Originally Web posted Wednesday, 27 May 2009.
Content last modified Monday, 3 August 2015 .
External links last verified Sunday, 15 February 2015.
Failures and Repairs
Erwin discovered that sometimes one or more of the corner screws holding the top casting of the boiler assembly (a.k.a. thermal block, heating unit) may have come loose. In his case, the front two (one in each front corner) were loose. Water had been leaking out of the left and right sides of the assembly until he tightened these two screws. Once tightened, the leaking stopped… Fixed! Might as well check all 4 corner screws.
If loose screws are not the problem, the gaskets (seals) might be leaking. Site correspondent Paul reports that finding replacement seals is “not possible” (and from his and my correspondence, i get the sense that he made quite a solid, sustained effort in his search). It may be necessary to replace the whole thermal block (boiler) assembly… discussed on its own page.
On the contrary, by the mere act of consulting with his local bearing shop, Jean-Seb walked out with a pair of seals for around $1 each. Here’s his story:
I had very good luck finding some replacement seals for the boiler at a bearing shop. The guy at my local bearing shop helped me find the size and composition of the original viton seals and keeping in mind this need to be food grade. I only needed the two seals in the lower part of the boiler since they were the ones leaking. He had no problem finding them for me at about 1$ each. If anyone would like to deal directly with the same shop, here are the details: parts numbers are: 020 viton at 1.39$ and 010 viton at 0.50$ shop is General Bearing Service 445 boul. Maloney Est, Gatineau, Quebec J8P 6Z8 phone number (819) 643-2128.Update a day or so later:
Hi Sonic, thanks for posting the info. I’m really happy to be part of this site. In the end I had to change also the large seal for the upper boiler. The part number was: 155 Viton, 8.82$. I noticed there were a lot of imperfections in this part of the boiler. There were clear evidence of these aluminum debris had been gouging in the seal. Cleaning up and smoothing the surface could only help I guess. Have a great day!
I did a little reading and learned that Viton is a registered trademark for a brand of synthetic rubber and fluoropolymer elastomer made by DuPont Performance Elastomers L.L.C. (Wikipedia article on Viton), which fall under the category of FKM elastomers. There are some competing products under other brand names/trademarks. Seems as though as long as one can find food-grade seals (or gaskets) made of a suitable material from this materials category, one may be able to install new seals—Jean-Seb did!
Or is it Viton? Per site correspondent John M.:
The boiler seals are not Viton. They are red high temperature silicone. Viton is a fluoropolymer, and intended for volatile fuels, so it’s likely not used for food applications.I am not a materials scientist, so i’m presenting what has been submitted to me, for your consideration and further investigation.
If anyone has information on locating/specifying/ordering generic food-grade seals for water boilers in espresso machines, especially which will fit the thermal block of the Breville 800 series, please let me know so i can add the information to this article for the benefit of others.
Upon turning the machine this morning, the pump didn’t sound as it usually does when it’s pulling water from the tank. Almost immediately, a large amount of water began dripping from the holes around the outside of the brewhead. Upon removing the back cover, it was immediately clear what the problem was: a broken water valve assembly.
I found the part on e-replacementparts.com however, to my utter disappointment, it’s now obsolete. I called Breville and the nice young man confirmed that, yes indeed, that part is obsolete (800ESXL/242). He said that they might be getting more of these parts sometime in the summer [of 2012 —Sonic]. Best I can tell from surfing round the interwebs, no one has that particular part. I now face the stark reality of either, a). purchasing a new machine, or b). using my drip machine (gack!) until some distant point in the future when/if Breville decides to get more of these valve assemblies.
Anyway, another tip for your readers should they experience this issue.Cheers, Broken In Boise (aka, Todd H.)
We now have our first report that it is possible to glue/cement/epoxy the pieces back together:
I have a Breville Espresso BES 820XL; the plastic water valve broke exactly as seen in your photo where the black O ring joins the amber to white plastic pieces. This valve is the part that is now obsolete (and apparently for good reason)… so I figured I had nothing to lose. I removed the small O ring where the break was, put some quick-setting epoxy carefully around the joint and held it in place for a few minutes until it was attached. I then layered on a thick mass of epoxy around the joint; let it dry. Then another layer.
