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Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
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wiretoy
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Feb 2011
Posts: 4
Location: Asia
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Fri Feb 28, 2014, 2:26am
Subject: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

I've had my generic 19-bar TSK-1819A for 1.5 years now. It seems to be losing it's power.

I have always used Illy pre-ground powder (I'm always late and don't have time to grind),
but recently the coffee quality has been getting worse.

Every time i make a shot, the machine drops in pitch, the portafilter handles starts to undo itself, and then it starts spitting coffee out of the sides (of the portafilter) in an explosive manner.

(....even with the softest tamp)

I'm not so familiar with espresso machines. But i'd like to repair it myself.

I cleaned it out with a Cafiza tablet two days ago, cleaned the group screen and gasket. But nothing has improved.

I'm sure the answer is glaringly obvious to you folks, but please enlighten me.

Thanks.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,947
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Fri Feb 28, 2014, 5:45am
Subject: Re: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

Yes, it is, stale pre ground "coffee" and it sounds like the pressurizing disk is clogged. The machine going quiet is the pump loading up and the unscrewing of the PF is the high pressure and poorly machined ears on the PF.

Tamping is pretty much a non issue with a PPF, it does all the work which is why you THINK you are getting espresso when you really are not.

You can not make espresso without a grinder, not going to happen. There are too many variables that need to be taken into account so inexpensive machines come with a PPF, it has a device that produces back pressure and makes up for poorly ground and stale coffee. You get "coffee" that is forced through a small hole and is foamed up but is not espresso, it is basically high pressure brewed coffee made to look like espresso.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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wiretoy
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Feb 2011
Posts: 4
Location: Asia
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sat Mar 1, 2014, 2:14am
Subject: Re: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

Thanks for replying.

I'm embarrassed to say that some of this terminology is lost on me.

Pressurizing Disk? is this the Group Screen?
If it is, i just ordered a new Group Screen and Gasket. Ive never changed these parts, but just read that its necessary every 3-4 months.

And PPF? P PortaFilter?
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JasonBrandtLewis
Senior Member
JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,465
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Sat Mar 1, 2014, 7:57am
Subject: Re: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

OK, let's start with terminology first; problems second . . .

"19-bar" = 19 times atmospheric pressure.  Great espresso is made @ (approximately) NINE bars.  Granted 19 is the pump's capability, but since you can't limit it to only pumping out nine . . . that said, more bars are needed when using a PPF.

"PF" = Portafilter.

"PPF" = Pressurized Portafilter.  The portafilter is the the device that holds the basket of coffee that then gets locked (or not, in your case) into the machine.  A pressurized portafilter is one that artificially creates or enhances the crema.  Most machines -- and all good ones -- do not use a pressurized portafilter.

"Pressurizing Disk" = either a small rubber disk found between the bottom of the basket and the portafilter, or -- in the case of a double-walled (PPF) portafilter -- it's between the two walls.  With but a single pinhole, forcing the espresso through that single hole is what "enhances" the crema.  In other words, as Wayne said, "You get "coffee" that is forced through a small hole and is foamed up but is not espresso, it is basically high pressure brewed coffee made to look like espresso."

"Group Screen" = the screen through which the water comes through the group and into the coffee-filled basket.

/ / / / /

Keep in mind, first and foremost, that it's the TASTE IN THE CUP that counts most . . . how the coffee tastes to YOU . . . but there are some important facts, not open for debate.

Thomas, you simply cannot -- ever -- make GREAT espresso from pre-ground coffee, whether it's Illy, Lavazza, or from the top-notch micro-roaster down the street.  Pre-ground coffee is, by its very nature, stale, and stale coffee grounds will never produce greatness in the cup.

Babbie's Rule* of Fifteens:
-- Green (unroasted) coffee beans should be roasted within 15 months, or they go stale.
-- Roasted coffee beans should be ground within 15 days, or they go stale.
-- Ground coffee should be used within 15 minutes, or it goes stale.

Now, again, if you're happy with the taste, so be it, but once you try fresh beans, you'll never be able to use stale coffee again.

The second key to making great espresso is often described as "The Four M's":

The Four M's of Espresso:
1) the Macinazione is the grinder, and with it, the correct grinding of the coffee beans;
2) the Miscela is the coffee beans/blend itself;
3) the Macchina is the espresso machine; and
4) the Mano is the skilled hand of the barista.  

All four are important.  Nothing is more important than the grinder.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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wiretoy
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Feb 2011
Posts: 4
Location: Asia
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 2:30am
Subject: Re: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

Have now changed both the group screen and the gasket (which i bought online). The problem is even worse now. The PPF sits in even more loosely than before.

Considering how loose the PPF feels when locked in place, perhaps the locking "ears" have worn down, and i need to replace this PPF. Otherwise I'll have to accept my losses and just throw this machine out.

And i'm guessing my machine does NOT have a pressurizing disk (not that i can visually see anyways...)

So, I've already made erroneous assumptions causing me to lose money on repairing this. I want to repair it so I can sell it, and perhaps get a machine with a built-in grinder (i'll guess this automatic grinder is probably a taboo subject here - however, i'm seriously short of time in the mornings - but after being duped, the idea of REAL espresso sounds appealing).

Another question, is there an easy way to tell (from photos only) whether a machine uses a PPF or not ??
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,947
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Mon Mar 3, 2014, 7:18am
Subject: Re: Espresso machine spluttering, choking, leaking - losing its strength. Why?
 

It sounds like the gasket was a little too thin. As a short term work around, you might try removing the gasket from the machine then drawing around the inside and the outside on a sheet of thin plastic then cut out the ring and install it above the new gasket, this will cause the gasket to seem thicker. It should not take much in the way of thickness to fix the "problem".

On the basket that the coffee grounds are placed into, you should see dozens and dozens of holes all the way through the bottom of the basket. Some baskets are double walled and may have many holes on the inside but only one or a few on the outside, this is a pressurized basket, there should be the same number of holes on the inside and outside of the basket.

A pressurized PF will have some sort of plastic device in the bottom. It should have a single LARGE hole in the bottom, about 1/4 inch or bigger through it. If it has a very small hole or a plastic assembly in the bottom, it is pressurized. It is most likely your machine has one or the other of these devices. I have never seen both on the same machine.

Do not get anything with a built in grinder. Most of the time, the grinder is not of a high quality and if either the grinder or the machine has problems, you will need to replace BOTH the grinder and the machine even if only one was bad.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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