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No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
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Discussions > Espresso > Espresso Mods > No Steam From...  
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Thu Feb 9, 2012, 3:05pm
Subject: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

I hope this is the right area of the forum, but I'm having a bit of bother with a Baby Twin: it just stopped making steam.

I can open the steam knob to prime it, and water comes out with a good flow until the control panel lights start blinking (which is normally what I do). This part is accomplished without any pumping sounds (normal operation in the past).

I then shut the steam knob off, and reopen it. I can hear the pump working intermittently (also normal) and water comes out in spurts, then just drips, but never any steam. Normally, this is when I would get a lot of steam, not spurts of water.

I'm wondering if I should just go with the broken thermoblock theory. I always used filtered water, but didn't descale often. My mistake, since filtered water doesn't really prevent scaling and thermoblocks are very sensitive to that, I understand. I've tried descaling already, with citric acid, but how do you descale a thermoblock steam boiler? Most descaling procedures make the water flow through the group and wand, but not on the steam setting (which engages automatically on the Baby Twin when you open the steam knob).

A few more questions, for anyone with any answers:

- What would be the symptoms if the thermoblock were suffering from excessive scale?
- Could this be a thermostat problem, since water is flowing instead of steam?
- Could this be a solenoid problem, or something else?

If it were the thermoblock that needed replaced, any good sources for that part? I'm in Los Angeles. It's so costly to ship these espresso machines around that I'm thinking buying the parts might just be the cheaper way to fix it.

Any ideas for a simple fix? Thanks!
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tracerbullet
Senior Member
tracerbullet
Joined: 13 Feb 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Saint Paul
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Feb 20, 2012, 2:26pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Hi, I've got the Baby Class which I believe is the same under the hood. I've gotten a bit familiar with it lately while doing some modifications (another thread here). A few questions / ideas:

I used my machine for about a month before modding it, (and it's been down for a few weeks now as I try to wrap that project up). But I don't remember the pump ever cycling on during steaming. It would make sense to supply some water but I don't remember it happening. Not sure if that helps or not.

I can see how it could be a sensor issue, if the water gets hot but not to boiling then you won't ever get steam. if the steam temp sensor is faulty it may not allow the boiler to get hot enough. It'll hit coffee temp but not steam temp.

I don't see it being a solenoid issue, that has to do w/ allowing water to flow to the group head (it's other position is group head venting to atmosphere through a tube that eventually lets water go down to the trip tray).

"Parts Guru" has a lot of spare bits and I've bought from them once and had a good experience. Perhaps poke around their site if you need to buy parts.

Hope that helps -
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Mon Feb 20, 2012, 6:11pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Hi tracerbullet, thanks for taking the time to reply.

If your machine is a new Baby (2006 onwards), but not a Baby Twin, then you only have one boiler for hot water AND steam. The Baby Twin has one (standard) Gaggia boiler, that is almost certainly identical to yours, but that only produces hot water. It also has a secondary thermoblock boiler that is used for steam only. That's probably why the pump is used during steaming: to pump the water through it. The outer body is identical, I think, but there may be differences in the control panel and the frothing wand (which is all steel on the Baby Twin). The Baby Twin has a rather neat touch sensitive control panel, with several buttons:

- Programmable 1 strong cup (single press) or 1 weaker cup (double press), with short pre-infusion.
- Programmable 2 strong cups (single press) or 2 weaker cups (double press).
- Manual shot (does not shut off automatically).
- Dispensing hot water from the steam wand.

The buttons are all illuminated, and blink on and off when working. There are also two status lights, to indicate:

- Ready for steaming (steady light, no wait time, ever), or steaming (blinking light).
- Ready for brewing (steady light, after mandatory heat up period of at least ten minutes), or heating up (blinking light).

The main advantage of the dual boiler is that there is no more waiting for steam to be up to temperature: the thermoblock boiler is ready to go all the time, as soon as the steam light on the control panel is solid (not blinking). The main boiler must be left on for at least ten minutes to stabilize the temperature, even when the brew light is steady (not currently heating). There's also no need to wait for the boiler to cool down before making more coffee, since the main boiler remains at its normal operating temperature during steam production.

The main inconvenience of the Baby Twin this is that thermoblock boilers can be more prone to failure from scale build up, from what I have read. Some also consider that thermoblock boilers do not produce sufficient steam to make proper froth.

