Author Topic: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)  (Read 80548 times)

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Online heedpantsnow

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Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« on: Wed, 30 December 2015, 20:28:59 »
I recently did an unplanned restoration/overhaul of my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine and I thought maybe it would be interesting to some of you.

I LOVE tinkering and building things.  I also love coffee.  So something like this was bound to happen sooner rather than later!

Background
I've had several low-end espresso machines over the years (Krups, DeLonghi, etc.).  I've always had my eyes on the Silvia but it was always too expensive for my meager income - I work for a non-profit and while I love the work, I won't ever get rich from it!  The Silvia is a special lady.  Her boiler, group head, pump, and 3-way valve are all commercial grade.  The story is that Rancilio had always made commercial machines and one year put some of the commercial guts into a small enclosure and gave this "mini" Rancilio to their distributors as a gift.  The feedback was so great that they decide to start producing it - Silvia was born!

I've always had my eye out for one and about 2 years ago I spotted this one on Craigslist for $250 - a steal!  It had been pretty well maintained (descaled, cleaned, etc.), so I took it home and started learning how to use her.

Rancilio is an old, well-established company.  They are known for quality but not so much innovation.  These values are evident in Miss Silvia.  There are no computers, etc. inside.  And the boiler uses mechanical thermostats for the brew and steam heating cycles.  In most people's eyes, this is the Achilles heel of the Silvia design; due to these mechanical thermostats her boiler has a nominal temperature range of over 20C!  So one has to learn how to "temperature surf" Miss Silvia.  You run some cold water through the boiler to force the heater to come on.  You have your grind and shot ready to pull when the heater finishes (heating light goes off).  Then you wait a certain number of seconds (3-25, depending on who you ask) to get the perfect temperature for your shot.

So this is what I did for several years.  But when some family members gave me some money for my birthday in November, I seized the opportunity to use it to give Miss Silvia an upgraded brain.

There many different ways to do this, most of them involving a PID (progressive, integrative, derivative) controller.  I have experience in these from my days automating Hazmat handling in a factory setting.  You can buy a PID kit, or build your own, and I was all set to build my own when I found out about the meCoffee kit.

The meCoffee isn't something I've seen a lot of in the US; it's made in Europe and has been released less than a year.  Some of the key features of it are:
  • All internal installation; no altering/cutting the body of the machine
  • Bluetooth connectivity for programming and monitoring
  • Active PID - anticipates a temperature drop when you start brewing a shot and starts heating before the drop is even measured
  • Heater dimming - instead of switching the relay on and off rapidly as it approaches the target temperature, it actually "dims" the heater, applying less and less voltage to the element.  This should be more stable and better reliability for the heating element.
  • Fly by wire - the power, brew, and steam buttons are connected to the controller and it in turn connects to the components.  This allows things like a shot timer and more automatic operation.
When my meCoffee arrived I was so excited to get it installed. However, upon opening Miss Silvia I noticed an alarming amount of rust on her frame.  I knew that there was a little bit from when I opened her up last year, but apparently it grew.  At this point it was a critical issue that needed to be addressed.




Another issue was the chrome was peeling off of the group head cover.  This is a purely cosmetic issue, as it is just a chromed plastic piece that covers the brass group head.  However, it was a bit of an eyesore and I figured I should fix it while I fix the rust.  Maybe there are a couple of other modifications I can do as well. :-)

Now a new frame is around $90 and a new head cover is about $25.  I felt it was a waste to pay that money when both parts are fine, just needing a bit of TLC.

First step is disassembly. I used my phone to take pictures of everything.  I mean EVERY THING.  How wires are routed.  How they are connected.  Which screws went where (and then I put them in baggies and labelled them).  Which way the pump was sitting.  Literally, everything.  There's really no reason not to these days, and you know what they say about an ounce of prevention…



Here's the boiler and group head after removal from the frame:



To be continued...
« Last Edit: Wed, 30 December 2015, 20:48:53 by heedpantsnow »
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Online heedpantsnow

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 30 December 2015, 20:40:51 »
Group Head Cover Restoration
I started work on the group head cover.  It's plastic with a chrome covering, most of which was peeling off.  I was able to get a substantial amount of the chrome off by just peeling it with a fingernail and tweezers.  I wasn't able to get it all off, though, so I had to figure out a different way.

