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Thread: Coffee grinder - flames inside - presumably overheated. Common issue?

  1. #1
    kay
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    Coffee grinder - flames inside - presumably overheated. Common issue?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Our Macap M5 purchased 2008 just caught fire this morning. Well, overheated, and I could see something burning in the bottom of it. Got it outside and it continued to smoke, so hit it with extinguisher.

    But is this a common problem? It does not run for long, so wouldn't have a chance to overheat. There are times when it doesn't start, and we took it back to the retailer a few years ago. He twisted the grind adjustment and all was well. So that was how we dealt with subsequent refusals to start, and it usually worked.

    So our old Sunbeam is back on the bench for the time being.

    We make about 4 coffees a day except when we have visitors. So the grinder is not needed to grind for a long period of time at once - if you get my drift. We haven't done any other service apart from the return to retailer to look it over - we were told it didn't need new burrs then.

    I guess we are looking at a new grinder sometime, but not keen to have this issue again.

  2. #2
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    Errrm,
    I don't think that any electrical appliances should just start catching on fire.
    I would think perhaps that it is shorting somewhere inside, did it not trip a safety switch/RCD or fuse?
    Is it sitting in water/did it get wet?


    Cheers,

  3. #3
    kay
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    Hello Cheezel,

    Yes it did trip the RCD fuse. No it wasn't sitting in water. I suspect it somehow shorted too - and it got very hot. I had used it about 30+ minutes beforehand, then went to the computer to see the daily news. I went back to the kitchen to get something out of the oven, heard a loud "pop", saw smoke haze in the kitchen and I thought it was the oven. Then I saw smoke coming from the grinder. Could see something orange inside it, so got fire blanket and tray and got it all outside. Still smoking, any water put on it just boiled and smoked so emptied a fire extinguisher on it, which worked.

    I wondered if somehow coffee grinds had ignited inside with the heat. We had it looked at a few years ago, as I mentioned, but apart from that had not cleaned it up. I was wondering how common this is - overheating for Macaps gets mentioned on websites, but not this sort of thing. Do we need to be more scrupulous with getting it cleaned out? A bit scary.

    But I must say the heat and melting stuff stayed inside the cast-iron grinder. Something leaked on to the bench top, but it was quite removable and there was no damage to the kitchen

    Thank you for your thoughts - Kay
    Last edited by kay; 23rd December 2015 at 03:02 PM. Reason: typo

  4. #4
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Bad luck Kay, no, not a common event, fortunately.

    Good to hear no damage done to the house.

    Wonder if it would be covered by your home insurance, fusion! worth asking the question.

  5. #5
    kay
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    Thank you too Yelta. Will look into the insurance.
    Kay

  6. #6
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Repeated stalling of a motor not designed for this sort of duty will eventually take a toll, with the end result you experienced....

    Moral of the story, is to NOT stall your grinder. Operate it properly and with due care, it will last you forever...

    Mal.

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    Kay,
    Sorry to hear of your misfortune however,I'm interested to know if you might consider packing the whole thing up (ideally,when flame free) and post off to 3690,at my expense?
    The machine may yield some useful spare parts.
    Cheers,
    Mick.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mulquemi View Post
    Kay,
    Sorry to hear of your misfortune however,I'm interested to know if you might consider packing the whole thing up (ideally,when flame free) and post off to 3690,at my expense?
    The machine may yield some useful spare parts.
    Cheers,
    Mick.
    Crikey Mick, yer pretty quick of the mark, machine only blew up this AM, still smoke in the air and yer on the scrounge already.

    I suspect the insurance company will want to inspect the grinder if a claim is made.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    But I must say the heat and melting stuff stayed inside the cast-iron grinder. Something leaked on to the bench top, but it was quite removable and there was no damage to the kitchen
    From that, my suspicion would be a failed capacitor - if whatever leaked onto the benchtop looked like melted grey plastic, then it's probably capacitor guts.
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  10. #10
    kay
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    Mal, not sure what you mean by "this sort of duty". We only grind for 4 coffees a day. Al this happened 30 minutes AFTER I had my morning coffee - not grinder running for 30 minutes!

    Will look further into stalling.

    Mick, don't think there is much useful remaining, not internally anyway.

    Kay
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by kay; 23rd December 2015 at 08:34 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    Mal, not sure what you mean by "this sort of duty". We only grind for 4 coffees a day. Al this happened 30 minutes AFTER I had my morning coffee - not grinder running for 30 minutes!

    Will look further into stalling.

    Don't think there is much useful remaining!

    Kay
    What a mess.

