Here is a first draft of my Faema Compact S rebuild article (Part 1). Please review and I’ll incorporate your changes and suggestions.
A couple of questions as well:
1. Should this article go on this site? (Is there enough interest regarding espresso machines to warrant having this article on the site?)
2. If so, what section should it live under?
(Note: All readers intent on maintaining their happy home life stop reading here. Abandon all spousal bliss ye who enter here…)
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve got a problem… I see something too “good” to be true (and espresso/roasting related) on Craig’s List and I’m instantly in motion… I’ve been ‘sort of looking’ for a commercial espresso machine for the last 6 years or so. All of the ones I’d found were either too much money for what they were or likely worth what they were asking and therefore out of my budget. Imagine my surprise (and my wife’s chagrin) when I found the following on Craig’s List a couple of months ago:
“Commercial Espresso Machine: CHEAP!” Ok, so the fine print, picture and phone call filled in a bit more detail… He didn’t list the machine type because he didn’t remember what it was. It was completely disassembled and sitting in a couple of boxes in a garage. It had been in this state for a couple of years although he was sure that he had all of the parts… AND, most importantly, he still had it. (Below is the picture that was posted with the ad.)
Of course I was on it like a crow on a dead squirrel… (My wife tells me it was more like a middle-aged-vulture on a bunny (killed by a hand grenade), but you get the idea, anyway…)
The Original Condition…
After arriving home with my treasure I carried it in. My wife promptly said “Gee, it doesn’t look as bad as I thought!” Until I pointed out that I had just attached the body panels to the empty frame and the actual machine was still in my trunk in an old cardboard box. At which point she said. “Oh…” and left the room. It wasn’t the kind of “Oh…” that meant – “Wow what a savvy business man you are to find such a cool thing for so little money!” It was really more like the kind of “Oh…” that you say when the neighbor calls to tell you that your dog knocked over their garbage cans again…
Anyway on to what I had…
A Faema Compact S – A single group H/X machine e61-ish (thermo-syphon but a slightly different design than the traditional e61 group head.) It has an Ulka vibe-pump and a simple switch for activating the brew group. ( No electronic dosing of water – which was a plus for my first rebuild project since it was less complex.) It is a plumb in machine meaning you need either a large water jug or connect it into your plumbing and you need someplace for it to drain. The baskets are the standard commercial 58mm size. The machine runs on 15amp service and the element is rated at ~1300 watts – a plus since it will run from a standard kitchen outlet. The boiler is approximately 3.2 liters if the documentation can be believed (though it seems a bit smaller than that to me) and it has true commercial steam and hot water valves. The boiler has an auto-fill circuit and a manual valve actuation for filling without having the machine power set to on. The pressure-stat is a Sirai brand and it has a commercial safety over pressure valve. The frame is heavy steel and there’s enough room inside to add and modify various bits (like maybe a rotary pump, insulate the boiler, etc.). Ok, that is really what I *could* have if I could figure out how to get all the bits back together and working…
Issues I was facing –
- Everything was torn down to the major component level and there were no instructions for putting it together nor any documentation or pictures of how everything went together on the web. (Though there are good parts diagrams of the major components.)
- The prior owner had painted all the plastic body panels semi-gloss black. The paint was a little scratched in places and there were more than a few runs. It was ugly.
- Did I really have all of the parts? (Kind of like having a 200 piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture for re-assembly, parts that could fit in a few configurations and not knowing that it might be a 207 piece puzzle…)
- Did the main components work? (Auto-fill system, valves, solenoids, heater, pressurestat, etc.)
First Things First…
I simply *had* to know if I had all of the pieces and if, once assembled, those pieces would cooperate and create a working machine. A couple of evenings yielded a slowly shrinking pile of parts and a filling of the machine’s frame. On a Friday evening I completed the last bit of wiring and the last turn of a copper fitting.
The following Saturday morning I moved it outside to a water proof and explosion proof area. As I was adapting the water fittings, one of my neighbors stopped by. (They’ve learned that if they see me engaged in an unidentifiable project, its best to learn the facts so they can be prepared to evacuate if necessary.)
The exchange went something like this: (Translations appear below in italics.)
“Hi Jim. What’s that you’ve got there?” Hmm… That looks sort of like the pictures I’ve seen of an atomic bomb…
“It’s a commercial grade espresso machine that I’m going to rebuild as a project.”
“Looks like you are getting ready to try it out…” Isn’t this a little close for a nuclear device test?
“Yes, I’ve assembled it the way it seems to go together. It was all in a big box of parts when I got it.”