After a bit of research, I found out that bleach will remove chrome from plastic.  I figured it would take a day or two, but less work than me trying to scrape it off.  WRONG!  It took a total of about 2 weeks!  I changed the bleach every few days, and moved the part around in it to keep the metal mounts out of the bleach but keeping the chrome I wanted removed in the bleach. 


After the first night, it looked promising:




But then it started taking a while.  This is after 4 nights:



Progress was slow, but finally getting finished at almost 2 weeks:





Eventually, the bleach removed most of it and I finished it off with some steel wool - this also roughed up the surface a bit to prepare for the primer and paint. 











I used Rust Oleum Plastic Primer on the group head cover.  Using a high-tech recycle bin paint booth, I made a few light coats, and went over it lightly with some 0000 steel wool 24 hours later to remove any imperfections. 



Looked pretty good!  Now onto prepping the frame.






« Last Edit: Wed, 30 December 2015, 20:46:09 by heedpantsnow »
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Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 30 December 2015, 20:45:10 »
I like where this is going.

Offline piemancoder

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 30 December 2015, 21:14:10 »
This looks so cool! Can't wait to see what happens next  ;D
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Offline Jema

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 09:27:20 »
Awesome!! Looking forward to seeing the finished product. :thumb:

Offline Bromono

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 09:30:17 »
This makes me want to restore something.

Offline Jaxxn

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 09:40:21 »
As a current Silvia owner (and lover), can't wait to see the end result!

Offline tDr1v3r

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 10:29:06 »
Cool!

I'm planning to put a PID to my Gaggia Baby (the newer one, but without the macro function) and swap the plastic case to an aluminum one.
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 10:42:47 »
This might be my eye opener, currently working with low quality espresso machine too, and I'm not ready to spend high on them (though I want to)

Heading towards press coffee to go single origin beans, but I still need my espresso hmm...
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 13:00:55 »
I like where this is going.

As a current Silvia owner (and lover), can't wait to see the end result!

This looks so cool! Can't wait to see what happens next  ;D

This makes me want to restore something.

Awesome!! Looking forward to seeing the finished product. :thumb:

Cool!

I'm planning to put a PID to my Gaggia Baby (the newer one, but without the macro function) and swap the plastic case to an aluminum one.

This might be my eye opener, currently working with low quality espresso machine too, and I'm not ready to spend high on them (though I want to)

Heading towards press coffee to go single origin beans, but I still need my espresso hmm...

Thanks everyone.  Jokrik, I feel like the Siliva vs. my old DeLonghi pump machine is similar to using my nice Hakko vs. my old no-name soldering iron:  the cheap one is okay if you only use it every once-in-a-while, and the results aren't near as good, but if you're only using it every now and then it's okay.  If you're using it often and/or you want great results, you're better off with the Silvia (or Hakko).
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Offline zombimuncha

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 13:18:13 »
Very cool. I just did the OPV mod on my Gaggia Classic, after getting my Portafilter-mounted pressure gauge for Chrimbo. The meCoffee looks very interesting, so I'm looking forward to seeing the continuation of this.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 13:27:06 »
The frame was a bit more complicated than the group head.  The rust was pretty bad.  After some examination, I discovered the problem:  the factory spot-welded the two parts (horizontal base and vertical mount) together and THEN powdercoated the whole assembly.  Of course the powder did not get in between the two parts but the moisture did! :-(

I used a grinder and a dremel to grind down and cut the welds so I could separate the two parts.  After that I used a wire brush wheel to get off most of the rust, and the dremel with a sanding drum to finish it off. 

After cutting the welds; yikes the rust is bad!


The upper and lower mating surfaces.  The lower part in the front is where the drip tray sits.


Wire brush finished, working with the grinding stone on the dremel


I also (wet) sanded the powder coating on the frame with 400 grit sandpaper to prep the surface.  I used Rust Oleum Primer for Clean Metals after careful consideration.  I was concerned because the surface was still pitted and there was a small amount of rust in the pits.  I called the Rust Oleum help line and they told me that the Clean Metals Primer had the proper ingredients for stopping a small amount of rust (like what I had), while the Rusted Metals Primer had rust converter and should not be used on a surface with any amount of clean metal.  So mostly clean metal with light to moderate rust -> Clean Metal Primer.