    I think the key to what Mal was referring to is in this sentence in your original post "There are times when it doesn't start, and we took it back to the retailer a few years ago. He twisted the grind adjustment and all was well. So that was how we dealt with subsequent refusals to start, and it usually worked." not a refusal to start, unable to start because it was jammed, when you opened up the burrs it freed things up and it was again able to run again, however this happening repeatedly over over a period of time will eventually result in the motor failing.

    I'm sure Mal will explain it in more technical terms.
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  12. #12
    kay
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    Thanks Yelta, that makes sense. Have been reading up about stalls.

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    Kay,
    Thank you for your reply,yes.....see what you meant,golly what a mess.
    Most worthwhile checking your home insurance,if appliances are indeed covered then your insurance people will need a report from you local appliance repaired,this must categorically state the failure was due to electrical fusion!
    Once that is accepted you will need to weigh up the policy excess cost,hopefully your policy will cover a replacement adequately.
    Once you are past your worse with this sorry business,you might revisit my offer.
    Merry Christmas & "Happier 2016,
    cheers,
    Mick.

  14. #14
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    I'm sure Mal will explain it in more technical terms.
    No need mate...

    What you described is pretty well spot on...

    Mal.
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  15. #15
    kay
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    Hello again Yelta,

    Been looking further into this and wondering how to watch out for in our next grinder. What should we be doing when it stalls, given that we are not particularly fond of taking mechanical things apart? We did take it back to the retailer (certainly won't be buying our new grinder from them) but got no further advice from them. We get our HX machine serviced yearly, should we be sending in the grinder as well? I see other grinders have the stalling issue - and our Macap hadn't been particularly troublesome when this happened.

    Any comments welcome.

  16. #16
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    In a few words mate; never stall your grinder, it isn't good for them...

    Mal.
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  17. #17
    kay
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    How to prevent it is my question.

  18. #18
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Always start the grind with a new bean or new roast batch slightly coarse, i.e. wind the adjustment out a little (1-2 major graduations) from your last setting, load your new beans/roast, and then grind for a shot. Adjust as necessary from there to get the shot quality you desire...

    Mal.

  19. #19
    kay
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    And if it stalls after that - ie same beans and setting as last shot?

  20. #20
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    And if it stalls after that - ie same beans and setting as last shot?
    Well mate, I think you would definitely benefit from the completion of a decent Home Barista's course because stalling your grinder is not normal...

    Mal.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    And if it stalls after that - ie same beans and setting as last shot?
    Hi Kay,

    I weigh beans for every shot with a cheap digital scale, plenty available on Ebay for around $10 to $15, grind the beans, when finished grinding turn the grinder off = no partially ground beans between the burrs, sounds like a bit of messing around but really quite a quick and simple process.

    I don't leave any beans in the hopper.

    Having said the above, in my opinion you're machine was probably suspect from new, you should be able to stop a grinder under load and restart it again without any problem, cafe's do it constantly without any problem.

    Yours is the only grinder I've heard of that's failed in this manner, reckon you would have to be unlucky to have it happen again.
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  22. #22
    kay
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Hi Kay,

    I weigh beans for every shot with a cheap digital scale, plenty available on Ebay for around $10 to $15, grind the beans, when finished grinding turn the grinder off = no partially ground beans between the burrs, sounds like a bit of messing around but really quite a quick and simple process.

    I don't leave any beans in the hopper.

    Having said the above, in my opinion you're machine was probably suspect from new, you should be able to stop a grinder under load and restart it again without any problem, cafe's do it constantly without any problem.

    Yours is the only grinder I've heard of that's failed in this manner, reckon you would have to be unlucky to have it happen again.
    Thanks for the Info Yelta. I have packed up the charred remains and will get someone to look at it for me - the whole manner of failing was very strange, but perhaps spontaneous combustion is what motors do, 30 minutes after apparently happily grinding coffee for one shot. Will be more rigorous about servicing grinders in future too - the machine goes in each year so grinder can go as well. Pity - the Macap was a good grinder and we could get very good adjustment for our espressos from it, but not too inclined to get another until I understand more of what has happened.

    Will let you know if I find out anything other than completely my own hopeless fault that Mal implies.

    Thanks everyone for your help, Kay

  23. #23
    Senior Member saroadie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    And if it stalls after that - ie same beans and setting as last shot?
    Then it sounds as though there there may possibly have been some sort of underlying fault. My Macap M4D has never behaved as yours, having never stalled nor even sounded remotely like it.

    I'd say Yelta was spot on.

  24. #24
    TC
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    No grinder should stall unless it's running beyond duty cycle- which it shouldn't. Grind too fine, too long or put oversize burrs in (like some do with mini-e grinders) and the likelihood of a stall or other fault is hugely increased.

