Super Auto Saeco - Troubleshooting

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.
MattJ

#1: Post by MattJ »

I have a Saeco Caffe Charisma as it's badged that was our company machine down in Costa Rica. It has been marketed in the states as a Starbucks Barista? as well as another model of Saeco I think. Anyways, it made a pretty darn good cup of coffee brand new and then slowly after three years or so of make 4 to 6 doubles a day has become crap. Watery and weak shots are all it is capable of. I think I had the grind setting pretty fine and the dose pretty high in order to extract the best shots possible... so my question is... could the problem be as simple as replacing the burrs in the grinder? Money is tight so I don't want to by the burrs for $60 or so if it isn't going to work. Any super auto gurus out there? Thanks in advance.

edit: corrected the model is a "Caffe Charisma"

edit 2: -So I pulled the bean hopper to get a closer look at the burrs. I tried putting a hex key into the screw that holds the burrs into the machine and couldn't get a 2.5 or 3 mm key to fit. I pulled the parts diagram and the screw is listed as a M2.9 - could that be correct? A 2.9 mm hex bolt? I searched and can't find a 2.9 hex key. Perhaps it's a specialty Saeco tool? I guess I could grind a 3 mm screw a little and make it fit, but I find this unusual. Any help appreciated. Thanks.

MattJ (original poster)

#2: Post by MattJ (original poster) »

So, I wanted to write this up quickly while it's still fresh. I didn't find much info thru searches on any "do it yourself" fixes on super autos. I guess at the price point they're sold and their typical clientele, folks would be less likely to crack it open then say us lever geeks. Anyways, as per my original post, we had this thing as an office machine and I was pretty impressed with the quality of the shot, but eventually even calibrated to the finest grind and biggest dose it would only pull a watery and weak shot. It has sat unused for the better part of at least a year, maybe a year and a half due to the shot quality. I've had some spare time and my wife was tired of begging for shots from my lever so I layed into this thing.

I was able to pull the parts diagram after a quick google search. The bean hopper and a big rubber boot to keep coffee beans out of the inner workings came off quickly and easily. Looking down into the burrs of the grinder it was evident that the burrs were held together with one central hex screw. As I mentioned in the first post I couldn't get a 2, 2.5, or 3mm hex key into the screw head. I ended up cleaning it up a lot with the end of a paper clip and it is a 2 mm head that is left threaded or reverse threaded. I extracted the screw and the upper and lower burrs came out. Be careful if attempting this because under the inner burr there are three loose ball bearings. The burrs really just seemed to need a good cleaning. I got my shop vac down in there and sucked out a lot of old coffee bits. There was truly just a lot of grime everywhere. I used various scrapers and freed up a lot of little bits by gently scraping them and sucking them out with the vacuum.

Now, the tricky part if anyone catches this and tries the same... recalibrating the dose and grind knobs. I put mine back together and tried pulling about a half dozen shots, but realized I had calibrated the knob to too tight of a grind. There's a geared outer sleeve on the grinder. It must be loosened to pull the bottom burr. There are indexing marks and paint dots to help the factory trained tech's I would guess. The easiest thing I found was a little trial and error. By checking where the tightest grind level was possible and then backing it off to line up the gears on the knob I ended up with a half turn too tight on the first go around. The dosing gears really didn't necessitate moving doing the simple cleaning that I did. If you got more into it then perhaps you would have to find a way to calibrate it as well.

The shot quality is back to excellent. Not quite on par with my best lever pulls, but really quite good. I don't know how long it will last, and I may eventually pull the burrs (I didn't figure out how the bottom burr comes off of the plastic sleeve, but I guess I would be forced to figure it out) and replace them.

MattJ (original poster)

#3: Post by MattJ (original poster) »

Ha. The machine is making a better shot, but now an old problem has resurfaced. The warning light (27) for low water seems to think the tank is low even when it's full. Any ideas?

MattJ (original poster)

#4: Post by MattJ (original poster) »

Well, I guess this is turning into my one man thread. Interesting that the community around these machines seems to reflect the type of user they attract. I'm betting most superauto owners just scrap these things when they develop problems. One repair shop even featured a video in which an employee states that the usable life of one of these machines is 3 to 5 years. There would be a lot of cost associated with shipping such a bulky piece of equipment. I was able to solicit some first rate advice from one of the techs, John, at Purple Turtle Coffee out of La Porte, Texas (greater Houston).

I bought this machine at a membership club warehouse store down in Costa Rica. I am now betting that chain of stores is owned by Costco who sold a lot of these machines here in the States. I'm continuing this thread just in case other owners have the same problems and try a diy fix.

As stated in the previous thread, the low water indicator light (labeled "27" by Saeco in the manual) was incorrectly indicating that the tank was low when in fact it was full. Basically when the light is on the machine will not function as it overrides both the steam wand and the group. There is a float in the tank that is read by a Reed Switch inside the machine. If you take the bean hopper and outer top cover off, being careful to disconnect the silicone water tube that connects the tank outflow to the Flowmeter assembly as well as the ribbon cable to the main control board, then you can locate the sensor. It is a magnet sensor with two leads that connects back to the board. I jumped the two prongs on the board to each other with some copper as a temporary fix and to diagnose the problem until the new part arrives. Evidently the problem can also be the magnet inside the float although usually if it breaks it is due to the float itself cracking and sinking.

So now once again I'm back in business until the part arrives. We'll see what happens next...

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rattaps

#5: Post by rattaps »

congrats 8)
"The only stupid question is one not asked."

MattJ (original poster)

#6: Post by MattJ (original poster) replying to rattaps »

thanks :)