“You bought this in a big bunch of loose parts? Have you gone ‘round the bend’?” Have you gone further ‘round the bend’ than I last thought you were?
They left in as much hurry as one can while making small and non-threatening movements.
Returning to my task, the last adapter in the water line connection went on. I turned the water on (instantly finding a failed seal) and filled the boiler. Once the boiler was filled, I turned on the switch, stepped back (a safe distance) and plugged it in… Nothing dramatic happened. The power light did come on though and that was a good sign. After stepping around the blast shielding I made my way to the machine to find that the boiler was in fact heating. The boiler came up to temp and the pressure-stat shut off the element. I tried the pump and it worked! The water and steam valves produced some of each in the proper order. The auto-fill circuit engaged after running some water though it. In short, I had a working commercial espresso machine for a bargain!
This was what was mounted to the frame when I brought it home.
From the lower left front – this is the main water distribution valve.
Another shot of this valve from above. Water comes in from outside the machine at the lower fitting where the braided line is attached.
View from the top down on the right hand side – Top – water softener (useless p.o.s.) – Middle left – back of group head – Bottom right – top of boiler.
View from back of machine. Top Left – pressure-stat, Left Middle – boiler and element wiring, Bottom Right- Pump and opv valve.
View from back of machine. Middle – copper pipes from boiler to sight glass. Bottom Right – detail of pump and opv valve.
View from left of machine. Middle – pipes from boiler to sight glass.
Detail of wiring for brew pump engagement switch.
Back of brew head different angle.
View from right of machine. Lower Middle- connection for boiler pressure gauge. Bottom Right- boiler to hot water valve pipe.
Top – Bottom of dirty group head. Just below group head to the left – sight glass and fill circuit water level sensor.
Detail of sight glass and fill sensor. Blue solenoid is for brew activation.
Main water valve point of gasket failure.
Ok, so I had a working commercial espresso machine. No one in thier right mind (or even me) would want to drink anything produced from the machine… Remember, the boilers, tubes, etc., had been open to the air, spiders, mice, Morris Minors and who knows what all on the floor of a garage for 2 years… I took lots of pictures that I will post links to and began disassembly for the big clean-up. I knew that if I were going to break it down for cleaning that it really only made sense to rebuild all the valves and replace all: gaskets, o-rings and seals inside so I wouldn’t be tearing it down again in the near future. Also, I figured that I’d clean up the frame, treat any rust I would find and paint it with some rustoleum semi-gloss black while I was at it. Also I knew that I would have to deal, somehow with the painted body panels to make it something I wanted to live on my kitchen counter top.
Disassembly and Cleaning
- Brass brush for scrubbing (don't use stainless steel or you will mark up the brass and copper.)
- A variety of screw drivers, pliers and wrenches including a crecent wrench or two when you can't find the right size.
- Citric acid. (usually available at the bulk food section of your grocery store or brewer supply.)
- A 5 gallon bucket to hold the hot water and citric acid.
- A digital camera to record disassembly steps so you can get it back the way it was...
- A few small containers for small parts and sub-assemblies so you can keep track of all of the nuts and bolts and a couple larger containers for the larger bits (boiler, water softener, etc.)
I pulled everything apart and put everything water-proof into a 5 gallon bucket of hot water and citric acid for a 7 or 8 hour soak. I pulled the heating element from the boiler and found it to be in pretty good shape. The boiler actually didn’t have much scale built up in it. I bodged together an electrical fitting for the pump and circulated the citric acid/water solution through it and reverse flushed the heat exchanger circuit in the boiler.
While all of that was soaking I wire-brushed the frame and treated it with POR15. (A rust treatment that works very well on everything I’ve used it on.)
Article 2 will focus on the “&*^*$*! Water Valve” the group head rebuild, frame prep and paint.
Article 3 will cover the steam and water valve rebuilding, exterior panel prep, boiler insulation and OPV valve adjustment.
Edited by jimoncaffeine on 11/30/2006 22:26
Glad you liked it. Still seems like it needs some polish though... I've got a start on the second article but not ready yet. Just returned from Shanghai so my mind won't catch up to my body for another week... ;) I'll try to get the next article up within 2 weeks. The third will probably be easier but I still need to take a few pics of the finished unit.
The person I bought it from had a cherry Morris Minor. And, hold on to your hat, he fixed the oil leaks... Sounded like he machined the rear main to now accept a seal. (Apparently they don't have one from the factory?) I've not owned a Morris. Yet... ;)