Here's a shot of the sanded powdercoated surface.  Note that I plugged any threaded holes with twisted paper towel to avoid getting paint on the threads.




With the primer, I did a ton of light coats.  Not exactly sure how many, but a lot.  Eventually it was covered nice and even, though there did appear some "flocking" in a few areas.  Not sure what that was, but it was taken care of when I went over the surface with the 0000 steel wool, which also was able to knock off any bubbles, dust, etc.

So now all the parts were primed and prepped, time for the paint.  The stock frame was semi-gloss black powder coat, which is fine, but I wanted something a tiny bit more attractive.  So I used Rust Oleum metallic black.  Basically black with a little bit of tiny glitter in it.  I gave each part (group head cover, frame bottom, frame upper) a light first coat, followed by a thicker but even second coat, followed by a third coat.  It went on well, and I was quite happy with the finish.  Not professional by any means, but very few imperfections and the metallic was a nice change from the factory coating.  Plus, between the two parts of the frame was now protected, which is important for the longevity of the machine.









I also wanted to improve the noise of the machine.  Occasionally there was some rattling from some of the parts, particularly the drip tray and the drip tray cover.  I've used Plasti-Dip in the past to coat tool handles and pegboard parts in rubber and I've heard it's paintable.  So I decided to add an extra layer of protection between the two frame parts and under all the areas where the parts connect.

First I masked off the areas I wanted to coat, just using normal masking tape.  Again, I did need to make sure I didn't get it down in any screw holes, so I twisted some paper towel and stuck it in the holes.




Then I just painted on the Plasti-dip with a disposable brush; I did two coats about 30 minutes apart and let it dry overnight. 


Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the coating came out.  It feels just like any rubberized coating you might have on a computer mouse, etc.








And here's a close-up shot of the paint again.  By no means a professional job, but I think it looks pretty good and I like the little sparkles! :D





Next up will be boiler insulation!
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Offline byker

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 18:26:00 »
Cool, thanks for all of the info. I haven't seen inside a fancy expresso machine before!  :)

Offline absyrd

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 18:53:13 »
This is def geekhackin'. Most people would just toss it.

And, after all, this is important medicine for your head! Get that baby running!
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 18:59:00 »
Taking proper care of what we already have is a very good way to save.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 31 December 2015, 23:35:55 »
Love the work you are putting into your baby.  An inspiration to us all!
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Offline jaffers

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #16 on: Sat, 02 January 2016, 07:52:14 »
I'm really enjoying the work log. Putting time into modding your things to make them your own and make them better is something I think needs to be done a lot more. Great work dude!

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #17 on: Mon, 04 January 2016, 21:04:10 »
Cool, thanks for all of the info. I haven't seen inside a fancy expresso machine before!  :)

This is def geekhackin'. Most people would just toss it.

And, after all, this is important medicine for your head! Get that baby running!

Love the work you are putting into your baby.  An inspiration to us all!

Taking proper care of what we already have is a very good way to save.

I'm really enjoying the work log. Putting time into modding your things to make them your own and make them better is something I think needs to be done a lot more. Great work dude!

Thank you all for the kind words and encouragement.  Absyrd, you are right, espresso is crucial in my fight against headaches!

Onward!  Like I mentioned before, I went ahead and insulated the boiler.  I like leaving my machine heated for a while each morning and I wanted to conserve a bit power; I also wanted to lengthen the life of the internal components and the PID.  I shopped around and had a few options, including buying the precut insulation from PIDSilvia.  I decided to just buy a sheet of my own insulation, for around $13 shipped, from Amazon.  It's important that you use silicone insulation (aka silicone foam sheet), as it withstands high temperatures but isn't hazardous like some other types of insulation.  I selected 1/8" sheet so I could layer as I wanted but not have too heavy of an insulation that it might interfere with the PID functionality.

