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Thread: Sunbeam 6910.. 7+ years later, plus cleaning/service questions: Worth it?

  1. #1
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    Sunbeam 6910.. 7+ years later, plus cleaning/service questions: Worth it?

    Hi all.

    Thanks to your wealth of knowledge on this particular machine, I've been making some excellent shots. Below are some notes for people considering this (pretty decent) machine, maybe as a second hand entry level goer. Following are the story of how I came to own this machine and my current sort of reckoning of my situation, espresso-wise.

    When I was in high school, my folks came home with this thing one day; cool. The four of us all drank coffee daily and so the machine saw very consistent use for many happy years. Unfortunately, the massive volume of coffee that ended up going thru this sunbeam wasn't met with an appropriate amount/frequency of cleaning and, as the thing grew older and got a bit wobbly (group collar, terrible build quality on the two (non-essential!) knobs for water and steam), it was relegated to a cupboard out of sight. During the intervening years, I finished high school, started uni and discovered the wonderful world of coffee that Sydney is home to. After a couple of years with a Chemex/hario setup, me and my roomie were looking into espresso machines. On a student budget they're pretty unattainable, but luckily I stumbled past this forum! Soon after finding this forum and making an account, I got it out of storage and bought a group seal, anti calc filter, tablets and a nice new tamper and basket from my local espresso shop. Within two days I'd blown straight through a 250 gram packet of single origin beans. Such fun did I have that first couple of days.

    Then came time to clean it, and boy-o I was in for a shock. Removing the shower screen revealed the extent of the coffee build up. Thick black crust coating the inside of the group head. Nasty. I'm quite sure that I'm the first human to see this part of the machine since it was made. Scrubbing with a vinegar soaked tooth brush didn't really remove much of this stuff so I grew weary of such a boring chore that I put the shower screen back on and forgot about it.

    So I have this (surprisingly capable) espresso machine, a good supply of coffee beans and a dilemma: Do I go and get the collar rebuilt and have the machine cleaned and checked out by a pro? At what cost? I'm pretty handy and mechanically minded, do I attempt this myself? Do you fine snobs have any advice for a young enthusiast such as myself.

    Final note: Of the maybe 50 shots that I've pulled thru this thing, about 10 were absolutely mind-bogglingly good; perhaps not by specialty coffee standards, but so far above the quality I was expecting and remembering from my mornings at mum and dad's place making the absolute worst cappuccinos with blackened arabica beans from who knows what slave driving bean peddler!

    So do I ride this machine into the ground or think about looking around for a new one?

    P.S. Just FYI, if you can't afford a naked PF, you can get pretty good idea of what's going on by just removing the twin shot splitter thing, I can tell when I'm getting a stream of coffee straight down, and whether or not it's hitting the sides of the bottom of the PF.

  2. #2
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    Hi Sitas

    Others with more experience will hopefully help more. How worn is the collar? When putting the portability in does it turn too far (ie past 6 o'clock) or go all the way to the right and still leak?
    Depending on how worn collar is suggest buying a group head seal spacer or simply making one using the seal as a template. Depending how worn you can use thin plastic like 2lt milk bottle or ice cream container lid. This will hopefully fix the issue.

    Cleaning the shower screen, try soak in cleaning tablet and water for a hour or over night if needed. Good luck it sounds nasty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mb21 View Post
    Hi Sitas

    Others with more experience will hopefully help more. How worn is the collar? When putting the portability in does it turn too far (ie past 6 o'clock) or go all the way to the right and still leak?
    Depending on how worn collar is suggest buying a group head seal spacer or simply making one using the seal as a template. Depending how worn you can use thin plastic like 2lt milk bottle or ice cream container lid. This will hopefully fix the issue.

    Cleaning the shower screen, try soak in cleaning tablet and water for a hour or over night if needed. Good luck it sounds nasty.
    The black gunk is on the 'ceiling' above the shower screen! So hence my frustration - takes a lot of elbow grease and slow progress. My handle goes all the way around to about the 4-3 o clock mark... way off to the right. I know that's really bad! not sure if shims will help me here but I'd be happy to give it a go and report back. To be clear; the shim goes in between the group seal and the circular channel that it fits into, correct? Somehow I don't have any leaks from the group head at the moment but I can tell how close I am to such a situation.

    Thanks mb21

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    Have you run a cleaning cycle as per the instructions? That is, using Caffetto or similar tablets and the cleaning disc in the basket?

    If so, did that not remove some of the gunk?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zeezaw View Post
    Have you run a cleaning cycle as per the instructions? That is, using Caffetto or similar tablets and the cleaning disc in the basket?