When I tried it out, it worked better than it ever had before. So this can be fixed with a few layers of epoxy (being careful not to cover the hole where the water flows).
I figured that it was either this or find a new machine. It might last — might not. But it buys me some time before spending several hundred dollars on another espresso maker.JD
Yannick D. reports success on his 800ESXL using this method. He used 5 min. epoxy, removing the o-ring seal, pushing it together, holding it for a few minutes, then letting it cure for 2 days. He then added two more coats of epoxy to ensure that the repair held solid. In his email message, he reports the machine has been running 2 weeks without a problem. Seems like this fix is generally applicable and, with care, ought to work well.
Those of you with machining skills, equipment, and access to aluminum bar stock might be interested in Colin’s sturdy repair:
Hi, have a 800ESXL with a broken water control valve, see they are no longer available, so I checked out the options and repaired it my self, sounds like all these break at the pump extension where the valve screws into the extension 1/8 pipe thread.
I made a little adaptor from 6160 alloy bar stock, threaded one end 1/8 pipe and the other 5mmx.9 thread pitch:
[He then tapped] the hole in the valve body 5mmx.9 pitch, no drilling was needed, a hole drilled through the center 3mm seems to be OK for operation no issues yet anyway.
Everything put back together with 30 minute epoxy, but left overnight to harden 100%.
Hope this helps other peoples’ problems.
Here’s a picture of Colin’s completed repair:
Fortunately, so far the valve has not broken here. For reference purposes for anyone else wanting to try this fix, here is a tight close-up picture of the valve assembly from our (working) machine, with the big thermal block hose disconnected (at the block) for a better view:
You can hear the pump, but absolutely no water comes out of either the brew head or steam wand? Multi espresso machine fixer Dave S. suggests priming the pump:
Found it at a Thrift Shop for $9.00. I did an initial test in the store, figured it might need priming since the motor/pump was functional. I’ve fixed about 3 or 4 other models including Starbucks versions the same way. I researched the net and knew it needed priming and this trick worked! A turkey baster syringe might work if the tip is small enough to fix into the input hose. I think I forced in 10-150 ml at least, just enough to prime her. Once I started the machine the “tone” of the pump changed and it started sucking up water. Yippeeeeeeee!!!Cheers
So far, i’ve neither run into nor read from site correspondents any failure in this category which has had an electrical cause. To date, the cause has been mineral/other crud buildup in the water passageways.
…And not just for brew taste! The composition of the water you put into your 800-series machine has a dramatic effect on its performance, especially over the long term.
Related to correspondence in early 2012 between myself and Grant Ball, i did some reasonably in-depth studying of cleaning out mineral buildup in espresso machines. Out of all i read, the very best and most informative document (in my opinion) is Jim Schulman’s Insanely Long Water FAQ. It dates back many years, all the way to the Usenet Newsgroup alt.coffee, yet i found nothing newer that even touched it and the information in most part seems nearly timeless. Once you’ve read that FAQ, you’ll understand why i cannot possibly answer any specific questions you may have regarding water issues and your 800ESXL or other 800-series espresso machine: there are simply too many critical variables related to the water!
Have you flushed recently? In your kitchen, or wherever you keep your 800? Page 27 of the 2/05 North American issue of the Breville Espresso Machine owner’s manual discusses decalcifying (their preferred term) the machine “on a regular basis (every 2-3 months) using a liquid decalcifying agent”. If you’ve read the Insanely Long Water FAQ, you know that it may or may not be necessary to decalcify your particular machine that often… or more often.
I’d happily neglected decalcifying our 800ESXL forever, since it was new! We’d had several problems with the steam wand plugging up (alternative remedy for that discussed below), yet no other issues. On a sunny day in March 2012, i decalcified our machine for the first time and…… nothing came out. Nothing human-eye visible. This didn’t entirely surprise me, given that reports from the coffee drinker here were that the machine was working just fine.