My insulation from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OLNPNNG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


1/8" thickness, I think it was juuuust right


Not having the insulation precut was no big deal.  I just measured, then cut, then test fitted, then cut out any needed holes.  I used standard zip ties to secure the insulation.  I insulated around the group head, top of the group head, around the boiler, top of the boiler, the steam tube, and the steam valve.  All in all it took me around 2 hours.  If the pieces were pre-cut, it might have taken half that, but I'm happy with my decision.  I will say that I performed most of the installation with the boiler and group head assembly removed from the frame.  It would have made it a little harder to measure and cut the holes if it was in the frame, and especially if the front cover was still on.

One step at a time, cutting holes for each protruding part


My work area...the wife was "encouraging" me to get this done so she could have her countertop back!


I think the insulation fit pretty well


Once everything was cut, I found it was easier to then mount the boiler/group head back on the frame so that the frame held everything upright and steady while I was busy laying/holding/securing the insulation.

Mounted and ready for the insulation


Here's the end result




After I finished the installation, I put all the stock wiring back into place.  I wanted to test and make sure everything worked before I added in the complexity of the PID.  I hooked up the switches without the front panel so that I could test and troubleshoot if needed.  Thankfully, everything worked perfectly the first try!  Thankfully I didn't forget to refill the boiler before turning the machine back on; the boiler needs water in it or the heater will burn out.  Also, if you ever do something like this with exposed live wires please be extra careful.  Bonus danger for having water in the mix. :eek: 





One more shot of my pretty painted frame...


Next, we finally get to the PID installation
* heedpantsnow does a little happy dance
« Last Edit: Mon, 04 January 2016, 21:27:07 by heedpantsnow »
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Offline yomammary

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #18 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 08:37:55 »
Nice! Can't wait to see the final product. I wish I could taste the coffee though ;)
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Offline HoffmanMyster

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #19 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 08:58:03 »
Love it! I had the pleasure of enjoying an espresso from this machine, and the finished result is very impressive (and brews a nice shot, most importantly ;) ). Great detailed build log, and as the others have said it's always great to see people making their own improvements to their tools/devices.  :thumb:

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #20 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 09:04:29 »
this is so cool, i've been eyeing off a Rancilio Silvia for ages now as it looks like a great little unit i can get for under $1000 (there is a V4 on sale near me for $780 AU) looking forward to seeing how this build goes with the MeCoffee added to see if you think its worth it :)

Offline dgneo

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #21 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 09:12:48 »
This is a killer rebuild heed, very nice work!
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Offline zombimuncha

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #22 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 14:57:38 »
Still jones'n for a wide shot of the whole machine with that shiny new paintjob. Not to mention the PID hookup procedure.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #23 on: Tue, 05 January 2016, 16:07:11 »
This is epic. Wickedly impressed.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #24 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 05:10:28 »
How much have you invested, time and money, on the overhaul job so far.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #25 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 08:06:34 »
Getting me inspired...  ;D ;D ;D

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #26 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 11:01:38 »
Great idea on the insulation!
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #27 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 15:21:00 »
Love it! I had the pleasure of enjoying an espresso from this machine, and the finished result is very impressive (and brews a nice shot, most importantly ;) ). Great detailed build log, and as the others have said it's always great to see people making their own improvements to their tools/devices.  :thumb:

I miss you already bro!

Nice! Can't wait to see the final product. I wish I could taste the coffee though ;)

Come visit and I'm make you as many shots as you can handle.  :eek:

This is a killer rebuild heed, very nice work!

Thank you sir!

this is so cool, i've been eyeing off a Rancilio Silvia for ages now as it looks like a great little unit i can get for under $1000 (there is a V4 on sale near me for $780 AU) looking forward to seeing how this build goes with the MeCoffee added to see if you think its worth it :)

I love the Silvia; there are other machines with built-in PID's but IMHO it is very difficult to do better than the Silvia for under US$1k.  If/when you get a Silvia, it's good to put in the time to learn how to temp surf to produce good results.  After you've mastered that, put in the PID.  You'll appreciate it a lot more and you'll have a better understanding of how the machine works. 

This is epic. Wickedly impressed.

Thanks.  You're not too far away to come down for a shot.