At this point, I'm either going to just buy some parts and see how I get along, or use my credit card Purchase Protection to get extended warranty service. As you've noticed yourself, there aren't nearly as many owners tinkering with these as with the Gaggia Classic or older Gaggia Coffee models. I'd be quite happy to do some tinkering if I thought I might get somewhere, but until you replied, I didn't seem to be getting any useful suggestions on the subject! I've already read your thread, of course, with great interest. Maybe I should take it apart completely and see if I can descale the thermoblock better, or even find small particles of scale that might be clogging something ...

This link will show you the Baby Twin, where you can compare the control panel and the steel frothing attachment to yours.

Click Here (www.gaggia.com)
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tracerbullet
Senior Member
tracerbullet
Joined: 13 Feb 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Saint Paul
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Feb 20, 2012, 8:48pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Ahh, I see! The "Twin" in the name makes sense now. Duh. Yes, given the external shape and size I always figured it was the same machine just different buttons. There's a # of Baby models and I'd never caught on to that. Looking at a diagram for it I can see where they pack the 2nd boiler into the lower unit.

I do still think you have a temperature problem, if water flows then I wouldn't think it's clogged. On the other hand pump pressure behind it might be more than steam pressure, so could it get through a tight path where steam might not? I think steam would eventually work its way out...

You didn't say if the water coming out was hot. I assume it is, just not hot enough to make steam?

You can tell anything from the light(s) going on or off telling you that the machine thinks it's ready?

From what I can gather on the wiring diagram for mine, the thermo switches are normally closed and open up when they get warm. Normally closed allows power to run through them, to heat the boiler. When they get hot (sense whatever temperature they are designed for) they open and that power cuts off. The lighting on my front panel is set to go on / off along with that.

I don't know how a thermo switch normally fails, if it just goes kaput or if it slides to a different temperature range that it operates at. Perhaps it is doing it's thing, just at a temp that's slightly too low?

Since it "just stopped" I'm inclined to think it's an electrical issue -something died or came disconnected. Thermo switch or a solenoid.

I only see a solenoid in that diagram at the boiler, not your lower thermoblock, but I don't know how your machine is plumbed and it may yet have an effect. If the solenoid works for coffee, then it's probably fine.
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 10:55am
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Hey tracerbullet, and other coffeegeek persons, I can tell that you're going to love this!

I finally bit the bullet (no pun intended), before calling my credit card company about using the extended warranty, and opened up my Baby Twin. Thanks to your posts about moding your new (2006+) Baby (non-Twin variety), I felt this would not be that hard to do.

1) Pull of top steam knob. Just pull it right up.
2) Remove screw beneath steam knob.
3) Remove water tank.
4) Remove two screws on back of top cup warming plate, located right above the two "rails" that guide the water tank into position.
5) Remove top carefully. Wires for cup warmer are still attached. Pull up FROM THE BACK first to create a half inch gap between back of top warming plate and the rest of the machine. DO NOT attempt to force up the front of the cup warming plate, which is held down by a wide lip.
6) Slide top warming plate back until it bumps up against the protruding steam knob pin. This will disengage the lip on the front of the cup warming plate and the plate can be lifted up an inch or two from the machine.
7) Disengage slide on wire connector for cup warmer. It is located at the BACK of the cup warming plate, next to the water tank location.
8) Remove top plate completely and put to one side.
9) Remove two screws on front underside of machine, directly in front of the group head.
10) Remove two screws on rear of machine, normally hidden by the tank. The two screws closest to the rails that guide the tank into place, not those closest to the rear of the machine.
11) Carefully lift up the whole top of the machine (the part covered with decorative stainless steel). The brew group will remain in place, as will the surrounding support to which the boiler is attached with four allen/hex bolts (and through which the steam wand protrudes), along with the pedestal.
12) Lift the top up far enough to detach the wires going to the front control panel. This clip has tiny plastic retaining clips. I broke mine by accident, so I cannot advise on how to remove them without breaking them.
13) Now remove the top of the machine and put to one side.
14) Remove the four screws to the rear of the machine, directly on top of the pedestal.
15) Lift up the top of the machine, including the brew group. You may have to wiggle for it to come free from the pedestal.
16) You will have to unplug the black hose near the front of the pedestal. This flexible black hose is attached to the top of a long rigid pipe that directs water released by the three way valve after brewing down to the rear of the drip tray.
17) Now you can completely remove the top of the machine, including the secondary thermoblock steam boiler, leaving only the hollow pedestal.

