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