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time to mod or upgrade
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > time to mod or...  
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 10:41am
Subject: time to mod or upgrade
 

I have a Gaggia Coffee espresso machine.  It was a gift, and I've been using it for about a year.  I tend to drink Americanos, and my wife prefers latté.  Having never had a "real" pump-driven Italian machine before, I had no preconceived notions regarding what the machine might produce.  However, over Christmas I went to visit my brother-in-law, who in fact gave me the Gaggia in the first place along with the prerequisite conical burr grinder.  His machine is a Francis Francis X1.  In addition to being a way cool lime green color, his machine makes, how shall I say it, way way way way way way way way way tastier espresso than mine.  Like night and day.  Black and white.  I loaded it exactly as I load mine, and got smooth, delicious espresso topped with thick crema.  Went through several brands of pre-ground espresso over the holidays, all yielded excellent results.  Now, his machine also probably cost in excess of $1,000 while mine retails for a mere $350-400 but still.

Issues I have are that my Gaggia produces NO CREMA.  Zilch.  Nada.  None.  The product that comes out of it looks (and tastes) like strong coffee.  It is considerably more bitter than that produced by the X1.  I did a half-assed temp measurement by warming up the machine and sticking an instant-read digital thermometer into the stream of water coming out of the portafilter.   It was around 75-80C.  I figured that was low and replaced the coffee thermostat for $13.  The temp is now higher, after warming up the machine with portafilter attached, I quickly detached it and measured water temp using a preheated styrofoam cup cut to fit into the grouphead and preheated digital thermo.  The double-shot of water measured 96C so, I am in the zone.  I know with the new water thermostat that it's hotter, as steam bubbles out of the return tube in the water reservoir just before the thermostat turns off the heater.

I still get no crema.

Now, on to pressure.  I just picked up a pressure guage and will measure tonight, but expect to find my pressure way too high.  There is no OPV on the Coffee.  The steam valve on top of the boiler has a take-off port on it,  inside of which sits a little rubber ball (referred to as "rubber ball" on the parts diagram).  The ball does not block the fitting when the steam function is not selected.. it sits happily in its' little seat.  When water in the boiler boils (brew setting), steam is discharged past the rubber ball, keeping the pressure in the boiler essentially at zero.  When the pump is engaged, the air volume pushes the rubber ball against a seat, sealing off this vent.  So, issues I see are a) there is no pressure relief valve (adjustable or otherwise), so whatever pressure comes out of the pump goes into the portafilter and b) the fact that the boiler is not sealed unless the pump is on means that I will have a tough time getting much higher than 100C for my steam (which, btw, seems to work just fine.  I think the increased airflow from the constantly heated water pushes the ball and seals the boiler).  Rumor on the street is that these pumps are pre-set for use with ESE pods at around 11-12 bar, far higher than the 9 bar which is optimal for ground espresso which may be the reason for my no cream situation.

So, a couple of questions.  Parts from Gaggia are going to run $150 to replace the steam valve (with one that has no outlet port) and the boiler inlet (with one that has an adjustable PRV, which they call an OPV).  The replacement parts are for the Gaggia Classic which has the same boiler but costs more and, I'll wager, works better.  Rather than do this, I am inclined to remove the rubber ball and replace the hose bib fitting on the return line off of the existing steam valve with an inline adjustable OPV.  I found an all brass and stainless 1/4" adjustable OPV on the net for $60.  Steep but far cheaper than the OEM Gaggia parts, easier to install and easier to adjust as it would sit on top of the boiler rather than the inlet OPV which fits at the bottom of the boiler amongst a tangle of hoses and wires.  Near as I can tell this will work .  Any comments from those of you who are wise in the ways of modding?

One last thing and that's that I CANNOT bog down this machine, no matter if I grind the beans to fine dust and jump up and down on the tamper.  Also I have tried tap water, bottled water, filtered water, preheated water, you name it.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated, as I have now been spoiled with GOOD espresso and this machine is going to either get fixed or replaced.  Oh, and hello to everyone as this is in fact my first post.

Dave
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 2,038
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:25am
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

Dave, welcome to CG.  First I would like to confirm which Gaggia we are talking about.  From our description, probably this one.

http://www.partsguru.com/user/ER0077-01.PDF

As you noted, no OPV and the rubber ball, similar to many other models.   This thread may help as it is similar.

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machinemods/436367

If you have the tools, I believe that you can remove the steam valve, remove the self priming tubing and ball and then thread a plug into the hole and block it.  You can tap to threads that you want, it needed.

As the OP did in that thread, you can use the Classic OPV.  Also here

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machinemods/566170

Click Here (stuff.mit.edu)

OPV $48

Click Here (www.shop.partsguru.com)

Finally the other issues that you have not addressed.  Unless I missed it, what conical burr grinder?  Will it grind fine enough since you cannot choke the machine?  Are you using fresh beans freshly ground? Are you using a non-pressurized portafilter, or pressurized.  What dose?  Weighed?