Still jones'n for a wide shot of the whole machine with that shiny new paintjob. Not to mention the PID hookup procedure.

Coming soon...

Getting me inspired...  ;D ;D ;D

;D ;D

How much have you invested, time and money, on the overhaul job so far.


The cost has been minimal.  Around $20 for paint and a couple of dollars worth of bleach, plus the insulation ($13), plus the cost of the PID (129 euros shipped), plus the cost of some bling ($20).  All told well below US$200.

Time wise, it's harder to say.  I have been thinking/obsessing about it for a long time.  I spent 30 minutes here and there over about a month.  I bet if you had all your materials and just followed my guide it would take about 2 half-days (split up because you have to allow the paint to dry really well).  Maybe add in a couple of 20 minute sessions for extra coats of paint.  But definitely not too much time.

Great idea on the insulation!

Thanks, I think it will save a bit on power and lengthen the life of the internal components.  The only downside is that the cup warmer doesn't get as hot as before but I never used it and I always preheat my cups with a tiny bit of water before I grind.  So nothing lost there.

I'm writing up the meCoffee installation/impressions.  I'll try to have that up tonight or tomorrow.  Thank you all for your interest and encouragement.  I love this community!
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Offline ideus

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #28 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 16:40:01 »
@heed, that is just awesome bro. Congratulations on a good job.

Offline Connly33

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #29 on: Wed, 06 January 2016, 16:46:21 »
Ive never been big into Espresso but this kind of makes me want to get into it.

This thread also feeds my weird obsession of kitchen appliances, and it looks like your doing a great job :p

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Offline zombimuncha

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #30 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 05:51:10 »

Great idea on the insulation!

Thanks, I think it will save a bit on power and lengthen the life of the internal components.  The only downside is that the cup warmer doesn't get as hot as before but I never used it and I always preheat my cups with a tiny bit of water before I grind.  So nothing lost there.


Oh yeah, once you have a PID you won't need to warm the cups as part of your temperature-surfing ritual. I guess you won't easily forget that step tho, after temp-surfing for how many years.

I was actually wondering why you bothered with the insulation - I can't see it doing much for the intra-shot temperature stability. I've seen other mods (especially one specific one on a Gaggia Classic like mine) where the guy added a whole lot of copper pipe into the feed line going into the boiler, and wrapped that tightly around the boiler itself - so the water entering the boiler during the shot was pre-warmed.
« Last Edit: Thu, 07 January 2016, 05:54:25 by zombimuncha »

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #31 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 06:26:43 »





this is so cool, i've been eyeing off a Rancilio Silvia for ages now as it looks like a great little unit i can get for under $1000 (there is a V4 on sale near me for $780 AU) looking forward to seeing how this build goes with the MeCoffee added to see if you think its worth it :)

I love the Silvia; there are other machines with built-in PID's but IMHO it is very difficult to do better than the Silvia for under US$1k.  If/when you get a Silvia, it's good to put in the time to learn how to temp surf to produce good results.  After you've mastered that, put in the PID.  You'll appreciate it a lot more and you'll have a better understanding of how the machine works. 


yeah thanks man i was actually inspired by this build and finding out about the mecoffee which i didn't know about lol so went ahead and purchased one, should be here tomorrow! had a local supplier offering a deal on the silvia V4 and a rocky grinder so couldn't pass it up. will have about a week to play around with it before the mecoffee arives so will for sure be trying to learn the art of temp surfing lol

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #32 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 21:07:39 »
Ive never been big into Espresso but this kind of makes me want to get into it.

This thread also feeds my weird obsession of kitchen appliances, and it looks like your doing a great job :p

LOL yes I have also am one who has to exercise restraint with the kitchen gadgets


Great idea on the insulation!

Thanks, I think it will save a bit on power and lengthen the life of the internal components.  The only downside is that the cup warmer doesn't get as hot as before but I never used it and I always preheat my cups with a tiny bit of water before I grind.  So nothing lost there.


Oh yeah, once you have a PID you won't need to warm the cups as part of your temperature-surfing ritual. I guess you won't easily forget that step tho, after temp-surfing for how many years.