How could this be? Readers of Jim’s FAQ know: the water. Our City of Pasadena, California tap water run through our Brita charcoal-based water pitcher filtration system produces slightly acidic water, which apparently keeps the Breville plumbing quite clean without the need for decalcification. Nearly all the credit goes to the Brita: before we had the Brita, we used a tap-mounted Pur filter. Great-tasting water, yet lots of mineral buildup visible on the heating element of another appliance (a now-retired Bodum water boiler. We’re using a Breville BKE820XL for that function now, which is superior in every way). Within weeks after switching water filters, the mineral deposits on the heating element of the Bodum began flaking off. Within a month or two, the element was like-new clean, with no cleaning effort on our part. Water matters!
Compare and contrast my experience with that of Grant Ball, whose Breville 800 went from having an unusable steam wand to full steam ahead, thanks to a decalcification in which “a huge amount of brown gunk [was] dislodged”. Here’s a lightly edited version of his message to me:
I got completely ahead of myself…. This machine hasn’t had a de-scale in a very long time.
It appears that the water circuit through the boiler for steam is different to the brew head path. Based on my feeling that there was a blockage and there was no problem with the high-limit thermostat [discussed on the Normal Sequence of Operations page —Sonic], I decided to try some Scalex through the machine and focused on the steam water path.
To my amazement, there was a huge amount of brown gunk dislodged. I tried various ways to shift it like running steam then switching on the hot water mode. After two full tanks of Scalex and then another 3 of clean water the gunk was mostly removed.
I also cleaned the brew head path but there was minimal scale and residue coming from this water path.My conclusion is this:
The steaming capacity of these machines is borderline from the outset. After some accumulation of residue in the thermoblock water circuit, the ability to transfer heat to the water is lost and steaming capacity is very reduced. Regular de-scaling will dramatically improve steam production.
I actually think that a longer preheating period which would give a hotter thermoblock before starting to pump would give a quicker start to steaming and a more solid flow, but the Breville guys must have their reasons for the programming they chose….
If you’re having water (steam) flow and/or water (steam) temperature problems, your first step towards resolution is to ensure that the water pathways are clear. The fastest and easiest way to do this on a whole-machine basis is to run a decalcification cleaning cycle. (If you have steam wand-only problems, i have an alternative method which is even faster, below.)
The following is my modification of Breville’s instructions, the modifications based upon fairly extensive reading about decalcifying/de-scaling espresso machines in general. The original Breville instructions are in the same standard black text color as this paragraph. My modified instructions, comments, and notes are this color green.
Per Breville, powdered materials such as Dezcal and Scalex (to name just two of many) should not be used. Yet correspondent Grant Ball used Scalex with great success and no reported issues (he reports that Scalex is composed primarily of sulfamic acid).
Liquid decalcifying agents—recommended by Breville—include purpose-made products such as Durgol Swiss, and generics such as citric acid. Based upon Jim Schulman’s recommendation of citric acid in his FAQ, and the preponderance of free lemons on the lemon trees in our back yard, i chose to use lemon juice. Following recommendations in Jim’s FAQ, i used approximately 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in a full 2.2 L Breville 800 espresso machine tank of filtered water. I was careful to ensure that there were no seeds nor >2 mm in any direction pulp or other particles. One medium-sized Meyer lemon yielded just slightly more than the required 3 tablespoons of clean juice. I found it entirely satisfactory and would use it in the future.
During the many years i was completely ignoring Breville’s decalcification recommendations, there were several times that steam production from the wand dropped to a very low and wholly unsatisfactory level. Cleaning the tip, either in-place or removed, did not improve things. The following obvious-to-me procedure successfully solved the problem, each time:
Please be careful and wish yourself luck when removing the steam wand! Despite his skills and care, correspondent Curtis C. reports that the threaded brass fitting inside the machine to which the wand attaches snapped off inside his fairly new 800 series machine:
I got the machine opened, but found that the brass fitting on the steam valve is only attached to a [very small] nipple, which (if I’m lucky) I could extract with a pair of vise grips, or else I’d need to remove the pump, use an ez out or similar tool.Here’s the broken fitting in Curtis’ hand:
Here is [a view] from the top of the machine, looking down to where the steam want exits. Circle in red is the stub of the nipple that sheared off, with, on the right, the brass "lock nut" that presumably anchored the nipple into the right hand 90 degree elbow. Both these parts are blurry—sorry about that.
