Originally Web posted Wednesday, 27 May 2009.
Content last modified Friday, 11 April 2014 .
External links last verified Friday, 31 January 2014.

Mechanical/Water/Hydraulic Repair Notes for the Breville 800ESXL Espresso Machine


Failure and Repair: Badly Leaking Water

Boiler Assembly Leaks

Kindly contributed by Erwin Niehaus, Paul, and Jean-Seb

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.

Broken Valve

Note: if you have a BES820(XL) or BES830(XL) model with this issue, be sure to see Daimon C.’s article Fixing a Breville 800 Series Professional Espresso Machine on his I am the BFG site. In his case, the leak was from the magnetic valve (new part in the newer models), not the valve which looks the same in his model as the 800 series (judging from the photos on his site). Even if you have an 800 series model, his article may provide useful repair ideas for creative fixes.

Example

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.
Clearly the hard bronze-colored plastic section separated from the white plastic end of the pump itself.

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.)

Repair

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.

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:


Failure and Repair: No Water Flow

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
Dave

Failure and Repair: Poor Flow from Steam Wand/General Poor Water Temperature Conditions

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.

Water Matters!

…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!

Decalcifying/De-Scaling/De-Mineralizing/Cleaning

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.)

Decalcifying the Breville 800-series Espresso Machine

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.

  1. Ensure the Selector Control is in the ‘Standby’ position, the Power On/Off button is set to the ‘Off’ position so that the machine is switched off and unplugged. I ignored this step. Do so at your own risk!
  2. Remove the Filter Holder and Frothing Attachment. Pour the decalcifying agent into the water tank. (I discuss options for the decalcifying agent at the end of these instructions.)
  3. Plug the machine into the power outlet and switch on.
  4. Set Power On/Off button to the ‘On’ position and the Selector Control to the ‘Standby’ position (center position between brew head and steam wand).
  5. Place a large container under both the Brew Head and the Steam Wand.
  6. Unscrew Steam Wand tip, to prevent its plugging up with chunks of crud.
  7. When the brewing temperature is reached the ‘Heating’ light will switch off. Set the Selector Control to the ‘Espresso’ position and let half 1/4 of the decalcifying solution run through the Brew Head. Monitor the water level closely. It will drop quickly!
  8. Set the Selector Control to ‘Standby’ and allow the machine to rest for at least as long as it just ran. This is a home machine—the pump is not rated for continuous duty! Letting it rest will reduce pump stress.
  9. Set the Selector Control to the ‘Steam’ position and allow another 1/4 of the remaining solution to run through the Steam Wand. When the solution stops flowing, set the Selector Control back to the ‘Standby’ position. Elsewhere on this same page (p. 27), in large text, Breville cautions against letting the water tank run dry. I believe that warning supercedes their recommendation to run until “the solution stops flowing” at any time in this whole procedure. Note that water consumption is vastly less per minute in the Steam position vs. the Espresso position. Many minutes will pass before the water level noticeably drops. Consuming 1/4 of the fluid level will take a long time. I chose to run it about 5 min., let it rest 5 min., and repeat, until the 1/4 level drop point was reached, so as not to over-stress the pump.
  10. Leave the machine to sit on hot (powered on) Standby for 15-20 minutes. This allows time for the decalcifying agent to chemically act inside the boiler unit and other internal water passageways.
  11. Reinstall the Steam Wand tip. (This can be done any time during the 15-20 minute rest period.)
  12. Set the Selector Control to the ‘Espresso’ position and let half of the remaining (1/4 of the original) decalcifying solution run through the Brew Head.
  13. Set the Selector Control to ‘Standby’ and allow the machine to rest for at least as long as it just ran.
  14. Set the Selector Control to the ‘Steam’ position and allow the remaining solution (final 1/4 of the original amount) to run through the Steam Wand.
  15. After decalcifying, turn the machine off and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. During that time, remove the Water Tank and rinse thoroughly then re-fill with fresh cold water. To rinse the machine, run half the water through the Brew Head (and watch the level because it will drop quickly!) and half through the Steam Wand (giving the machine frequent rest breaks because the water level in Steam Wand mode drops so slowly).
  16. The machine is now ready for use.

Other Warnings from Breville

From p. 27 of our paper manual:

Decalcifying Agents

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.

Alternative Quick Cleaning of the Steam Wand

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:

  1. Turn off the machine and let it cool.
  2. Remove the steam wand tip, per Breville’s instructions (lacking those, use common sense. It unscrews).
  3. Using an appropriate flat-sided wrench (spanner), unscrew the large nut out of which the steam wand exits the machine. If you’ve not done this before, it is probably worth the trouble to unplug the machine, remove all water and drain tanks, and flip the machine over to truly see what’s going on and have gravity work with you so you can take things apart slowly and see how they fit together. When the machine is flipped over with its top on the work surface, the nut unscrews in the usual direction (counterclockwise = loosens).
  4. Carefully remove the nut and wand as an assembly. Be sure to note the orientation of the white (turns brown as it ages) plastic cone washer—it only fits properly one way: concave/cone side against the ball on the wand. The rubber washer sits atop the flat side of the cone washer which sits atop the metal ball of the wand. Set the rubber washer and cone washer aside.
  5. Using a pipe cleaner or a chenille stick or similar, gently ream out the entire length of the interior of the steam wand until it is clean. Expect a lot of crud to come out. Consider using a cleaning liquid/solvent. Soap and warm water would be the minimum at the gentle end. I’ve used a proprietary petroleum-based solvent i happen to have, called Fedron®. Fedron is not a food-safe chemical, so it is probably a poor choice on my part. I’ve always rinsed the inside of the wand with a clean chenille stick and lots of soap and water for some time, after the Fedron treatment. Diluted lemon juice would be a better choice. I like to blow through the steam wand to test it to ensure that it is completely clear of obstructions.
  6. Flip the machine back over, reinstall the tanks, plug it in, and run steam out the nozzle hole with the nozzle still removed. I believe this helps better clear the internal steam passageways. Turn the machine back off.
  7. If the machine is hot near the steam wand mounting, allow it to cool. Reinstall the steam wand, being careful to restore the original orientation of the cone washer, and to have the rubber washer atop the cone washer, ready to press against the mounting in the main unit. Tighten the nut until the steam wand holds its position without letting gravity flop it down. It should be easy to move around as desired, yet stay in the position to which it is moved.
  8. Turn the machine back on. Run steam through the wand for, say, a minute. It should be strong.
  9. Reinstall the tip on the end of the steam wand. Test the steam wand for proper operation. It should now have a nice, strong steam stream as it used to. If it does not and you are certain that the wand itself is completely clear, proceed with the full decalcification procedure.

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:
The small hole where the nipple used to attach is dwarfed by the rest of the fitting.
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.
The tiny nipple, broken off the large brass fitting, remains attached to the thermal block. There appears to be some locking compound on the threads.

Failure and Repair: Poor or No Flow from Steam Wand Even After Wand Cleaning/Decalcification

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.


Repair: Replacing Thermal Block (Boiler) Assembly

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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