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Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbie

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  • Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbie

    Hi Guys,

    I currently own a DeLonghi EC410 that I received for a Birthday present after talking about all the fun I had learning how to use the commercial coffee machine at a film festival I was volunteering at, and Im having some issues with it.

    Im not sure if its time to give the DeLonghi the heave-ho or not...

    The machine is now coming up on 2 years old and its been descaled once (I know.. I know.. *smacks hand*)... Recently the machine has been getting this huge pressure build up behind the portafilter when on "steam mode" which never used to happen before. Its gotten to the point now where Ill preheat the machine, and pull a shot, then flick it over to steam mode so that it heats up, then froth the milk and make the rest of the coffee. When I unscrew the portafilter enough there has been so much pressure build up in the machine that it explodes the filter out along with coffee grounds all over the kitchen, smashing the portafilter down onto the drip tray and probably taking about 5 minutes off my life from the fright

    Any idea why this is happening? Should that pressure build up even be occuring? Do you think there is some valve inside that isnt working as it should?

    I only just discovered that I could unscrew and remove the "shower screen" to clean it, as well as disassemble the portafilter and Ive got to say they are both in pretty foul condition. I dont have any fit-for-purpose cleaning gear so I basically used a pointed tip skewer to clear out the muck so that the flow was better. It doesnt seem like the machine is having as much trouble pulling the shots through but even after cleaning everything (havent descaled yet) it still practically explodes when you remove the portafilter.

    Sure, I guess I could remove the portafilter before I switch to steam mode, but that leads me to wonder if the machine will have anywhere to build up its steam. It never seemed to be trying to build up pressure in this way before.

    So Im stumped, is there anything I can do to fix it? Any ideas?

    Ive been exploring the options of new machines and think that I would like to get a Imat Mokita Junior if I do decide to go that route. Ultimately Id love a Silvia, but I just cant justify spending that much. Well I cant really really afford either, but thats what credit cards are for, right? ;D

    My thinking so far is:

    New Machine:
    * Clean, New, Warranty, Recommended by many "in the know"
    * High Quality, ie. better boiler, basket, portafilter, group head, etc.
    * Lot of Room to learn and improve -- Capacity for some really nice coffee

    Old Machine:
    * Time and drama trying to figure out or fix the problem
    * Money for repairs
    * Machine hasnt been cared for as it should (very dirty parts) - Is it recoverable? If so, is it worth trying to put all that work into getting a DeLonghi that isnt that crash hot in the first place going again?

    I feel like in my researches Ive learnt so much about caring for machines, which machines are good and some solid basics on pulling good coffees that maybe I should cut the DeLonghi loose and start over.

    What do the experts think?

    Should I ditch the DeLonghi and go Imat Mokita Junior? Is there something better than that in the same price (500AUD) ?

    Any help appreciated


  • #2
    Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

    FYI, Ive read so much about coffee recently, it seems especially cruel that all I have is instant in the house now that the DeLonghi is somewhat of a deathtrap


    • #3
      Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

      Hi Lachlan, welcome to coffeesnobs!

      the imat seems good - enough people use them and like them.

      theres also the sunbeam em6900 ... $100 more, and possibly a step up (in terms of convenience ... I wont restart the conversation about thermoblocks and temp stability!)

      have you got a grinder?


      • #4
        Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

        Hi Matty,

        Thanks for the welcome :-)

        Im happy to wait for a boiler to preheat and much prefer it (from what Ive read) over a thermoblock. I work from home, so this machine is really for home and work :-)

        I have a KRUPS Burr Grinder. Apparently its not the rolls royce in any way and can grind unevenly, but I really wouldnt know. Ive learned most of my coffee machine/preparation knowledge in the last 48 hours or so. Basically since the existing machine broke and it was time to explore my options.

        The more I think about it, the more I want an Imat... and the more I crave a coffee in general.

        I never realised how much I relied on that little DeLonghi :-)

        ... and now.. I realise how much I was doing wrong with it.. LOL

        Ahh well.. You live, you learn.

