]A few days ago I came into possession of a Starbucks Barista Athena espresso machine. The person who gave it to me said it didn't work any more and "probably needs a new pump".
From what I can tell, the machine is fine. It just appears to have never been maintained AT ALL. I spent some time cleaning it today. And when I primed the pump, I have water coming out the boiler outlet and steaming wand.
However I think I screwed up. One of the main reasons this unit didn't work is that the boiler outlet screen as well as the portafilter basket were almost completely clogged.
So I began opening up the little holes one by one. Using a pin. And then I had the bright thought "I wonder if this is the right thing to do?". I fear that I have enlarged the holes rather than just clear them.
I've attached a photo. I got about halfway as you can see.
There many commercial espresso systems cleaning compounds, check for a well-equipped local shop or mail order. Try soaking in some hot water with bit of detergent overnight, use a toothbrush. The pin or meddle won't hurt anything but it's tedious. Carefully research the sections here and on home-barista.com for tips on properly cleaning similar machines such as the Rancilio Silvia. Welcome to the family.
I play go. I use Macintosh,. Of course I ride a recumbent.
To answer your question, no you did not hurt anything and it is SUPPOSED to look like what you have cleaned!
As above, there are several cleaning products on the market for espresso machines. The basket should be cleaned very often, like after every time you make coffee ! The dispersion screen can go a couple of sessions but you need not remove it, just use the proper cleaner and do a back flush, I THINK that machine has a 3 way valve to allow you to do the back flush, I suppose I will hear about it in short order if it does not!
You are going to NEED a grinder that is able to grind for espresso, hand powered they run under a hundred dollars, with a motor they START at about $350. You WILL NEED to feed it fresh beans, that means under two weeks FROM THE DAY THEY WERE ROASTED, not a best by or use before date. Expect to pay about $14 per 12 oz and up for properly roasted FRESH coffee. You will be rewarded with the best espresso you have ever had after a bit of practice.
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!
Thanks guys for the replies. I understand re. cleaning methods and brushing etc. It's just that today I went with what I had on hand. Plus this machine was really nasty. It looks like the prior owner never did any maintenance or cleaning whatsoever. Just used it til it quit working.
How critical is the size of those holes? That's my main question. I'm pretty sure I enlarged them from what they originally were.
Thanks for the tips. I'm not new to coffee. I'm a long time French presser. But this is my first espresso machine. :)
My last machine was a Starbucks Barista; it doesn't have a three-way valve, so I wouldn't try backflushing it (that will just cause the over-pressure valve (OPV) to open and pump water back into the reservoir - it's to protect the pump from stalling (dead-heading) and to limit the pressure at the coffee to ~9 bar).
The portafilter is pressurized with this machine, not the basket, so the size of the holes shouldn't make a huge difference in this case. For a regular (non-pressurized) portafilter and basket, there is some debate that the hole size and precision do make a big difference (read up on VST baskets for more info.). I think they do on my Silvia, but I might be imagining it.
In any case, I find Urnex Cafiza works very well at getting rid of coffee oils. There are others like Joe Glo too, but I haven't tried anything other than Cafiza. If you're confident enough to take the machine apart, I would open up the boiler and check for scale build-up. For the descaler, I use Dezcal, also from Urnex.
A good grind is essential for good coffee. You'll also notice an improvement in your press brews with a good grinder. To pair with that machine, I'd go with a Baratza Preciso, but again, that's just me.
The portafilter is pressurized with this machine, not the basket, so the size of the holes shouldn't make a huge difference in this case. For a regular (non-pressurized) portafilter and basket, there is some debate that the hole size and precision do make a big difference (read up on VST baskets for more info.).
Ok I just did a little reading re. pressurized vs. unpressurized portafilters. So I'm thinking this makes sense to me. I am also getting the inkling that if this machines proves to be functional, then I might be modifying it to be non-pressurized to get satisfactory results(?)
If you're confident enough to take the machine apart, I would open up the boiler and check for scale build-up. For the descaler, I use Dezcal, also from Urnex.
I may do this. Although the water reservoir, plastic tubing, and generally everything internal that I can see appears immaculate. (The front of the machine, steam wand etc. were incredibly bad.)
Those holes look like they're about the right size. They also look very uniform. If you enlarged them...what do you think the chances are you screwed them all up exactly the same? If you haven't already cleaned the other half of the basket try soaking or scrubbing in something like bar keepers friend, then see what it looks like clean. Even the high end baskets can be bought for about $30, so no big deal to replace it, plus it's also nice to have a couple more baskets on hand.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
Thanks for the link. I had already been on that site, but didn't have that pdf.
This basket was so bad that I've had to push pretty hard to open each hole. I've worked the pin on each hole until it passes completely through. I did read on the partsguru site: " Do not use metal pins to clean holes in the filter cup. It will ruin the filter cup."
Anyway I'm anxious to finish the cleanup and then see what I've got.
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