    If so, did that not remove some of the gunk?
    I have and yes, it did remove some of the gunk. After a scrubbing session and another cleaning/descale cycle this evening it's looking a bit better. Mostly a thin surface covering now and a large part of the black buildup has gone away with the scrubbing. I would love to see a photo of a clean one just for reference. Is it supposed to be near black? I think not! heheh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sitas View Post
    I have and yes, it did remove some of the gunk. After a scrubbing session and another cleaning/descale cycle this evening it's looking a bit better. Mostly a thin surface covering now and a large part of the black buildup has gone away with the scrubbing. I would love to see a photo of a clean one just for reference. Is it supposed to be near black? I think not! heheh.
    G'day sitas

    You are far along the way to sorting it all out - well done.

    The initial colour of an early 6910 group is an "off gold" / tan thing. Mostly they develop a thin black coating naturally. Unless you are OCD, I wouldn't try to get it back to pristine (my 8/2008 one is a "thin dull black" and it still makes brilliant coffees).

    FWIW, I only drink light to medium roasts by choice, and the showerscreens get removed and cleaned every 250g batch of coffee as part of my personal routine maintenance.

    You will always get a much better coffee out of a 6910 if you do a pre and post flush. The preflush is essential if the machine has just started*, the post flush is essential to keep the showerscreens "sanely clean".

    Pre / post flush Method: hit the single button, you will hear the preinfusion start. When the preinfusion stops, the real shot starts. Give it about 4 or 5 seconds at full pressure and then hit the single button again to stop it (yeah, I know some of the other buttons also stop it, however I have long forgotten which ones - as I always use the button I started with).

    The machine has just started*: Unlike boiler machines, the 6910 is ready to go in around 90 seconds. One "longer preflush" with the p/f in place and you get perfect shots in under two minutes.
    My two group La Pav takes 20+ minutes to warm up at 20amps / 240Volt draw - "help support your impoverished local electricity company". Then you have to pull a complete single shot with the p/f in place before it will even consider making the first drinkable cuppa. After that I have pulled 72 shots in just under one hour without effort, however I did the same with my 8/2008 6910 the next year (sheer curiosity, I did have a second 6910 on standby "just in case"). I should dispose of the La Pav as it is almost unused these days.

    Seal: when you replaced the seal and the p/f was not tight at around the 6 to 7 O'clock mark, you just need to add a circular paper / card spacer "above the seal under the group". It is a fairly permanent fix. Also, making certain you do not get coffee grounds into the seal means you will probably never have to replace it again.
    FYI my original seal was torn when I bought the 8/2008 machine "as a new one in 2010" from HN (another sorry saga - it was clearly not new and failed in three weeks). The replacement seal (2010) is still going strong, but then my first 2 group La Pav did over 15 years (1985 to 2001) without needing to replace a seal (when I stupidly sold it and went O/S for 16 months). I was lucky to get another mid '80's replacement one "at half the quality / damn near same cost" upon my return - it needed every conceivable "potentially worn part" replaced before I could get a decent shot out of it... Good maintenance and care in usage has its own rewards.

    Hope this helps


    TampIt

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    Hi TampIt,

    Thanks for this! I am taking notes. Armed with this info, I will be able to shepherd this machine through it's twilight years I will post back here with how I went shimming the group seal. I think the group is clean enough for me. Knowing the nature of fine coffee residue, the group wouldn't stay pristine very long in this house.

    One last thing; just as a matter of course I suspect this machine is up for a service. Its pump makes a very shrill screech sometimes, particularly during a heavy cleaning session.. It's not constantly shrieking but it just lets out a squeal every now and then... I've heard that these things get loud but I'm not sure about this particular sound. Has anyone taken a 5+ year old machine into a service agent for a checkup? I'm just wondering about the rough cost of such an affair.

    Thanks once again, you lot have been most welcoming

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    Quote Originally Posted by sitas View Post
    Hi TampIt,

    Thanks for this! I am taking notes. Armed with this info, I will be able to shepherd this machine through it's twilight years I will post back here with how I went shimming the group seal. I think the group is clean enough for me. Knowing the nature of fine coffee residue, the group wouldn't stay pristine very long in this house.

    One last thing; just as a matter of course I suspect this machine is up for a service. Its pump makes a very shrill screech sometimes, particularly during a heavy cleaning session.. It's not constantly shrieking but it just lets out a squeal every now and then... I've heard that these things get loud but I'm not sure about this particular sound. Has anyone taken a 5+ year old machine into a service agent for a checkup? I'm just wondering about the rough cost of such an affair.

    Thanks once again, you lot have been most welcoming
    G'day again sitas

    You are welcome.