        Unless someone here can suggest what might be the problem with my existing machine I think Ill pop out on the weekend and grab myself an Imat.

        So consider this an ultimatum.. or something.. ;D



        • #5
          Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

          when you mention recently the machine ... pressure build up ..., have you only just started using the grinder? Have you changed coffees recently? are you using fresher coffee?

          Im thinking stale, preground supermarket coffee tends to be ground too coarse, but if youre grinding and getting better shots, theres more pressure build up in the pf anyway.

          I doubt the delonghi has a three-way valve to take away any pressure or water sitting on top of the puck, so you will get those explosions. I guess you could let the machine sit for a bit, drink your coffee, rinse out your cup, then take out the pf, flush etc etc. I used to get the pf sneeze on my old sunbeam, and the only way I could avoid it was to wait before removing the pf. sucks when youve gotta make four coffees in a row!

          apart from that, Im happy with that ultimatum! go treat yourself to a nice new toy!

          p.s. the thermoblock issue isnt one of preheating - even they benefit from 15-30 mins warm up time before making your coffee. its more to do with temp stability during the shot, affected by cold water entering the hot thermoblock and possibly cooling it down (which also happens in boilers, I might add). TB shots will tend to be burnt at the start, then too cool for the rest of the shot. This new Sunbeam has a different (better?) thermoblock, lined with stainless steel yadda yadda... never used one, so I wont say anything more!

          happy shopping!


          • #6
            Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

            Hmm.. I have changed coffee brands recently.. and I *think* I have recently changed to a finer grind.

            I buy whole vacpacked beans and grind as needed.

            Yeah the delonghi definitely doesnt have a 3way solenoid valve.

            Im going to hook it back up again now and have a go at pulling a shot and just leaving the pf in for a while and come back later after ive made the coffee.

            As for pf sneeze, its more like pf take-my-hand-off.. hehe

            re: thermoblock.. ahh yeah.. i remember now.. I just remember taking away from that "copper/brass boiler = better", heh.

            Ill check out the sunbeam anyways....

            Thanks for the help so far :-)



            • #7
              Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

              OK, I have decided Im getting a Nemox Dell Opera.

              Theres no point me having an Imat or any other decent machine, without a decent grinder and the best bang for buck grinder on the market at the moment is the new Sunbeam EM0480 (Its basically a Lux for $199RRP)..

              Sunbeam told me they are out of stock and they will be getting more end of march.. *barf*..

              David Jones have got a 10% off deal at the moment on machines and grinders so Im getting the Dell Opera for $719.10 (down from 799), which is quite reasonable.

              This way I have a good machine, good grinder and good steamer, all in the one unit.

              All I have to do now is perfect the entire art of coffee making and Im set ;-)



              • #8
                Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                Welcome also, hope you new purchase works out for you. Might I suggest before you run out and get the Nemox from DJs that you contact the site sponsors, tell them how much lollie you have to part with and see what they can do. Its just that should there be a
                "problem" (fingers crossed there wont be) DJs, being an institution unto themselves, you may find service and proper advice a bit thin. Im sure my experience was a one off, but the site sponsors have a vested interest in helping.

                By the way, I actually considered the same model before going with the Silvia and Rocky DL. Damm glad, too, just a bigger boofier machine.

                my to sheckles worth..



                • #9
                  Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                  Hi Boris,

                  Thanks for the welcome :-)

                  The only reason that I am going with DJs is that I have $150 in DJs vouchers I received for Christmas. Thats the only way I was able to stretch to get a grinder and machine. I was planning on getting an Imat Mokita from CoffeeCo or one of the site sponsors and then getting one of the Sunbeam EM0480s from DJs using the voucher, but DJs are completely out of stock in Victoria and Sunbeam arent getting more until the end of March at the earliest.

