Gaggia America restoration/modding project

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#1: Post by sheedapistawl »

Hello friends!

With the motivation of this forum and other enthusiasts, I've gone and acquired a Gaggia America (1956) from a fellow HBer who wanted to see it be used more frequently.

I am starting this thread to catalog my progress and get some support and guidance from all of you. I apologize if some of my questions seem basic to you, I have read all the restoration threads but this is the most ambitious project I will undertake to date.

I am going to proceed in 3 phases - my goal is to get this machine ready for daily use for a decade of espresso making.
In terms of condition, the seller bought the machine already modded 10 years ago for US 110V operation with a Sirai Pstat, diasssembled the group and replaced gaskets and then used the machine infrequently since (maybe a few times a month on average). They mentioned the machine is functional and works fine.

Phase 1: take off paneling (done) and pressurize the machine and inspect for leaks, test stuff - will just hook up to a flow jet and a 5 gallon bottle for now
Phase 2: Mods and any urgent/recommended repairs - I am thinking at whatever comes out of Phase 1 + install a hi limit thermostat, install a M19 thread Tee junction on top for a barbed vac breaker and new safety valve, install a EPHQ shower screen and cafelat group gasket
Phase 3: ...only if its a good return on time...teardown and restoration. I am hoping to avoid this if I can - I have nightmares about breaking the boiler bolts and fabricating a gasket...

To start off - some photos of this beautiful machine!!

the group - cafelat and EPHQ basket already ordered per Paul Pratts recommendation

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#2: Post by IamOiman »

I am one of the bad influencers LOL.

I'll guide you through the boiler stripping if that is needed. The T-fitting will probably be custom as M19 male x M19 female x 1/4" BSP is likely not a commonly found fitting I bet, and I would stick the vacuum valve as high up as possible if I could.

For now step 1 is a good start to see what happens in the current state.
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
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sheedapistawl (original poster)

#3: Post by sheedapistawl (original poster) »

First slew of questions as I plan my parts purchases:

(Q1) How do I add a vac breaker to this machine? Other users mentioned the only place to do this is on top with a T-fitting where the current safety valve sits, replce it with a newer shorter version + tee fitting + vac breaker and hopefully the height of that would still be below the cup warming tray.
I plan to replace this safety valve (ordered M19 thread one from EP - ... iwQAvD_BwE
The vac breaker I was planning to purchase was this one, unless I can find a better arrangement: ... aker-valve
I need to install a M19 thread Tee fitting that can screw into the boiler and allow a safety valve and a vac breaker to be installed in tandem. Does anyone know where I could get a T fitting like that? Our very own IAmOiman flagged this as a custom item, which is already giving me nightmares. I presume just install these with some teflon tape?

Where all this needs to go (cup grill removed but gives you a sense for what I am working with in terms of height:

(Q2) this is quite a hideous bathroom fitting for the drain out. Does anyone have an idea on how to replace this fitting such that I can route a plumb out/drain line back into the front of the drip tray and out the back of the machine? what parts would I need to achieve this?

view of drip tray removed:

(Q3) I am thinking of installing a hi-limit thermostat. Does anyone have a suggestion on which thermostat to install, and how and where to install it on the boiler? Which wire would I cut and recrimp on to thermostat terminals to achieve this? if the vacuum breaker goes on, this becomes a necessity because if the vac breaker fales, the boiler will not achieve pressure and the Pstat will not switch off causing a bad time.

(Q4) This is a photo showing the serial number and boiler gasket. The boiler gasket is possibly original - the seller did not open up the boiler, so it could have been replaced when this was converted to electric but I have no way to tell. Should I consider opening the boiler and replacing this gasket? How would you make this decision?

(Q5) There are some spots with rust or other deposits - I would love to clean these up without fully disassembling everything if I can get away with it. What products and tools do you recommend to achieve this?


#4: Post by Sansibar99 »

May I just add another nightmare to your dreams? :evil:

On the 2nd pic in your last post you can see an insulation plate on the cover.
This is probably asbestos. So please do avoid scratching and blowing off dust inside your house and without security masks.
You can take that off easily outside, while using water spray e.g. to prevent dust.
Later you can put in other heat insulation.

Nice machine, BTW :)
LMWDP #422


#5: Post by pham »

I am another who has witnessed Sheeda's descent into lever madness. Once you are done, I think you will be rewarded greatly with great coffee without fiddling with the paddle. Don't have much to offer other than to say "good luck and have fun!"

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#6: Post by IamOiman »

I just noticed the asbestos as well, you need to take that off as it is starting to fray. You will need an N99 mask or respirator with a P100 filter while taking it off. Mist it with water now while removing the back panel and grill and dunk it in a buck of water, like those 5 gallon hardware buckets. scrape it off while wearing the respirator in an outside environment and close the bucket when done. You will need to treat it as hazardous waste and it is dependent on the city what the rules/steps to dispose of it properly.

It's pretty wack the prior guy refurbed the machine to 110V but left the asbestos on there :shock: . He may have not known what it was.
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
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sheedapistawl (original poster)

#7: Post by sheedapistawl (original poster) »

oh my god.

thank you so much for pointing it out. thank you and Oiman.

Will do this after work today, need to find a N99 mask or P100 respirator, a bucket, and a paint scraper... ideas where to get this stuff on short notice?

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#8: Post by IamOiman »

Home Depot, Lowes, or any general hardware store will have that stuff
Using a spice grinder violates the Geneva Convention
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sheedapistawl (original poster)

#9: Post by sheedapistawl (original poster) »

Alright - P100 mask, buckets/lids, paint scraper, gloves and goggles en route should be here day after tomorrow.

For now I just covered the machine in garbage bags to restrict air movement around it.
The plan for now is:
(1) After spraying the asbestos generously with water, remove the entire back assembly, what carries the back decorative plate as well as the asbestos insulation panel. This is a set of hex nuts and a few screws that I am hoping come off easily without malleting anything.. any ideas welcome
(2) I will then take the assembly out of our indoors area where the machine currently sits, and in a bucket lined with a garbage bag half full of water, I will attempt to remove the asbestos with a paint scraper. Will be doing this with nitrile gloves, goggles and a P100 respirator
(3) Once this is done, my country hazardous waste folks are advising how to dispose of it safely
(4) I am thinking of installing this insulation (fellow HBer recommended it) in its place, want to protect that gorgeous back panel ... 806&sr=8-5


#10: Post by Sansibar99 »

In pandemic times you might get those masks at a pharmacy also.

Please take a picture before dumping that stuff - there is a number written on it, most likely the serial number of the machine. Gaggia techs did write that all over the place at that time...

Anyway, in those times asbestos was commonly used. The previous owner did change the power cord - originally that used to have asbestos insulation, too.
And many of the old gasket cords used inside the valves were asbestos, too. So cleaning stuff under water is a good idea.

Finally, I took a glance at the boiler flange - the one hexnutscrew I see looks new to me. Maybe the boiler had been opened after all?

I'll keep following this :D
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