    Servicing - if you are in WA, PM me and I will give you a good service mob (not a CS sponsor, as far as I know none of the WA service guys are anyway). Otherwise contact noidle22 if you are in his state - I think he also services 6910's, and if I was in his state I would definitely take my own machines to him - even if I had a 1000km round trip. Costs - the mob here charge $55 plus parts, the biggest bill would probably be a new collar and come in around $170ish total (a friend's 6910 was done about a year ago, collar was around $100 plus a few cheap fittings). Ulka pumps are around $65 (6910 steam and shot pumps are both Ulkas).

    Enjoy your cuppa.


    TampIt

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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    G'day again sitas

    You are welcome.

    Servicing - if you are in WA, PM me and I will give you a good service mob (not a CS sponsor, as far as I know none of the WA service guys are anyway). Otherwise contact noidle22 if you are in his state - I think he also services 6910's, and if I was in his state I would definitely take my own machines to him - even if I had a 1000km round trip. Costs - the mob here charge $55 plus parts, the biggest bill would probably be a new collar and come in around $170ish total (a friend's 6910 was done about a year ago, collar was around $100 plus a few cheap fittings). Ulka pumps are around $65 (6910 steam and shot pumps are both Ulkas).

    Enjoy your cuppa.


    TampIt
    Thanks, TampIt. I'm in Sydney NSW, is that by any chance where Noidle22 operates?

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    He is in Bathurst NSW. Look him up on CS and PM him...

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    Just to report back with my findings:

    I did end up shimming the group seal with a bit of takeaway container lid cut to shape and that put the point at which the PF locks in at a more appropriate angle. Although there is some chatter of this being a band-aid solution, I'm fine with it. After all, shims are used in more intense situations e.g. automative, industry.. Good enough for me.

    This 6910 seems determined to crank out another half decade or so!

    Thanks for all the advice, CS.
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    Shimming works just fine to amend the locking angle - but the fact you need one with a new group seal indicates wear, which is what the band-aid comments are getting at. If the wear continues at the same rate, you may get another couple of years' use with shims before the collar is too worn to lock in at all.

    Either way, after seven years the machine doesn't owe you anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post

    Either way, after seven years the machine doesn't owe you anything.
    My thoughts exactly. I wonder why Sunbeam went for such a soft material for such an integral part of the machine. Makes you wonder. I can tell that the collar is worn out; its edges where most of the clamping force from the PF would be applied are rolled over.. Made out of recycled coke cans probably. The way I see it, shimming is a fine way to get maximum miles out of the collar.. if it's a $170 part w/ labour, I might as well use it all up so to speak before having a pro drop a new one in... There's still 4mm left on my tires officer!
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  14. #14
    Rbn
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    Enjoyed the thread, enjoy the coffee.

    I too am looking to try to get my Dec 2007 6910 group head back to "near pristine!" A very thick coating of coffee oils on it. I think it has not been cleaned since it was new, it was flushed, but sure as often not as often as Tampit suggests.

    And I have to get into the pre/post flushing habit of the group head too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    Enjoyed the thread, enjoy the coffee.

    I too am looking to try to get my Dec 2007 6910 group head back to "near pristine!" A very thick coating of coffee oils on it. I think it has not been cleaned since it was new, it was flushed, but sure as often not as often as Tampit suggests.

    And I have to get into the pre/post flushing of the group head too!
    Don't worry about trying to get it shiny new... just get 80% of the way there. I reckon it would take way too long to go 100% brand-spankin' without resorting to scary chemicals!

    Defs do pre/post flush. Saves you from doing the deep cleans quite so often : )

  16. #16
    Rbn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    Shimming works just fine to amend the locking angle - but the fact you need one with a new group seal indicates wear, which is what the band-aid comments are getting at. If the wear continues at the same rate, you may get another couple of years' use with shims before the collar is too worn to lock in at all.

    Either way, after seven years the machine doesn't owe you anything.
    You may be right, however, I have seen brand new EM 6910 P/F going way around to the right.
    It happened on my son's when he got a new one, I got the old one, had a blocked steam thermobloc.
    Easily fixed, once I figured out what it was, now at 10,000 shots still going strong.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    You may be right, however, I have seen brand new EM 6910 P/F going way around to the right.
    It happened on my son's when he got a new one, I got the old one, had a blocked steam thermobloc.
    Easily fixed, once I figured out what it was, now at 10,000 shots still going strong.
    Well yes - if the machine is brand new, obviously it isn't caused by wear. I'd be returning it in that case.

  18. #18
    Rbn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Matt View Post
    Well yes - if the machine is brand new, obviously it isn't caused by wear. I'd be returning it in that case.
    Although I would not put money on it, I think I have seen machines in shops (demo models) with the handle fitted and it is a way around to the right as well.

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