                  That would mean I would have a nifty coffee machine all dressed up and with no nice grounds to use

                  ...Which from what Ive read is akin to cardinal sin :-)

                  As much as my dream setup would be a Silvia/Rocky combo (sitting on one of those drawers), Im already pushing the envolope on budget as it is. I guess Ill have to stick with the Dell Opera, which from what Ive heard is quite capable of pulling a respectable shot.



                  • #10
                    Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                    Hi Lachlan,

                    Id just like to say that Im preparing my lawsuit against coffeesnobs for breaking my old machine and forcing me to buy an expensive one. I read too much about making good coffee and as a side-effect, I too experienced the pf take-my-hand-off function of my old sunbeam (may it rest in peace). I was trying to pull 25-30 second shots, but I guess the poor little machine just wasnt capable of doing that.

                    I pushed my budget WAY WAY WAY over the limit by buying a silvia (i already had a lux) just last week. Its been a week now, and I do not regret my purchase at all. My advice is dont worry about the cost and dont worry about the credit card. They will work themselves out in the end. For now, you will get plenty of enjoyment trying to work out how it all works, and for later, you will get coffees hundreds of times better than you used to from your delonghi. No regrets!



                    • #11
                      Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                      bad influences .. ALL OF YOU!! ;D

                      STOP IT!! :-/

                      I guess its my own fault for hanging out on a site called "CoffeeSnobs" LOL

                      Nothing but the best!!

                      Well.. I managed to get a better shot out of the delonghi this morning that almost had something resembling crema. *Shock*.. Still not up to what Id consider good coffee compared to what Ive had elsewhere .....and after reading a bit more about frothing technique I managed to get a bit of microfoam happening, which is a big change from the fluffy bubbles that sit on top of the milk that Im used to. The foam was quite runny in consistency but I managed to make some semblance of "latte art" with it (if you could call it that).

                      Im hoping my last DJs voucher arrives before the weekend so I can get my new toy

                      Will probably go to the Melbourne Café day thats coming up too, since its held about 10mins walk from my house :-)

                      now back to work... both people I live with are sick of me talking about coffee LOL



                      • #12
                        Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                        Hey, Lachlan.
                        I have an ancient Delonghi machine, and had the same "explosion" with the pf
                        I always find it best to steam the milk (with the empty pf attached to keep the heat), then after purging the overheated water, do the necessaries, re-attach the pf. and draw your shot


                        Make your shot in the usual way, then remove the pf before you steam the milk

                        A bit of a design, flaw, but I guess its what you get used to.

                        Anyway, post no. 2 - nice to be here, looking forward to learning heaps



                        • #13
                          Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi


                          DeLonghi is now gathering dust and will prolly make its way to my sisters place to RIP. :-)

                          I now have a Nemox Dell Opera (but secretly wish I had a Giotto)



                          • #14
                            Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                            Lachlan, now that you have put the DeLonghi nightmare behind you, youll enjoy the new Nemox.  As soon as you get your equaly new grinder youll see the enormous difference from the DeLonghi, an youll learn to utilise its potential.

                            Three-way valve issues aside, shower screens do clog.  They need periodic removal and cleaning. Even if its only a coarse sponge and soapy water.  You can reduce the incidence of that chore by flushing with hot water after each brewing cycle.



                            • #15
                              Re: Lots of questions from a bit of a coffee newbi

                              Hey Robusto,

                              The Nemox I bought is the Dell Opera, which has the Lux grinder built in; so I can safely say I am already enjoying much much better coffee.

                              I also have a pullman tamper fit perfectly to my baskets, so tamping is a dream.. although i still seem to channeling in my single basket at times :/

                              Thanks for the tips on the showerscreen.

                              I have a special coarse bristled brush designed for the cleaning that I picked up from the coffee company in elwood. I also flush a blank shot before and after each pull while twisting the PF back and forth to get any stray grains out as well as wipe the showerscreen with a damp sponge after each shot.

                              I try and make it so that when I pull a blank shot that the water runs as clear as possible.

                              Can you say anal? haha