I was actually wondering why you bothered with the insulation - I can't see it doing much for the intra-shot temperature stability. I've seen other mods (especially one specific one on a Gaggia Classic like mine) where the guy added a whole lot of copper pipe into the feed line going into the boiler, and wrapped that tightly around the boiler itself - so the water entering the boiler during the shot was pre-warmed.

I've seen the pre-warmers, and I even looked for a nice copper or brass boiler I could use.  Even a Russian samovar. :eek: But with the meCoffee I don't think it's required; the shot recovery is quite quick and part of that is because the meCoffee starts to reheat the boiler before the current shot is even finished.  That's part of the "active PID" feature.

For me I wanted to lower the temperature of the inside around the meCoffee and other wiring.  I also like to leave my machine one for long periods of time, especially on the weekends, and that uses a ton of power.  Before the insulation, I noticed in the winter on Saturday mornings when I have the machine on several hours that corner of the kitchen is a fair bit warmer than the rest of the kitchen!  Hopefully this will lessen that to some extent.

@heed, that is just awesome bro. Congratulations on a good job.

Thanks for your continual encouragement sir!






this is so cool, i've been eyeing off a Rancilio Silvia for ages now as it looks like a great little unit i can get for under $1000 (there is a V4 on sale near me for $780 AU) looking forward to seeing how this build goes with the MeCoffee added to see if you think its worth it :)

I love the Silvia; there are other machines with built-in PID's but IMHO it is very difficult to do better than the Silvia for under US$1k.  If/when you get a Silvia, it's good to put in the time to learn how to temp surf to produce good results.  After you've mastered that, put in the PID.  You'll appreciate it a lot more and you'll have a better understanding of how the machine works. 


yeah thanks man i was actually inspired by this build and finding out about the mecoffee which i didn't know about lol so went ahead and purchased one, should be here tomorrow! had a local supplier offering a deal on the silvia V4 and a rocky grinder so couldn't pass it up. will have about a week to play around with it before the mecoffee arives so will for sure be trying to learn the art of temp surfing lol

Oh man that's so exciting!  I'm glad you will have a little "alone time" with Miss Silvia before the meCoffee shows up :D
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #33 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 21:16:46 »
MeCoffee Overview and Installation

I mentioned the meCoffee PID earlier.  I'm really impressed with its functionality, integration, and value.  meCoffee seem to be a pretty small outfit in the Netherlands, but Jan was super responsive to my emails with bazillions of questions.  Once I finally did order, they shipped it quickly.  It arrived in a padded tyvek bag via first-class mail from Europe.  Included were the meCoffee unit, a temperature sensor with attached ribbon cable, some small installation parts, and all the different wires needed for installation into Miss Silvia.



Here's the bare board.  Not terribly complicated, and it runs on the ATMega32 proc.




Bluetooth module. 


It's currently not BT4 compatible so you can't use it with iOS devices.  meCoffee tells me that the next hardware revision will have iOS compatibility.  I was disappointed at first, but it actually works fine for me.  I have a very cheap Android tablet that we pretty much only use when we go on long trips, for movies for the kids.  I literally never used it at home.  So now I just use it for my machine, which is fine since there's no overlap between my espresso machine usage at home and our movie usage on long trips.  Also, it's not at all required once you have everything set up.  The light on the front still tells you when the machine is ready and so really you only need the tablet (or a BT-capable computer) to change settings or watch the pretty graphs.

Here are the power output components (not sure if they are SSR's or something else)


Other components, ribbon cable connector for the temp probe, and the bluetooth antenna






Installation

You'll notice that the meCoffee doesn't come with any printed instructions.  That's because their instructions are located here, along with a youtube video.  Both are useful.  When you read through the installation instructions, you start to understand how well thought out they are.

Each step of the instructions tells you exactly what color wire to connect where, and (usually) what to do with the wires that you had to remove*.  After each step, there is a "test" or "definition of success".  Confirming each step is crucial, as each one builds on each other.  Knowing where you went wrong is very helpful for getting their support.

And they are very supportive.  I had several questions during the installation process, and many times they answered within minutes as long as it was during business hours in Europe.  Most of my questions were not their fault, but the fault of my absolutely pathetic reading comprehension.  Thankfully, they are very patient even when the issue was the dreaded "user error".