    My thoughts are either underlying fault which was not diagnosed or the OP was running it way too fine- which should have resulted in underdose. In many hundreds of Macap ginrder, we have never experienced a dead one in this way. I did drown one with steam but I'll call that one my own fault. It still only needed a new display...
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    Will let you know if I find out anything other than completely my own hopeless fault that Mal implies.
    Kay
    Morning Kay,

    I don't think Mal was implying you are hopeless, simply a suggestion that you would benefit greatly by doing a home barista course, I tend to agree.

    I'm still not sure you understand what is being said, electric motors don't spontaneously combust, when placed under unusually heavy loads or stalled they fuse:
    "Motor burn out occurs when the electrical windings inside the motor short circuit and the motor consumes an excessive amount of electrical energy and stops performing well. It gets very hot, arcs and makes visible electrical flashing before it stops completely and becomes open circuit."

    "
    spontaneous combustion
    , The ignition of organic matter (e.g. hay or coal) without apparent cause, typically through heat generated internally."



    The thread has now run to 25 replies with a lot of useful information and tips, the ball is now in your court to do a bit of research to fill in the gaps.
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  26. #26
    Senior Member sprezzatura's Avatar
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    One other possibility is that the cutters were stopped by a foreign object in the beans (this happens). A piece of metal can seize the spindle, the motor still tries to turn, heat builds up and can short circuit the winding. My friend who roasts commercial coffee mostly from Central and South America found a bullet in his beans after roasting a batch (a spent bullet). We kept a jar of interesting things that the destoner dropped: bricks; rocks; steel; staples; coins and beads.

  27. #27
    Senior Member sprezzatura's Avatar
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    ... ummm, pieces of bricks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    I have packed up the charred remains and will get someone to look at it for me - the whole manner of failing was very strange, but perhaps spontaneous combustion is what motors do, 30 minutes after apparently happily grinding coffee for one shot.
    Hi Kay
    I have an electrical maintenance background, and what has happened to your grinder is not normal by any means.
    The fact that your images show completely melted components mean there was a catastropic failure. The fact it happened not while you were using it, but actually sometime after also points to some faulty component / issue, NOT overuse or overloading of the motor.
    Lucky you & your loved ones are OK because if not for your quick, decisive action that could have been a house fire.
    Regards
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  29. #29
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    I disagree Matthew....

    Coming from an Electrical Engineering background based in heavy industry, mining and mineral processing...

    Mal.
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  30. #30
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    I disagree Matthew....

    Coming from an Electrical Engineering background based in heavy industry, mining and mineral processing...

    Mal.
    So do I Mal, not worth arguing the point though.
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  31. #31
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Indeed mate, my last word on the matter...

    Mal.
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  32. #32
    kay
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    We have had a verbal assessment from an electrician. The failure occurred in the capacitor - and it had a plastic casing which ruptured. (If it had had an aluminium casing, ruptures are less likely). However that set off a chain reaction which melted the insulation on the wiring, lead to a short circuit, and to the fire. In his assessment, the motor looks ok, but is covered in soot from from the fire. Of course, not worth repairing.

    Capacitor problems have been reported in other forums. See last entry on Page 2. On Page 1 the "symptom" is the same as we had.
    See last entry on Page 2. Same problem as we had, bad capacitor.
    CoffeeGeek - Espresso: Espresso Machines, Macap wont grind
    CoffeeGeek - Espresso: Espresso Machines, Macap wont grind

    I recall seeing another instance here on our forum earlier - if I can find it again, I will edit the post.

    We are in the market for another grinder. And all this is a reminder to keep up to date with fire safety - I am glad it is mandatory training every year at work.

  33. #33
    Senior Member fatboy_1999's Avatar
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    Our Macap M5 had a stall problem a while back.
    I firmly believe that I caused the issue as I inadvertently left the grinder running for a period of time (sound was masked by other things going on in kitchen).
    Next time I turned it on, it was stalled.
    If I manually moved the spindle, it would work, but the capacitor was obviously cactus as it did not properly start the grinder.
    Replaced the capacitor and all was well.
    Less than $20 all up from memory.
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  34. #34
    Senior Member readeral's Avatar
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    Not faulting the OP here, just wondering if a routine service of a grinder would mitigate (as best as possible) this sort of thing? Being not electrically savvy (let alone licensed) I'm not inclined to ever open up my grinder to check all is well.

  35. #35
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    Both options sound plausible to me ie. shorted motor windings or failed cap.

    Moral of story, if something isn't working right, get it fixed. My Compak K10 used to stall under inrush startup current or under high load. Defective capacitors were the culprit (Bad batch acknowledged from factory).

