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La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
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SStones
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SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 474
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012, 5:38am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra E61 HX - $995!
 

It would be a good first Heat-Exchanger machine for an owner that is interested in paying an unbelievably low price and then fixing up the potential problems.  We can generalize and say "It is approximately $1000 cheaper than a basic, single-gauge, pour-over Giotto".  After searching the Cuadra, and finding out why it was sold for $1000 less than the machines it is designed to look like, parts can be upgraded and hopefully will not exceed that $1000.
There are plenty of things to check:

The specs stated this batch are with "Removable Cord".  Make sure it is at least 16 Gauge. 14 Gauge is better and won't heat up like the 16s. 18 Gauge or skinnier will absolutely develop burn marks and smell like electrical fire with this machine.

Check the IEC plug in the machine, it must be rated for 16 amps or more (Where the power cord connects to the machine). If the IEC Connector also contains a fuse-holder check that it is a 15 amp fuse. If fuse holder is elsewhere in-line, check it is rated for 16 amps and that it contains a 15 amp fuse. If there is no fuse holder at all, install one.

If the tubing used in to the push-in fitting on the Heat Exchanger Inlet at the injector-T is nylon, you will need to change it when it hardens and cracks. There are peroxide cured-silicon tubings that are much more resistant to heat.  OR you could replace all the cheap tubing and pneumatic fittings at the same time with brass fittings and copper flexible tubing and proper compression fittings.

The Cuadra uses a tiny, multifunction fitting atop the boiler withinwhich the pressostat, vacuumbreaker and safetyvalves are all contained. Because the pressostat is a non-standard threading(Having to pass through this thing) the Cuadra comes with a sacrificial relay to protect the P-Stat.  The P-Stat does not control the element, directly. It merely controls a sacrificial relay which in turn controls the element. Therefore the relay takes on the task of sparking, building up carbon and failing instead of the more-expensive P-Stat (Though some would just replace the Microstats on the p-stat).  This sacrificial relay is usually just a cheap little Finder, sometimes an Omron and often some Made In Malaysia without a readable brand name.  You will be replacing the relay often until you become fed up and replace it with a good solid-state thing. (Or just use the P-Stat to control the element and burn it out from time to time). Note that the small copper boiler in the Cuadra is very thin walled, uninsulated and radiates like a small star.  The element cycles more than twice a minute (Three a minute with the top and sides off as it will be when you're constantly looking for leaks.) So the life expectancy of contact points is short.

These machines are made to be tinkered with by us people. Do set the relief valve down to 10 Bar or so before the first time you backflush it or you will blow up all of those cheap little pneumatic fittings and hoses they have in there. Those little Ulka pumps really can exceed 15 BAR when brand new.

Unless you consider your tinkering time to be worth a lot of money, all of the above fixes won't exceed that $1000 you've just saved for buying this rather than a Giotto.  All that's left is your opinions on "Plastic Body vs. Stainless", where you're going to T into all of the flexible relief/primer tubes to have them drain back to reservoir rather than peeing down the inside front wall and dripping into the drip tray.

On the other hand, I have been amazed by the quality of espresso this machine brews in the hands of people that have owned them for a few months. They say it's easy to use and they prove it by making an outstanding espresso with it. They claim it is better than my Giotto and I do see two points about it that I agree are better than Giotto.  1) 2 year-old Giottos actually use a relay INSIDE the Power-Board as the sacrificial relay. Expensive to replace the whole board, PITA to resolder the relay. (Easy to bypass to either a separate sac-relay or direct control from the commercial style P-Stat).  and 2) The boiler-fill solenoid valve in the Cuadra is larger, much more robust and according to a friend has never clogged on his or his friend's Cuadra.  The smaller valve in the Giotto is known to clog if used with tapwater by a heathen like myself and not descaled often enough.
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slybarman
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slybarman
Joined: 3 Nov 2011
Posts: 366
Location: usa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012, 6:00am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

After a year of use, my Cuadra has not suffered from any of the problems you describe.
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slybarman
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slybarman
Joined: 3 Nov 2011
Posts: 366
Location: usa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Wed Nov 28, 2012, 11:55am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

mnz Said:

I've been observing my dosage during the last few days, and you're right, my 18 g dose actually looks a bit smaller than his all-the-way-to-the-edge dose. Since I just even out the coffee with my index finger before tamping I didn't realize that I had some space left, but I do.

Posted November 27, 2012 link

When I get more coffee in a day or two, I will try it again and weigh the resulting dose (just out of curiosity).
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mnz
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Joined: 12 Feb 2004
Posts: 11
Location: Sweden
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Nemox Lux
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2012, 2:03am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra E61 HX - $995!
 

SStones Said:

These machines are made to be tinkered with by us people.