Try reading here if you are not familiar with the above issues, Easy Guide to Better Espresso at Home, article 12 in "How To."  The whole site is good, and may help you with other issues about crema.

http://www.espressomyespresso.com/

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:47am
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

First things first....

GRINDER

oh and Grinder and most importantly.... grinder.  Then beans then in very last place machine.  If you can't choke your machine in about 99 out of 100 times it is ... wait for it.... grinder.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 8,042
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:50am
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

Dave, welcome to the board.

You want to hear something depressing? FF machines have a poor rep here for producing espresso. Add to that the fact that pre ground coffee is stale plant food and you will have a small idea of what espresso is supposed to taste like.

You can work on that machine if you wish but I would move on to a better machine and positively a better grinder. The grinder is MORE IMPORTANT than the espresso machine. Many of us have grinders that are designed for use in professional coffee shops, not homes. They are very large, heavy and cost a fortune but they are worth it when it comes to espresso.

If your grinder is powered by an electric motor and cost less than $300 it is extremely likely that it is no where near able to grind for espresso.

Tamping should make little difference to the flow of water. The grinder is what establishes the restriction to the flow of water, the tamping is only to compress the bed of coffee to present an even and constant opposition to the flow of water. The pump pushes the water at 9 bar, that is 9 times the weight of the air at sea level which is 14 pounds per square inch or 9 x 14. ..... per square inch. You can not press that hard on the coffee bed.

Please read the FAQ on how to buy an espresso machine just to help you understand what is going on with espresso and how the pieces fit together.
http://coffeegeek.com/guides

Another critical thing is you need FRESH coffee, that is less than 15 days from FROM THE DAY IT WAS ROASTED, then it needs to be no older than 15 MINUTES FROM THE TIME YOU GROUND IT.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 11:53am
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

Thanks for the quick reply.  

Yes, parts guru link is indeed my machine exactly.

Yes, I had read the thread you mention, understand the mods, and as I noted have already priced out the parts to do it this way (from Parts Guru).  My question specifically was more to do with whether or not using a steam relief valve at the top of the machine would have any drawbacks vs. the Gaggia OEM part B0147/A which is the OPV/inlet fitting.  The cost is similar (and the $28 shipping from parts guru PER ITEM regardless of size, weight, or combined shipping seems WAY steep.  I add an o-ring, my shipping increases by $28).  But adding the relief valve to the existing steam valve body is easier to both install and adjust.  It happens all the time that there are reasons beyond my understanding why things are done a certain way and I am wanting to make sure I am not throwing away money with my proposed way.

As for the grinder, it's a Breville, this model but a few years older (slightly more square but identical hopper and controls):

Breville conical burr grinder

For comparison, I took a half-bag of Peet's espresso which made wonderful crema in Bend, OR, home and it made NO CREMA in my machine.  Same coffee, same grind, different machines.  That's why I don't think it's a question of grind.  I have also tried grinding various varieties of my own, from grocery-store bags of Starbucks to expensive beans still warm from roasting when I got them.  

I grind right before loading.

I set my grinder so that if I pinch some between my thumb and forefinger, it clumps together, but not tightly enough to show a thumb print.  These instructions were from another thread on this forum and seemed to make sense.  I don't weigh it... I don't have a scale that accurate.  I've varied the grind quite a bit as well as varied the tamping pressure.  No change to the espresso.

I don't know how to tell if I have a pressurized or non-pressurized portafilter... it is a metal portafilter with a double-shot basket that clips into it.  I think it's the basket that seats against the gasket, not the portafilter itself.  Looks like the one on the parts diagram you referenced but has two holes in the bottom rather than a single one with screw-on double-shot spout.

Thanks a lot for your help!  Dave
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:16pm
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

calblacksmith Said:

Dave, welcome to the board.

You want to hear something depressing? FF machines have a poor rep here for producing espresso. Add to that the fact that pre ground coffee is stale plant food and you will have a small idea of what espresso is supposed to taste like.

You can work on that machine if you wish but I would move on to a better machine and positively a better grinder. The grinder is MORE IMPORTANT than the espresso machine. Many of us have grinders that are designed for use in professional coffee shops, not homes. They are very large, heavy and cost a fortune but they are worth it when it comes to espresso.

If your grinder is powered by an electric motor and cost less than $300 it is extremely likely that it is no where near able to grind for espresso.

Tamping should make little difference to the flow of water. The grinder is what establishes the restriction to the flow of water, the tamping is only to compress the bed of coffee to present an even and constant opposition to the flow of water. The pump pushes the water at 9 bar, that is 9 times the weight of the air at sea level which is 14 pounds per square inch or 9 x 14. ..... per square inch. You can not press that hard on the coffee bed.