Toronto or Toronto-adjacent coffeephile Jamie performed all the work in the last section and still had no wand steam. Here’s his story:
So I have the 800 as I was telling you, but the problem was that there was no steam from the steam wand or it barely trickled through. The steam would instead come out in the drip tray and out of the top of the water reservoir. But mostly the drip tray. I disassembled my unit. And took off the brass piece that connects the steam wand to the thermoblock. It was clear. I descaled and decalcified with lemon, then vinegar, then CLR. Still nothing. I knew something was blocked because it was producing the steam just not putting it where it needed to go. So, I took it apart again (as now I am confident in taking it apart and putting it back together again thanks in no small part to your site) but this time went after the selector knob on the front. After removing the knob, I removed the plastic selector assembly from the thermoblock (just the plastic, held in by 3 screws) and discovered 3 porcelain discs (maybe it was 4) anyway, I separated the top one as I was turning it to see how it operated. I thought I broke it. But I moved the one below the top one to see how it moved also. I guess I freed something up because at that point I was discouraged that I couldn’t see anything wrong and was worried that I had totally screwed the machine up. So I put it back together. Turned it on. Selected the steam. And voilà: It ran full steam ahead.
I guess the discs weren’t turning to open to allow the water through the correct path. They somehow became stuck together.
I should mention that I picked this machine up of kijiji for $40 because the guy couldn’t get the steam to function properly but it produced good espresso. So it was a steal.
Here’s the view with the selector knob removed:
Plastic selector switch plate assembly removed:
Selector knob linkage removed, revealing ceramic discs:
“These are the discs. The top one comes off, the ones underneath slide. I wound up taking the ones under the top one apart.” Ceramic discs removed from thermal block:
Pictures and quoted text courtesy Jamie W.
My take-away from Jamie’s dedicated efforts is that sometimes it may be necessary to completely disassemble the selector switching mechanism all the way down to the ceramic discs (the actual water switching elements, just like the valves in many modern kitchen and bathroom faucets) to get in and clean out stubborn mineral or other debris clogs.
Site correspondent Michel M. sent in a handy tip regarding poor flow through the Brew Head, which i am partially re-wording and presenting here:
When using the brew head (filter holder) to brew espresso—not the steam wand—the water flow is greatly reduced. Instead of flowing freely through the bottom holes of the filter holder into the cup, the water trickles and sometimes drips.
The metal mesh filter in the brew head may be partially plugged with coffee grounds, possibly from overpacking coffee in the filter. To fix, just remove the screw in the middle of the mesh filter and pop it out gently by pulling in the screw hole, using the screwdriver for example. Clean the coffee grounds from the mesh filter “grid” and screw it back onto the Breville, and voilà! The water flow is back to normal.
I am delighted that this proved to be an easy fix for Michel. On the unit here, that center screw is seized. I tried removing it on the unit here in July 2015, and absolutely could not get it out. Tried letting penetrating oil soak into it: didn’t help. Very likely the years of high heat and heat cycling seized it. I strongly urge you to use the very best-fitting, torquy screwdriver you have. I had to disassemble the bottom and sides to get my best Fiskars rubber-grip-handle screwdriver to fit, and even then, using the technique of “cracking” a fastener via turning it only about 10 to 15 degrees, it would not move. My intent was to see whether ours was plugged at all and take some new pictures, but since that’s not happening, please refer to the first photo under Top Cover on the Disassembly page, to see the mesh and the center screw.
Once one has this screw out, it would be a very good idea to put anti-seize compound on the threads before putting things back together, so that any future repairs will be easier and faster.
Coffee fan Carl F.’s domestic 800ES started having low steam: “the steam would surge and give a little on each stroke of the pump but reduce over time”. Then, low group head pressure appeared. Descaling did not help either problem.
On testing with the covers off i noticed bubbles in the pipes. When i moved it next i didn’t move the cup under it and the pick up tube fell off. i refitted the tube and now it’s fixed: good water and steam flow.
Hope this helps someone else.
Site correspondent Paul has provided enough information on this that i feel it best to present it on a separate page.
Have any Breville 800ESXL repair tips? Send ’em in! I’ll endeavor to add the seemingly good ones to these pages, at my usual glacial pace. (Please let me know if you want to be credited or remain anonymous. Thanks!)
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