Since I already had the front cover off, I went ahead and did the installation without reinstalling the switches and front cover.  This did make everything a little easier, as each switch was much more accessible (the steam switch, in particular, is hard to reach when everything is installed).  After I was finished and confident everything was working properly, I simply unplugged the wires from each switch, installed the switch in the cover, and then reconnected the wires for that switch, starting at the bottom and working up.  As a backup, I also took pictures of how each switch was connected so I had a failsafe in case I got confused or forgot.

It is important to always, always disconnect the power when dealing with any of the wires.  Due to the fact that the front cover was not on and the switches and wires were hanging freely, I had to be extremely careful when testing each step with the power connected.  After testing each step, I immediately disconnected power.  And checked before I touched the wires.  This is very, very important.


Front cover off, ready for starting the installation.  Don't forget to disconnect power.


Installation mostly complete.  Here are the connections to the meCoffee.


And the wiring without the cover.


All of the connections were secure and well-protected with plastic boots over the spade connectors.  The only one I felt remotely concerned about was this one, but in hindsight I don't think it's much of a problem.


Testing the main functions before I reinstall the front cover


Here's a shot of everything in place with the front cover on.  Note how difficult it might be to do the installation with the cover like this.


In my next post I'll try to give a mini-review of the functioning of the meCoffee and also the installation of the bling. :D

*there were two instances where I was a little confused what I should do with the wires I disconnected, but thankfully have an electrical engineering background helped.  I emailed them and asked for clarification, and thankfully I guessed correctly.
« Last Edit: Thu, 07 January 2016, 21:18:53 by heedpantsnow »
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Offline Bromono

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #34 on: Thu, 07 January 2016, 21:26:52 »
I wish people did more stuff like this on here.

Its fun going through threads like this.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #35 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 09:04:41 »
I wish people did more stuff like this on here.

Its fun going through threads like this.

Thanks, bro, I really like detailed work logs too.  I think my fav show is "How it's made" lol.  Especially the Dream Cars series.
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Offline Jema

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #36 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 13:19:13 »
I wish I had the patience/skill to do stuff like this! I do love learning all about your process though :)

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #37 on: Fri, 08 January 2016, 16:20:35 »
awesome work dude! I had no idea that kind of modification was available. Kinda wish i hadn't sold my machine now lol.
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Offline yomammary

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #38 on: Sun, 10 January 2016, 07:32:27 »
I also love reading threads like these. Can you post a small youtube video of it functionning if it's not too big a problem?
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Offline HoffmanMyster

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #39 on: Mon, 11 January 2016, 23:08:08 »
there's no overlap between my espresso machine usage at home and our movie usage on long trips.

Bro, do you even espresso in the car?

Offline Eugene45

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #40 on: Tue, 12 January 2016, 16:18:04 »
Hello it seems that the Rancilio Silvia is at the moment at his Version 5 (year 2016).

Any version better than the other ?
What do you think could be a "fair" buy price ?
Any special thing to check before buying it ?

Thanks

Eugene

lmao, cut the French some slack, they gave you a big statue

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #41 on: Tue, 12 January 2016, 19:38:45 »
Thanks for the awesome write up with the mecoffee install. I've been dreading installing it when it comes now it looked very fidly, thinking i might just do what you did and take off the front panel. Had my Silvia for a few days now and as much as temperature surfing is a fun ritual i can't wait till I get the mecoffee installed to save me time making my coffee before work lol. Is it possible to turn the machine on from the app with mecoffee installed?

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #42 on: Wed, 13 January 2016, 10:26:02 »
I also love reading threads like these. Can you post a small youtube video of it functionning if it's not too big a problem?

I'll try to come up with something

Thanks for the awesome write up with the mecoffee install. I've been dreading installing it when it comes now it looked very fidly, thinking i might just do what you did and take off the front panel. Had my Silvia for a few days now and as much as temperature surfing is a fun ritual i can't wait till I get the mecoffee installed to save me time making my coffee before work lol. Is it possible to turn the machine on from the app with mecoffee installed?