Please read the FAQ on how to buy an espresso machine just to help you understand what is going on with espresso and how the pieces fit together.
http://coffeegeek.com/guides

Another critical thing is you need FRESH coffee, that is less than 15 days from FROM THE DAY IT WAS ROASTED, then it needs to be no older than 15 MINUTES FROM THE TIME YOU GROUND IT.

Posted January 17, 2013 link

The reason I'd want to work on the machine I have is, well, it's a zero investment for me.  I can add a PID and OPV and have a fully-regulated (temp and pressure) stable machine for less than two hundred bucks.  

So, the grinder, huh?  Never would have thought it was so important.  I am starting off small here... I just want crema.  I use fresh beans and grind them right before brewing.  I will read the FAQ as this is far more complicated than I woul have ever guessed...
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,305
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:20pm
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

You definitely need a better grinder.  That one is NOT, I repeat, NOT up to the task of producing a grind quality adequate for espresso...sorry.  When you upgrade the grinder, you will definitely notice a difference when using freshly roasted beans.  Cheapest options are the LelitPL53 (just under $300) or a refurbished Baratza Preciso ($239). in the electric category.  You can also opt for a manual grinder (powered with elbow grease).  Options there are Hario Skerton (about $50) or OE Lido ($165 before shipping).  There's a guy selling an OE Pharos on the B,S, T forum for $225 shipped.  That's another good option as the grind quality is comparable to electric machines that cost $1k.  Once you get a good grinder, your brother-in-law will be the one who's impressed, even if you keep your Gaggia...you can take that one to the bank.

From your description of your pf handle and baskets, it sounds like you have non-pressurized (which is a good thing).


Helen, are we rubbing off on you?  I don't think it was long ago, you were admonishing us for posts like that...lol :)

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:41pm
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

The difference is mine was funny!

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 2,038
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:44pm
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

I think that if you remove and plug the self prime valve, you essentially have the Classic valve, part 7

Click Here (www.partsguru.com)

I prime and refill the tank after steaming by opening the steam wand and turning on the pump until water is out the wand and it is full.  Savy your money and plug the outlet on yours.  The OPV releaves pump pressure and you can set it using a pressure gauge.  You seem familiar, so no detail here.  The ball valve on the steam wand is for self priming.  They almost always leak after a short time and need to be plugged.  You do not to want that to be like an OPV, if I understand your question.  When you run the pump, it can put ot much more water that you can use.  The OPV allows you to set a pressure at which water, cold, is diverted back to the tank.  The pump has temperature limits, so you do not want a volume of hot water to go back to the holding tank.  The OPV specifically lets a pressure division of water enter the boiler and the remainder back to the tank.  When set at 9 bar, more water returns to the tank than enters the boiler.  If you were planning to pump the water into the boiler and then vent off the boiler at 9 bar, you would flood the bottom of the tank with cold water and take hot off of the top.  You would overwhelm tank temperature and put hot water back into the holding tank for the next pump cycle.  Sorry to be wordy, hope that answers your question.

You may need to search your grinder in coffee forums, but it is not really adequate.  You can search and try to convince yourself oneway of the other.  If you look at espresso forums and not general consumer or manufacturer statements, you will see that the grinder is all important and the least expensive good grinder for espresso is the Baratza Preciso refurb.  Some can be fixed with shims.  Some grind fine enough at one setting but do not have enough adjustment to make fine corrections.  Fix your machine with an OPV and plug the self prime valve and spend for a grinder.  You can get offended at grinder suggestions, but search for yourself.  I did similar less than a year ago.

Peets can be fresh, some outlets say that they get fresh several times per week.  It is shipped in several times per week in some stores, but I am not sure about actual roast dates.  I also tried that some time ago.  Find something local that roasts and will have a roast date on the bag.  Not a delivery or use by date.  Also look for a roaster that does not roast to shiney/oily beans.  You want to taste the coffee not the roast.  It not fresh, then no or little crema.

Gaggias come with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets when new in North America. Pressurized have a double bottom.  Mult-holes inside and a hole to the bottom outside.  There is also a device in the bottom of the PF.  You need a regular double basket and nothing in the PF outlet hole.  Do not even try on a single basket.  Very difficult to brew especially if the pressure is high, no OPV adjust.  A broken pressurized system, or pressurized baskets without the bottom valve in the PF will be the worst.

Be patient, you will get a lot of good advice on CG, not always what you want to hear, and not always on point of what you asked.  You started with fixing the machine and are going to hear a lot about grinder and coffee.  OTOH, you mentioned crema, so beans and grinder become more important than machine.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,305
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4, Pharos,...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2013, 1:12pm
Subject: Re: time to mod or upgrade
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

The difference is mine was funny!

Posted January 17, 2013 link

I see...thanks for clarifying ;-)

I think most of Jason's are funny.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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