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Vintage Riviera with a gush & a drip

Postby SpromoSapiens on Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:41 pm

So I'm just starting to test and inspect a 30-year-old Riviera that I picked up in truly exquisite condition. The thing is barely used, everything totally gleaming, wiring clean and supple, almost no rust at all. It was used a few times, though, as the screen needed a good soak-n-scrub and the PF is darkened a bit on its coffee flow path. The group-to-boiler gasket is fresh as the day it was manufactured; the boiler cap gasket is equally fresh; but I have not yet removed the piston and spring to check the various group gaskets.

For dissembling the spring lever group, I plan on going about it the orphan espresso way, unless someone has a better way. I'm not sure I have a clamp that size -- do you think I could use a bench-mounted vice?

My issues are two:
1 -- when I pull down the lever (sans PF) and draw water into the group, most of it splurts out the weep hole when the lever goes back up, instead of down through the group. I assume this is either a dispersion block clog, or gaskets in need of lube maybe? I hope this issue is rectified once I dissemble, clean, lube & reassemble the group.

2 -- this vintage model comes with a plumb-in option; the water inlet is an elbow fitting on the side of the base. I'm not plumbing it in, so that elbow fitting is open on the end, which shouldn't matter because there's supposed to be some kind of one-way valve that keeps water inside when the inlet's not in use. (There's a manual refill button also on the base, by this fitting.) There's a steady drip from that elbow fitting. It gets worse as boiler pressure builds, so I haven't even let the Riviera get to full pressure yet, I only turned it on to see if it would work at all. I believe that there are no longer parts in production to replace that valve/button assembly, so all I can think to do is find a threaded cap that fits on the end of the elbow fitting to seal it closed. Does anyone happen to know what exact metric size cap I might need for this?
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Postby drgary on Sat Nov 16, 2013 12:02 pm

Howard:

Can you show us photos? Some piston assemblies, like the current Elektra, unscrew by gripping a hole in the piston. This avoids the need for a spring clamp. Also Zacconi still makes these machines and may have a replacement part or could tell you the size of that filler hole you'd like to cap. Alternatively measuring with calipers can tell you the size, and Stefano's Espresso Care has the easiest explanation I've seen for sizing those fittings.
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Postby rpavlis on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:10 pm

I believe this is a spring lever similar in basic design to the MCAL? If water come out the hole at the top of the piston it means that the piston seals are bad. It could also mean corroded cylinder walls, but let's not even think about that!
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Postby peacecup on Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:49 pm

Is that the 45-mm group, like the Ponte Vecchio? The hole in the back leaks water when the top piston seal is bad. An easy fix, once you get the piston out. If it is the 45 group you'll need a little caution in getting the piston out and in, and the proper-sized clamp. Some type of padding on clamp ends will protect the group and piston face.
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Postby orphanespresso on Sat Nov 16, 2013 3:35 pm

You can use a vise if you can figure out how to get an offset to grab the back edge of the top of the group and the center of the piston face. The big wood clamp is handy because you can offset the jaws and make this happen...or you can always make a jig....the spring is not all that strong anyway. The fitting is 1/4 " BPP but you make a little disc seal to put in the cap since espresso machine fittings are not designed to seal on the thread like NPT fittings are.
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Postby RioCruz on Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:04 pm

I would also use Teflon tape on the threads.

Before doing this, however, I would fill the boiler with water, bring it up to pressure, and then push the fill button on and off repeatedly and see if flushing clears out any crap that may be messing with the valve and causing the drip. Put a piece of 1/2" plastic tube on the end of the threads and direct the water into a bucket cuz it comes out with a lot of hot force. You may also want to clamp the tube on with something...altho I've never had to do that with my Riviera. It just stays on.

BTW...the cap that goes on the fill fitting of my machine has a plastic gasket in it. It's original and came with it when I bot it 30 some odd years ago. Check yours and see if it has one too.
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Postby SpromoSapiens on Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:36 am

Hey everybody,
Thanks for these awesomely helpful replies. Below are some photos, per your request, Gary. Let me know if you wanted to see it the water fill-up thing from the inside as well (under the bottom plate), and thanks for that link.

Regarding MCALs, sadly I've not had the pleasure of handling one, so I can't attest to the similarities.

Jack: I actually don't know which size group it is. The PF is definitely on the smaller/deeper side, so if the next size up is by a wide margin, I would guess that it's the 45. Also, the tamper I got for my Caravel seems to fit the Riviera PF about as well as the plastic tamper that the Riviera came with. It's a 43.5mm tamper, and there's a lot of slop around the top of the basket but it fits well down at the bottom. So, all signs point to a 45mm group.

Doug: I know you're a super busy guy these days so I especially appreciate you chiming in. By disc seal, I take it you mean like cutting a circle of silicon or plastic or something and putting that inside the cap, like is typically inside a boiler cap? And -- by 1/4" BPP, do you mean BSP or BSPP?