Welp! I found the problem right away: There has been a leak from this machine internally the whole time. Inside the pedestal, where the steam boiler is housed. I had noticed that the silver painted metal part of the pedestal was corroding on the underside (the actual "foot" of the pedestal, not the pedestal itself), but I had assumed it was just splashing from the pipe down to the drip tray causing it. Well, I still don't exactly know where the leak is originating, it may be the boiler itself, but there was water all over the base of the hollow pedestal. Guess what? All that moisture had corroded a TERMINAL WIRE to the heating element entirely through! That's why the steam stopped working. It's not from lack of descaling or any such neglect (I was using filtered water the whole time, as described earlier).

I'll post some pics later, when I get some time. What an adventure. What a mess. I hope my credit card extended warranty works, because this will probably cost about $200 in parts alone.

CONCLUSION: if you have leaks from your Baby Twin, or if you even suspect leaks. Lay the machine on its side and remove the metal "foot" from the pedestal. It is simply held on by four screws and this is very simple to do. If you find signs of leakage from the base of the pedestal upon examination, check your warranty immediately. If your warranty has expired, and you have no extended warranty from your credit card, open up that machine and check it out as soon as possible! Waiting any longer could turn out to be costly!
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tracerbullet
Senior Member
tracerbullet
Joined: 13 Feb 2012
Posts: 168
Location: Saint Paul
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 1:52pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Couple of thoughts -

Congrats on opening it up and finding the problem! Hope it's easily fixed.

Sounds like your twin has a heater under the top for warming coffee cups, that's another feature different from the non-twin. Reading through I thought "yup, yup, yup, wait do what?".

I too had issues pulling wires off the switches, I pulled the whole danged terminal from the switch. Pulled the switch out and then apart to get the terminal back in place and "unsproinged" a number of little pieces. Had to replace one of the switches altogether.

In my modding adventures I picked up a 2nd set of switches and have a variety of tubes and clamps as well. I've also got a number of other parts (3-way solenoid, panarello gizmo, etc. etc.). If you need some parts for your repair I might be able to help out.
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 3:38pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

I didn't know the standard Baby didn't have a cup warmer either. It's a 3W electrical element, stuck on the base of the top cup warming plate. I don't know how much good it does compared to the standard Baby, but it does need to be disconnected on the Baby Twin to remove that top cup warming plate!

Remember also that the "switches" are different on the Baby Twin. The Twin has a "control panel", as explained earlier, with four touch sensitive buttons, including integrated status lights, an additional steam status light, and a heating/ready light.

The panel is depicted in the image below. The button with no light showing does illuminate if it is touched, to dispense hot water instead of steam from the steam wand. This function works normally, so it must not use the secondary boiler.

Kex: Frt-pnl.JPG
(Click for larger image)
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 4:03pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

Posting images in the message limits me to one image per message, but here is the inside of the pedestal. See how wet it was? Notice all the condensation on the side walls of the pedestal too. So much humidity has been trapped in there.

P.S. For those who have not yet dismantled their Baby, that rigid tube at the front of the pedestal (top right of this image), going all the way to the base of the pedestal, is the one that needs to be disconnected from the flexible black tubing on the top part of the machine (where the main boiler is) before the top part of the machine can be removed completely from the pedestal. It carries water to the drip tray at the end of each brew cycle.

Kex: pdstl-wet.JPG
(Click for larger image)
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 4:08pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

This image shows the whole of the thermoblock assembly that normally is hidden inside the pedestal. You can also see the pump in this image, hiding behind that big white wire connector!

Kex: thrmo-blk_side.JPG
(Click for larger image)
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Kex
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 41
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia: Coffee & Baby Twin
Grinder: KitchenAid Pro Line
Vac Pot: None
Drip: None
Roaster: None
Posted Tue Mar 20, 2012, 4:11pm
Subject: Re: No Steam From Gaggia Baby Twin Steam Wand
 

This is the thermoblock seen from behind. That gray foam-like stuff must be some kind of insulation, I think. Notice the corrosion on the metal support that keeps the whole assembly attached to the rest of the machine? What a mess!

In the distance, you can see the cup warmer heating element stuck on the underside of the cup warming plate (that gray and whitish thing, lying on the table top, behind the red tubing).

Kex: thrmo-blk_r.JPG
(Click for larger image)
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