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Modified Via Venezia portafilter

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  • Modified Via Venezia portafilter

    So i recently rebuilt a Via Venezia to replace my Breville BES820 which i was at about the limit of getting decent coffee from. I wanted to step up into a domestic boiler machine to see what i could do with it.
    It's a good little machine, especially with new parts, but it's going to take some time to produce reliable shots with it.

    However, there's two things that let this machine down in a big way:

    1. Panarello wand in place of a regular steam arm. This aids in inexperienced users making milk foam but it's not very good and you can't really adapt or change your technique with it. I replaced this wand with the steam are off a Breville BES800 and it's much better.

    2. 2-piece, internally pressurised portafilter. For those of you who haven't seen one of these portafilters before, here it is:

    As you can see, there's a whole lot of rubbish in the way of the coffee coming out. The top view, where that black plastic is visible, performs a similar function to the dual wall filter baskets. The basket supplied with the portafilter is a single wall double shot basket. In the top photo, that piece remains closed until the pressure has reached a set limit within the portafilter and then it releases the shot. At least that's what i think it does.

    Both of these as you would imagine inhibit the quality of the coffee this machine can produce. So below is the steps i took with my portafilter to make it, i think, much better (without going naked).

    Firstly i removed the pressure plate and mechanism, as shown in the top photo. Pretty straightforward. The problem then was all that plastic you can see in the way of the coffee making it out. I used my Dremel tool to remove all that plastic, resulting in this:

    Now however, the bottom of the main brass basket holder has a rather distasteful hole in it, which you can also see in the first photo, which wouldn't provide a nice clean flow of coffee, and i also couldn't pour into two cups at once.
    I'd always wanted a portafilter with spouts, as my Breville just had 2 holes, so i went to CoffeeParts and browsed their miscellaneous parts listing and found a suitable spout and extension fitting:

    CoffeeParts part number: 511673

    CoffeeParts part number: 700789

    The problem now was connecting it to the base of the holder. A friend of mine is a pretty good metalworker and he had a look at it for me and this is the end result. He's a year younger than me (20) but has some mad skills already. Due to the heat required to reliably join the two parts together, the holder and spouts have taken on a somewhat anodized effect.
    The good thing about this setup, as opposed to just welding the spouts straight onto the holder, is that i can remove them for cleaning or replace them with a different style of spout if i want. Also, to fit the handle assembly back on, it wouldn't have fit properly without a spout being lifted that far away from the bottom.

    So now that the basket holder and spouts were done it was able to be used to make coffee! I used it like this for a week or so but something needed to be done about the movement of the handle independent to the basket holder. If you look closely at the plastic handle and holder section of it, there's three oval holes around the edges. This is what the screws go through into the basket holder that joins the two pieces together.

    When the portafilter was stock, with the pressurising parts in place, the idea of those oval holes was to allow the handle to be moved to the right past centre, when loaded onto the machine, and then spring back into the centre so it looks good in the machine. This was impractical on the new setup as i had no need for that function. The problem was that i would lock the portafilter into place and the handle would then keep going a little way. This felt weird and didn't look very good and it also moved around independant of the basket holder.
    If i tightened down the screws, it would be ok for one or two shots but would then loosen again.

    To resolve this, i decided the easiest way would be to fill the gap that the screws were moving into so they couldn't move anymore. I wasn't sure of how to do it for a while, i considered filling the space with plastic, or melting a piece of metal in there. The second idea was the inspiration for what i did.
    I found three reasonable sized screws with good thread and heads that fit snug into the holes that they were filling. I then partially melted a slot for them to fit in, then cranked the soldering iron up and melted the screws into place. This way, both the re-hardened plastic and screw thread would be a good solid way to hold them in place.
    After going over the gaps and neatening it up with a wire brush on my Dremel, this was the result of it installed on the portafilter:

    Now that was sorted out, the next problem was the weight of the whole portafilter. The brass basket holder was nice and heavy but the hollow plastic handle was way too light and the whole thing felt terrible in the hand. I found some old roofing lead and cut it into a suitable length, rolled it up and stuck it inside the handle. It's almost like they designed the handle to be filled with something to make it heavier because the end cap comes off pretty easily then refits to look like nothing's been touched.

    With a bit of adjusting to the roll of lead, it sits snug inside the handle and doesn't rattle around. This balanced out the feel of the portafilter and now is a lot nicer to use.

    That's pretty much all i've done to it. I'm happy with how it looks, feels and performs. It might be a bit rough around the edges but that's how i like it. The same motto i like to live by for other things, cars especially, "Built not bought".

    Thanks for reading!

  • #2
    Very interesting read! Now I'm sure your next upgrade would be fitting an OPV, and a three-way-solenoid?


    • #3
      interesting, a lot of effort though.


      • #4
        I like the way you have modified an inexpensive machine to be better. It is good practice for when you have a crack at a more expensive one.

        Have you noticed any change in the resulting shot?