Rio: a reliable Riviera repair person made me promise that I would never fiddle with that button, as he's sure there exists no replacement part for it as Zacconi no longer puts a plumb-in option on the Riviera. Although I'm awfully tempted to see if you're right. I did push lightly on the button and it feels stuck, it didn't give at all. But I haven't let the boiler get to full pressure yet either. Your Riviera is 30yrs old & still hummin'?

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Postby orphanespresso on Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:20 am

Most of the fittings on the Riviera machines are 1/4 British....we order from an espresso machine supply and they don't differentiate BSPP from BSP...they are just fittings since espresso machines don't use anything else..the threads are parallel and the seal is on he end which is the reason that you need some kind of disc in the cap. The valve by the way can be fixed...just take it apart and look. It uses an o ring and a Bibb washer type seal with a fairly big hole...you can make one out of 3/8 rubber cord, a razor blade, an exacto saw jig, and a drill bit. Hold the cord in the jig, slice off the right length with the blade nice and square, drill the hole so it slips over the screw and voila fixed. You can also cap the thing off under the machine at the source, but it CAN be fixed. The person who told you not to fiddle with the button was a weenie :D ....everything can be fixed if one is motivated. Who cares if you can't get a part from the factory when you can make it yourself?
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Postby RioCruz on Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:16 am

orphanespresso wrote:The person who told you not to fiddle with the button was a weenie :D

HAHAHHAHAHA!!!! Right on! That button was made to be fiddled with. It's a great valve to either fill or drain the boiler. Very handy! It does require a bit of force to depress it, and maybe heating up the water under pressure will help loosen it up. DON'T BE AFRAID TO GIVE IT A GOOD PRESS!!! That's what it's for. Give that a try...then take it apart and fix it if necessary as Doug instructed cuz you will find it to be very useful.

The configuration of the fill/drain fitting on mine is different than yours. Mine is just a straight, 1/2" brass nipple with Standard American pipe threads and a 1/2" sealed brass cap.
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Yes, I've had my machine for over 30 years and the only thing I've ever had to replace on it are the group seals. It is built like a tank and one of the most beautiful designs out there...in my most humble opinion, of course. :)
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Postby SpromoSapiens on Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:56 am

Ha! Doug, the guy may be a weenie, but an authoritarian one when it comes to Zacconi. He was, after all, the retail source of this machine for the original buyer, and continues in that line of work. But -- I also figure his standards are awfully high, and if it's not factory original mint condition or close to it, it probably isn't quite good enough in his esteem. That, and after years of dealing with the public, he knows when to tell someone not to mess with something, if perhaps only for the sake of preventing them from coming back and complaining that something broke or otherwise won't work. Anywway, you emboldened me. I did the unthinkable; I pushed the button. Hard! And it still wouldn't move. Then I loosened that brass nut around it, which for some reason I hadn't done before. With that I was able to pull the button upward a tiny bit, maybe 1/10", and push it back down, and did this a few times, cold and at full pressure; no effect, still dripping. But it did seem to slow the drip for a time. Then when the machine was cooling down again, the inlet proceeded to breathe & wheeze rather creepily. Here's a few seconds of video with sound:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/5tbk90kwr3fws...0inlet.wmv

Having looked inside through the bottom plate, the water inlet thing does seem easy enough to remove and dissemble. If it takes a long time to get new piston seals, I may well take a whack at it. In the meantime I know that I'll sooner just try to cap it and pull some shots. Right now I just want to enjoy a functional Riviera; total perfection will come later.

BTW To correct something I said earlier -- water splurts out the weep as I lower the lever, not as it goes back up. Although when the lever is fully down, water does come mightily from the group. Meanwhile, now, the last time I got to full pressure, a thin, steady leak of water came from the weep hole even with hands off the machine completely.

Another issue I've got is the manometer. At zero pressure it's stuck at just shy of .5 bar:
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I put a steam wand manometer on it and found the actually peak pressure is set at 1.75, while the bumped-up sticky meter shows 2.0. I figure somewhere in the annals of HB there's a breakdown on opening this thing and twisting it back to where it should be -- but I'll take tips if anyone doesn't mind offering. :)

And though these final 2 issues fall under the "perfection" I'll be seeking later, I can't help but ask...

Did I strip some finish off the brass group? See photo, look close. Like a fool the first thing I did was submerge the group in hot joe glow for a little while, and when I removed it, the soaked part looked clearly different from the rest... but better! Then I read that Joe Glow removes the finish. Is it possible that it actually just removed a layer of dust and didn't eat down far enough to strip finish? The Joe Glow part is shinier than the non-joeglow part.
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And: the machine came with a dented dome. Any tips on how to knock that dent out? I'd only bother if it was safe and easy. Otherwise I'll probably let well enough alone.
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Rio -- thanks for the encouraging report and especially the photo. That black base is awesome! A very handsome machine. Is the base original?
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