    Also an EE
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by readeral View Post
    Not faulting the OP here, just wondering if a routine service of a grinder would mitigate (as best as possible) this sort of thing? Being not electrically savvy (let alone licensed) I'm not inclined to ever open up my grinder to check all is well.
    Having your grinder checked out/inspected/tested every 2-3 years by an appropriately qualified/licensed person is probably not a bad thing to do; it is also the "legal" way to do it, just in case future failure causes consequential damages that your insurance company won't look at when a 'home handyman' is involved.

    Having said that though, so long as you treat your grinder well, keep it clean and don't operationally abuse it, you will get many, many years of trouble-free service from it...

    Mal.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by MorganGT View Post
    From that, my suspicion would be a failed capacitor - if whatever leaked onto the benchtop looked like melted grey plastic, then it's probably capacitor guts.
    Quote Originally Posted by kay View Post
    We have had a verbal assessment from an electrician. The failure occurred in the capacitor - and it had a plastic casing which ruptured.
    Looks like I called it correctly - not bad, considering I've been told on this forum I don't understand how motor capacitors work!
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  38. #38
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    Seems to me a case of a faulty unit and the retailer hasn't had enough experience to catch that, which led to the eventual catastrophic failure. Not OP's fault definitely and before we put blame on the retailer, I bet most other retailers wouldn't have seen this type of failure before. Accident happens and human learns from mistakes.

    As for the next 'flame-proof' grinder, a hand grinder would be the safest. But as mentioned, it's unlikely to happen again as it's a really really rare incident (unless you're doing something that harms the grinder without realizing it, but I doubt so - most commercial grinders would've survived cafe abuse and still work like a beast - this is a first I read about grinder catching on fire and surprisingly it's not a China grinder ) Was that a grey import by any chance (if the retailer is an official distributor that imports Australian spec'ed)?

  39. #39
    TC
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    Quote Originally Posted by samuellaw178 View Post
    Seems to me a case of a faulty unit and the retailer hasn't had enough experience to catch that, which led to the eventual catastrophic failure.
    Sorry but no. We need to get a little real here.

    No retailer is going to catch a faulty capacitor in a grinder at sale and no service tech is likely to notice one either in a "routine grinder service".

    If a recurring fault is pointed out, a good tech should look further and the capacitor is a good place to start in cases of grinder stall.

    As for Aluminium capacitors discussed in earlier posts, I don't recall seeing one in a grinder for a long, long time.

    When consumers strive to drive down prices (and believe, me every 2nd enquiry is "just asking if we can do it cheaper" despite discounted prices ), the inevitable result is retailers applying pressure on importers who apply pressure on manufacturers to do it cheaper.

    Mal nailed it in #6 and I agree with him.
    Last edited by TC; 8th January 2016 at 06:28 AM.
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  40. #40
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    I think samuellaw is referring to bit of the OP where they said the grinder had failed to start a few times and they took it back to the retailer.
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  41. #41
    kay
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    It has been a massive learning curve for us, who have been happily making espresso coffees for ages. We have learned about capacitors, stalling, grinders in general that we just did not know about before. I do appreciate all the comments, and they gave us the cues on what to follow up and investigate - that is the value of this forum. Even though being told to go and do a barista course may have meant well but came across so badly!!

    The retailer was a very reputable one and I would be surprised if was a grey import. Eventually I will take it back to them just to alert them to what has happened, but I am not expecting any more than that. I just don't want it to happen to anyone else.

    I too have been wondering how this could have been picked up earlier, and reflecting on how we may have contributed to it and how we will deal with our next grinder. Ones I have read about on forums seems to have just failed so badly that the fault was picked up. Ours was intermittent, but did become worse over time. We took our cue from the retailer who said to loosen the burrs - which we did subsequently. Obviously he was thinking of the more common stalling as the problem and I recall that we did leave the grinder with them for a check. He did not warn us of the potential of motor burnout - but maybe that is asking too much. Sounds like I am blaming them - I don't mean to - just that is the way events panned out. We should have kept going back to the retailer, or another coffee service centre each time there was a problem and eventually it may have been picked up. As thebookfreak said, "get it fixed".

    I will go another retailer closer to us - the first is too far - and am inclined to a Mazzer this time. The one course I WILL take is caring for your grinder!! The next retailer will be asked for lots of information, or for a through one on one (prepared to pay a fee for this) in doing this. Not sure just how much dismantling I am prepared or able to do. At least the grinder is easier to move to take to service than the espresso machine and I will specifically asking that the capacitor to be checked out!