Posted November 28, 2012 link

Thanks for revealing this important point. So far mine has only been used for making great espresso.
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mnz
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Joined: 12 Feb 2004
Posts: 11
Location: Sweden
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Nemox Lux
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2012, 3:08am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

slybarman Said:

When I get more coffee in a day or two, I will try it again and weigh the resulting dose (just out of curiosity).

Posted November 28, 2012 link

Here's what my dose looks like;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWrbzqtX9l8

It weighs in at around 18 grams, this particular one was 18.2.
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scanfield
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Joined: 21 Nov 2011
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Location: Texas
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Nuovo Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2012, 11:47am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

mnz Said:

Here's what my dose looks like;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWrbzqtX9l8

It weighs in at around 18 grams, this particular one was 18.2.

Posted November 29, 2012 link

Why are you knocking the pf with your tamper? I thought that was a really bad idea because it leads to channeling.
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slybarman
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slybarman
Joined: 3 Nov 2011
Posts: 366
Location: usa
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2012, 12:12pm
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

scanfield Said:

Why are you knocking the pf with your tamper? I thought that was a really bad idea because it leads to channeling.

Posted November 29, 2012 link

Correct - current consensus is that it should be avoided post-tamp.
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SStones
Senior Member
SStones
Joined: 24 Nov 2012
Posts: 474
Location: Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Giga 5, ECM Giotto, Rocket...
Grinder: Anfim Milano-Best
Vac Pot: No  :(
Drip: Some $30 thing from Walmart
Roaster: I buy pre-roasted.
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2012, 7:07pm
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

the spitting, sputtering sound you would hear if you got a bit of water on the hot boiler. There are no leaks though ... I checked.

I think you have a constant leak over your combination safety/anti-vacuum valve.  Above the boiler you'll see the fitting that elbows out of the boiler with a pressostat on the end and a combination valve and coiled copper tune to the pressure gauge coming off of the T...
That combination valve will have a hose running off to either drip down the channel on the front wall or maybe teed in to drip back to reservoir when boiler pressure exceeds 1.5 Bar...  If you pinch the flexible hose (For two seconds or so is long enough) and the noise momentarily stops, then you know the problem is a miniscule leak over that valve...  Don't pinch it off for long if it is leaking, you might burn your fingers when the hose pops off the valve.
So!  If it is leaking over that combination valve while the boiler pressure is below 1.4 Bar, then it needs to be cleaned and descaled (Or replaced if that's not enough).  Let the machine cool off, and drop to 0 boiler pressure.  Open the steam valve at 0 to be sure.
Remove the fitting for the thin tube to the gauge.  Pull off the skinny hose from the combination valve. The t-fitting can now rotate freely around the brass cross-drill fitting going to the pressostat.  Turn it so that you can get a small wrench in to work on the combination valve.  It has tiny parts, spring loaded inside. Maybe spread a dish-towel over the boiler and under this valve while dismantling it so the tiny spring can be seen when it runs for freedom.  Unscrew the hollow nut that you took the flexible hose away from, keep one thumb at the edge to stop the spring from getting away.  NOTE the order that the spring and disk are sitting in. When you're done cleaning them and descaling the disk/tip if there's any crud on it, reassemble it all.
When tightening the fittings, gently past the point where they first touch is enough. A compression fitting like the one to the gauge IS NOT like a pipe-fitting.  Tighter is not better.  Too tight on a compression fitting only destroys it.
If that doesn't fix it, replace the whole Pressostat/Combi-valve and T cross-drill with a new one.  A cuadra dealer should have such a thing. This part is NOT common to most HE machines, unfortunately. Most have separate Pressostats from their Safetyvalves.
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mnz
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Joined: 12 Feb 2004
Posts: 11
Location: Sweden
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La Nuova Era Cuadra
Grinder: Nemox Lux
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 9:52am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

slybarman Said:

Correct - current consensus is that it should be avoided post-tamp.

Posted November 29, 2012 link

My routine is to grind, knock the portafilter sideways once or twice to settle, then grind some more, then flatten the coffee with my finger, then press lightly with the tamper, then knock the filter a few times to settle and to knock down any coffee that has stacked up along the sides, then tamp, and finally wipe off any coffe from the edges and flanges. I don't knock the filter after tamping.
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eelpout
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Joined: 19 Jan 2005
Posts: 23
Location: California
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Dec 1, 2012, 11:57am
Subject: Re: La Nuova Era Cuadra Owners Thread
 

Has anyone looked into US availability of other La Nuova Era's machines like the Alexa, Altea etc.? I'm interested in their designs but in a (single group) direct connect and/or rotary pump version. Have yet to find a US retailer that carries anything other than the Cuadra.
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