You can do that, or you can disconnect the front panel and let it hang a bit, which could help.  The only difficulty is getting to the two group head screws at the bottom of the front panel.  Once the full installation is done all the way to the step 9 in the meCoffee instructions, the machine will basically always be "on" and connectable by bluetooth.  The meCoffee then controls when the boiler comes on and off (either timer or by you turning on the front power switch to "tell it" that you want the machine on).  I don't think there's a "turn the machine on" button in the meCoffee app though.  If you do the install/test without the front cover on, please be very very careful.

Hello it seems that the Rancilio Silvia is at the moment at his Version 5 (year 2016).

Any version better than the other ?
What do you think could be a "fair" buy price ?
Any special thing to check before buying it ?

Thanks

Eugene
I only know the differences between Vs 1, 2, & 3.  They were very incremental, nothing that is a game changer or revolutionary.  Better steam wand, removable heater coils, etc.  I would pay under $400 for a used machine in a heartbeat.  Things to watch out for:  rust on frame under or behind the drip tray, 3 way valve sticking after brewing coffee (because not regularly descaled and scale can jam the valve), rust under pump in rear (look under the rear of the machine, maybe can see rust around the vent holes), steam wand doesn't shut off well (needs new o-rings).  There are very very few problems in a machine like this that can't be fixed.  Obviously burning up the heater coils in the boiler would require a very very expensive fix.  This can be avoided by filling the boiler using the hot water function before you let it heat up.  Feel free to ask any more questions you have, I'm happy to help.

Edit:  I researched a bit and would prefer a used v3 or v4 over a new v5.  If this is an issue for you I can explain more later.

there's no overlap between my espresso machine usage at home and our movie usage on long trips.

Bro, do you even espresso in the car?

Bro, do you even fit in the car?  :-*

awesome work dude! I had no idea that kind of modification was available. Kinda wish i hadn't sold my machine now lol.

Haha, I have regrets like that too bro.

I wish I had the patience/skill to do stuff like this! I do love learning all about your process though :)

Thank you
« Last Edit: Wed, 13 January 2016, 10:41:55 by heedpantsnow »
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Offline zombimuncha

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 13 January 2016, 13:30:25 »
I'm confused. I thought you painted the whole thing, but I just saw the photo in your CF thread and the front's not painted.

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #44 on: Wed, 13 January 2016, 15:13:37 »
I'm confused. I thought you painted the whole thing, but I just saw the photo in your CF thread and the front's not painted.

I only painted the frame and the group head cover.  The stainless steel covers I left as they are.  I'll post a few more completed pics in the coming days.
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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #45 on: Sat, 23 January 2016, 17:22:43 »
I'm headed out on a business trip overseas.  I'm sorry I didn't post the review and video; it's been a bit crazy getting ready for my trip.  I'll try to work on those while I'm gone and have them ready to post when I get back in mid-February.   :thumb:
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #46 on: Sat, 23 January 2016, 17:59:14 »
Best read of 2016 so far. And I'm sure it'll hold up for the rest of the year! Actually makes me wish I had gotten to you before you made this thread so that I could get this into my zine haha. Amazing job, can't wait to see the happy ending. Can you make sick leaf art?
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Offline lucaslink

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #47 on: Sun, 24 January 2016, 21:37:45 »
Is it possible to turn the machine on from the app with mecoffee installed?

These come in handy! http://www.amazon.com/APC-P4GC-Power-Saving-Essential-SurgeArrest/dp/B002K8M9HM
I have mine set to turn on an hour or so before I get out of bed so the machine is nice and warm. That unit allows you to program for a particular day, the weekend, or the entire week. Maybe you already have one and just want the convenience of an app. I don't blame you there.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #48 on: Sat, 30 January 2016, 16:28:51 »
HPN, where these updates mang? I wanna see a leaf latte already!
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Offline byker

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Re: Espresso machine overhaul and upgrade (not KB related)
« Reply #49 on: Sat, 30 January 2016, 18:27:54 »
HPN, where these updates mang? I wanna see a leaf latte already!

He said above that he is away until mid-feb, but I too want to see some leaf latte art when he gets back!  :)