sensor turns off the machine before the water conductivity sensor comes into play. This means that there are times when the tank is empty and the machine is cut off, but the low water light remains on indicating that there is water. This is normal.

+ Why is my machine making a hissing sound?

A brief hissing sound just after a boiler reaches boiling point is normal. This is caused by a rush of steam as it exits the anti-vacuum valve. The sound stops when the valve seals.

If you hear this hissing sound after the initial heat up period the anti-vacuum valve may not be sealing correctly. This occassionally happens on new machines as the seal sometimes needs a little help to bed in. This can also happen on older machines due to water scale build up on the seal, or due to aging of the seal.

This simple procedure may help to get the anti-vacuum valve to seal:

  • Turn machine on to allow the steam boiler to reach full pressure
  • Use a screwdriver to push the needle on top of the anti-vacuum valve in, to allow steam to blow out
  • Repeat several times, until the valve seals
  • If this hissing continues you may need to remove and dismantle the valve to manually clean it
  • If all above fails you can order a replacement valve

Of course, you can contact a technician. However, keep in mind that warranty does not cover issues caused by water scale, and does not cover perishables including gaskets and seals. For help with finding a local technician get in Contact

+ Why does the pump turn on by itself?

All Italian coffee machines that I sell have low water sensors that trigger automated boiler filling. This will occasionally occur when the machine is sitting idle, and when this happens the pump will switch on for several seconds for a quick top up.

+ Why does brew pressure drop mid shot?

Occasionally a low water sensor will be triggered as you are pulling a shot. This will happen more frequently if you pull your shots and steam your milk simultaneously.

When this happens the coffee machine's pump will divert from the espresso extraction function to the boiler filling function. This will result in brew pressure dropping for several seconds as the boiler gets topped up.

If this happens regularly you should consider steaming milk towards the end of espresso extraction. Also, make sure that you don't begin an espresso extraction or steaming milk too soon after drawing hot water from the steam boiler. Get to know your machine and work to a pace that allows the machine to keep up.

+ Why is water leaking from the group seal?

Water leakage from the group seal as you are pulling a shot can have a number of causes.

  1. The portafilter may not be turned tightly enough to create a tight seal. This is often experienced by new coffee machine owners because they tighten the handle to the 6 o'clock position instead of to the "tight" position. It's rare to have a handle sit at 6 o'clock.
  2. If the portafilter is turned tightly and there is still a leak at the group seal there may be grit caught in the seal. To fix this give the group a good backflush, then wipe clean.
  3. If the leaking continues it’s time to replace the E61 group gasket. An annual replacement is typical. To buy a replacement gasket Click Here

+ Why doesn't the pressure gauge go back to zero?

You may notice that that after pulling a shot the brew pressure gauge doesn’t go to zero.

Don't worry. This is normal. This is because the brew pressure gauge measures pressure in the brew line, not pressure as the group head. Some pressure gets trapped in the line after pulling a shot. This is why the gauge doesn't go to zero.

+ Why is the brew pressure unstable

You may notice that your brew pressure is unstable, or that brew pressure changes from shot to shot.

There's a very easy way to troublehoot this. Insert the blind basket and perform a backflush. When pressure builds watch the gauge and check the pressure reading.

If the pressure is stable, and reading between 9 and 12 bar, there is no problem with the machine. The problem is your espresso workflow so go back to my Training Page. Watch my training video and read all of my handy FAQs.

+ Why is there water under my machine?

Water leaks are very rare but they do happen from time to time. The most common cause is a dry o-ring at the base of the water tank.

To fix this leak:

  • Remove the water tank
  • Apply grease to the o-ring at the base of the water tank
  • replace the water tank

In most cases a little grease on the o-ring will stop the problem.

+ Is my machine's brew water temperature too low?

I’m occasionally asked if a machine's brew water is too low and this is always due to a misunderstanding of the role of brew temperature.

Brew temperature plays no significant role in the temperature of your drink. The role that brew temperature plays is to influence the flavour of your espresso. In general, cooler brew water will give you a fruitier and more acidic espresso and warmer brew water will give you a more cholcolatey and bitter sweet espresso.

A coffee machine’s brew temperature setting has a negligible effect on the temperature of the coffee in your cup. To get a hot coffee you need to pre-warm your cups. This is why warming cups is Step 1 of my Espresso Workflow

+ How can I measure brew water temperature?

A while back I started playing with thermocouples. I soon learned that there is a big difference between the set brew temperature of an Italian coffee machine and the measured temperature of water running from the machine. One reason is that when water runs it cools very quickly. Another reason is that even a responsive thermocouple cannot accurately measure the temperature of a thin stream of water.

The next thing I tried was to insert a thermocouple into brew water flow path, inside the E61 group, to measure the temperature of water just before it hit the coffee puck. Again, water temperature measurements did not match the set brew temperature.