    The Macap was a wonderful grinder - when it worked - and gave us good results in the cup. But psychologically I couldn't face another on the bench, even though it may be very unlikely. Our Sunbeam has been temporarily resurrected, gets us a morning coffee, but you can see the difference.

    FWIW, I contacted NSW Fire and Rescue (what it calls itself these days). They say they only pinpoint source of fire, not diagnose what went wrong with the appliance. They told me I should have made a call at the time, even if the fire was extinguished and then it would be logged in their records and they would notify Fair Trading - as part of their data base of appliance problems.

    Will let you know if anything else comes to light.
    Last edited by kay; 8th January 2016 at 07:35 AM. Reason: typo
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    Chris, I was in fact referring to the OP bringing the grinder back for diagnosis and the retailer did not manage to catch that.

    The event went something like this:
    1 : Grinder randomly decided not to start
    2 : Customer brought the grinder back to retailer for checking
    3: Retailer troubleshooted and adjusted the grind adjustment. Everything seemed fine on the surface. Diagnosis suggested that the customer may be grinding too fine which causes the stall (which is not out of line, because Mal too suggested/suspected the same thing - the operator stalled the grinder).
    4: Customer thought " ok, if it doesn't start, adjust the grind adjustment. What do I know, I only make coffee."
    5: Customer happily uses the grinder and adjusts the grind setting when it doesn't start. Solves the problem. There's not really an issue except for the occasional annoyance, and customer didn't even know that is in fact 'stalling'.
    6: Suddenly the grinders broke down in fire one day.

    Not much more could've been done in my opinion, given that situation. And the fact is the grinder's capacitor is faulty. In the future, repeated 'unexpected' stalling should be probed further and I believe the OP(and many others reading this thread now) has received the message.

    And Kay, thanks for sharing the story. It is really enlightening to me and I too will be more careful when my grinder stalls. I would've done exactly the same thing you've done. Good luck with your next grinder!

  43. #43
    TC
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    Regardless, if the fault cannot be replicated, the tech will rightly assume that the OP is for one reason or another choking the grinder leading to the stall/s.

  44. #44
    kay
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    Quote Originally Posted by samuellaw178 View Post
    Chris, I was in fact referring to the OP bringing the grinder back for diagnosis and the retailer did not manage to catch that.

    The event went something like this:
    1 : Grinder randomly decided not to start
    2 : Customer brought the grinder back to retailer for checking
    3: Retailer troubleshooted and adjusted the grind adjustment. Everything seemed fine on the surface. Diagnosis suggested that the customer may be grinding too fine which causes the stall (which is not out of line, because Mal too suggested/suspected the same thing - the operator stalled the grinder).
    4: Customer thought " ok, if it doesn't start, adjust the grind adjustment. What do I know, I only make coffee."
    5: Customer happily uses the grinder and adjusts the grind setting when it doesn't start. Solves the problem. There's not really an issue except for the occasional annoyance, and customer didn't even know that is in fact 'stalling'.
    6: Suddenly the grinders broke down in fire one day.

    Not much more could've been done in my opinion, given that situation. And the fact is the grinder's capacitor is faulty. In the future, repeated 'unexpected' stalling should be probed further and I believe the OP(and many others reading this thread now) has received the message.

    And Kay, thanks for sharing the story. It is really enlightening to me and I too will be more careful when my grinder stalls. I would've done exactly the same thing you've done. Good luck with your next grinder!
    And the events you summarised in 1-5 may not even be related to the capacitor failure. Motor was reported to look ok.
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  45. #45
    rrm
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    And the entire incident could have been prevented by sensible design: by the manufacturer fitting a thermal "fuse" to the motor casing.

  46. #46
    kay
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    Just to let you know, we had a phone call from NSW Fair Trading. Their comment was that capacitor failure is a common cause of fire in electrical appliances (not just coffee grinders). The macap appeared to do what it was supposed to do - keep any fire contained within the appliance. They were not aware of any similar incidents in their NSW database, which is what others in this forum also thought. They will let the importer/manufacturer know, always good if they follow these things up I think.

    In the meantime, we bought a new grinder last week - a Mazzer Mini E. Got very good service from the people at jetblack. The Profitec was also tempting but out of stock. Loving the electronic part of it - learning to dose by weight rather than volume as taught when we got our machine. ls also a neat-nik's delight after the old doser, and really reduces the wastage. And got advice re maintenance and servicing......... So all has worked out well.
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  47. #47
    Senior Member sprezzatura's Avatar
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    Thanks for letting the forum know how this wrapped up. I will inspect my capacitor in my Macap. I check every capacitor in the grinders and machines I service. Haven't come across a catastrophic failure of a capacitor yet.



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