You bought what on eBay?

So I’ve been searching eBay daily looking for an espresso machine worthy of bringing home.  After several years of searching I found a Salvatore Famosa.


It had a E61 group, automatic controls, and you could supposedly steam and brew at the same time.  It was only about 90 minutes away and had to be local pickup.  It was reported to not get good pressure anymore and the owner thought it might be the pump.  The machine was a Salvatore Espresso Famosa.  With a few quick Google’s and checking out eBay’s prior sale history for machines with this name I found that they have recently sold for about $700 for the manual version and $1000+ for the automatic when they worked.

I decided to mark the machine as watched and waited for the bidding to end.  It was finishing on a Monday at 5:30pm local time.  I watched the bidding start at $99 and work its way up to the 200s.  On the last day I checked it a few times on my phone and it was getting up to $300.  It was above where I had hoped it would be but below what I was feeling was a fair price considering it was not completely working.  At 5:30 I sent in my max bid and watched it go up a couple times as final bidders tried to win it back and it ended at $362.

I quickly sent the owner a PayPal payment and asked in the note if I could pick it up on Saturday.  I soon got a response saying that was good and we agreed to meet at a Starbucks.  Prior to this I looked up most of the parts that were in the machine.  Most of the parts range from $8-16 for gaskets and and up to around $30 for some of the screens and water distributing parts.  The pumps were around $50.  Worst case the brain for it is around $200.  The heater was also around that much.  I was hoping I didn’t need most of those parts but I’d have to see how it went.

Saturday came and I drove down to pick it up.  After getting it hope I plugged it in.  The pump kicked on and it drew water into the boiler.  I pressed one of the buttons and water came out.  I waited a minute and……click followed by silence.  One of my GFCI sockets popped.  I reset and tried it again.  It immediately popped.  I thought to myself perhaps I had a bad GFCI socket?  Maybe something else was broken on it.  It had been raining pretty hard that night and the other socket that I knew wasn’t connected to stuff in the house was on my porch.  I knew it wasn’t attached to stuff I didn’t want to lose power to in case it shut down and I knew it had a good GFCI socket.  When we moved to the new house many of the GFCI sockets were defective and blew any time you so much as plugged a light bulb into it.   I knew that socket was great because I have a large 20 amp compressor that works on that socket when I’m working on things outside.  I wasn’t able to test it anywhere else that evening so I started taking the machine apart to try to see if I could perhaps disconnect some pieces to get it going further.

Since it was raining I wanted to wait until the rain stopped to plug it in elsewhere.  Shortly before leaving for work the next morning the rain stopped so I took it outside and….pop.  Clearly I had a short but I had no idea where.  I thought maybe it could be the pump or the brain or something else. During my break I came across Orphan Espresso’s tech article discussing how to bake a bad heating element and dig out the degraded insulators and pack it with epoxy putty, paint it with insulator paint, and return it to functioning.  I thought this probably was it.  When I got home I dug further into the machine.



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Next up the bottom and the heater….

And the Espresso machine…

So it has been quite a while since I wrote here last.  I have not given up on this project but I’ve been up to other things since then.  Around the time of my last post I moved to another city nearby and thus another house.  In my free time I remodeled a bunch of things in the previous house installing new wood laminate floors through most of the house, replaced the ugly stick on tile flooring in the bathrooms with sheet vinyl, sprayed the bedrooms with new paint, redid the landscaping, installed new fencing, replaced a bunch of plumbing for the kitchen sink, installed a new dishwasher, new moulding, replaced a skylight, new lighting, and put in a new hood over the stove.

It’s coming up on a year and a half now since that interruption and I think I’ve caught up on a lot of television and other things so I started getting back to coffee projects.

The first think I’ve been playing around with is a control knob that I intend to eventually use to control an espresso machine with.  I’ve got a basic prototype that lets me adjust a number for temperature with some buttons and lets me turn a knob to change a pressure.  It displays the information about it on an OLED display and then sends it over Bluetooth to my smartphone for the moment.  I’ll be coming up with a variation of this for the coffee roaster controller as well.

The other thing I’ve been doing is looking for an espresso machine.  Back a couple weeks ago I won an auction on eBay for a Salvatore Famosa espresso machine.  I’m not sure how old it is but the previous owner thinks it’s about 10 years old.

This machine has an E61 group head in it and is the automatic model where you power it on and it has buttons to start a single shot or a double shot vs the non-automatic where you flip a switch to run the pump to pull your shot and then you turn it off.  It has a connector for direct plumbing as well as an internal tank.  The boiler in it is a heat exchange boiler.  It has a hot water and a steam wand on opposite sides of the machine.

When I bought it the previous owner had said it was an As Is sale and the machine needed repairs or was sold as parts.  Since I’m not intimidated by a lot of electronics and mechanical stuff it sounded like it wasn’t too bad.  I picked it up over the weekend and have been working around inside it ever since.

In my next post I’m going to discuss what I actually found inside the espresso machine and update on status of finishing working on it.