I learned that a device with the capability to measure temperature within a simulated coffee puck is required. There is a professional device, called a SCACE, that does just this. I’m pretty handy so I put a lot of time and effort into building my own. After many iterations I was unable to get the results I was looking for. This all taught me that the SCACE costs $1000 for good reasons.

The journey above shows the technical difficulty involved in brew temperature measurements. My advice is not to waste your time with the same frustrations. When it comes to machine calibration you can rely on coffee professionals who do this day in, day out.

+ Why has steam pressure decreased?

If you notice a steam pressure decrease the first thing to check is steam boiler pressure. If the steam boiler pressure is below 0.75 Bar during steaming your machine may have a problem so you will need to get in contact to request tech suppport.

In most cases the boiler pressure will be in the normal range during steaming (0.75-1.5 Bar, machine dependent). For these cases the most likely cause of steam pressure decrease is a blockage in the steam wand tip or the steam wand pipe.

Blockages in the steam wand tip occur when the tip is not wiped clean with a damp cloth immediately after steaming. Blockages in the steam wand pipe occur when milk is stucked up into the wand when towards the end of steaming at low steam pressure. This happens because towards the end of steaming at low pressure a vacuum can cause milk to be sucked up into the wand.

To remove these blockages unscrew the steam wand tip and clear blockages in the steam wand tip and the steam wand pipe.

To prevent these problems make sure that you never steam at low pressure and make sure that you always wipe the steam wand tip clean with a damp cloth immediately after steaming.

+ Why is there water in the steam wand?

All steam wands on Italian coffee machines will have some condensed water sitting in the bottom when sitting idle. Before steaming, purge water for 1-2 seconds until you get to dry steam.

If you are using a single boiler coffee machine, check that you have switched from brew mode to steam mode, and also, waited for the boiler to reach steaming pressure (> 1 bar).


Coffee Grinder Troubleshooting FAQs

+ How do I set up a new coffee grinder?

When setting up a new coffee grinder you need to adjust the gap between the cutting burrs to get coffee particles that enable a 30 second espresso extraction.

This process is known as tuning in a grinder. Here are the steps:

  • Grind some coffee and check the particle size. If the particle size is too coarse (like caster sugar) adjust the grind finer (smaller number). If the particle size is fine (like flour) adjust the grind coarser (larger number).
  • Continue until you get a particle size that is somewhere between caster sugar and flour.
  • Follow the steps in my Espresso Workflow and pull your first shot.
  • Note the extraction time.
  • Follow the steps in my Espresso Workflow to fine tune your coffee grinder.
  • When you are getting extractions near 30s your grinder is tuned in.

+ How do I find my coffee grinder’s zero point?

It’s not necessary to find the zero point of a grinder but if you are interested in finding it then this is how you can do it:

  • Start with an empty and clean grinder.
  • Adjust the burr gap until the top and bottom burrs touch. This is the real zero point.
  • The zero reading on the grinder will not align with real zero point as the numbers are only there to give a relative scale with a bigger number for a coarser grind and smaller number for a finer grind.

+ Why has my coffee grinder seized?

I see this very often. Don’t worry. It’s usually easy to fix.

One cause is the build up of fine ground coffee in the exit chute resulting in chute blockage. Another cause is coarse coffee fragments caught between the burrs.

If your grinder seizes the first thing to do is to check that the chute is clear. Grab something like a straightened paperclip and stick it right up the chute. Wiggle it around to break up any blockages and to clear out the chute.

If the grinder’s chute is clear but the grinder is still seized the likely cause is coarse coffee fragments caught between the burrs. This commonly occurs when you change the grind setting from coarse to fine without pulsing at intervals. Follow these steps to fix the issue:

  • Back the grind size off to coarse so the motor can run again.
  • Slowly work your way back towards espresso grind.
  • As you adjust from coarse to fine, pulse regularly to prevent seizing.
  • Fine tune the grinder for by following the steps in my Espresso Workflow

If you still can’t produce a fine grind and cannot turn the collar there is a chance that a foreign object, such as a stone, has that made it into the grinder. If you are qualified to work with electrical equipment your can follow the steps below to fix this:

  • Unplug the coffee grinder.
  • Remove the bean hopper.
  • Remove the top burr assembly.
  • Clean out the grind chamber by tipping the grinder upside down, brushing the burrs, brushing out the grind chamber and clearing out the chute using an unraveled paperclip.
  • Reassemble.
  • Slowly work your way back towards espresso grind.
  • As you adjust from coarse to fine, pulse regularly to prevent seizing.
  • Fine tune the grinder for by following the steps in my Espresso Workflow

If you are unable to remove the blockage yourself please complete the Support Form. I will then direct you to a service technitian. Note that clearance of blockages is not covered by warranty.

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