ec_155.jpgLast January, my husband decided to use a gift card he was given to purchase an inexpensive little espresso machine, the Delonghi EC155. Overall, it had received favorable reviews, especially given the price – MSRP $140, but nearly always available new for $80 to $100. He had a great time with the machine, making a cappuccino every morning and often an espresso in the afternoon. A few months after getting it, he even started roasting his own coffee beans at home (with a hot air popcorn popper!).

But then…..

 

…about nine months into the experience, the EC155 became much less reliable. Sometimes he would turn on the pump and barely a dribble would come out of the filter holder.  After a few minutes, he’d turn off the machine with a sigh and resign himself to having wasted another little batch of fresh coffee grounds. After about a month of this, some research indicated that he should have been occasionally cleaning the machine with a decalcifier. So he bought some expensive decalcifier and ran it through the machine. Then it worked just fine (like new!). For a few days. And then, exactly the same experience…very slow dribbles. Sometimes if he waited a minute or two, the machine would “kick in” more strongly and finish pulling the shot. Sometimes it wouldn’t. Weird. We wondered if replacing the machine would even be worth it – was it just a piece of junk? Apparently Delonghi treats this model as sealed and not repairable (!) and doesn’t even offer replacement parts.

The answer to our mystery was our space heater. Yes. I’m serious. At first, I thought it might be our refrigerator or even the toaster oven. What?!? You see, I had noticed that when I used the toaster oven and the refrigerator was running, I could hear the refrigerator hum “dim” just a bit when the power kicked on to the toaster. Hmmm….the toaster oven used the same plug as the espresso machine! So, we immediately stopped making toast while using the espresso machine. Still, we had sporadic trouble. I wondered if the fridge was the problem but couldn’t come up with a way around that without moving the espresso maker to a plug on a different circuit (difficult in our old kitchen with its old wiring). Finally, I took a look at the circuit breaker box where we’d smartly listed what plugs were on which circuits. The same circuit that served the espresso machine, toaster, and refrigerator also served the outlet on one of the walls in my husband’s office. The one that had the space heater (also a Delonghi!) plugged into it – the 1500W space heater that was on a timer to kick on and start warming up the office right when we would be preparing breakfast, and making espresso. We took the space heater off the automatic timer program so it wouldn’t start heating until my husband was actually in the office and the espresso machine has performed perfectly in the two months since then. (We still take care not to use the toaster oven at the same time either.)

Once we figured it out, it made sense that the trouble started in October, right when we set up the space heater (and also that the trouble was sporadic – nights weren’t consistently cold enough to require the heater to use full power every morning). And those times when the machine dribbled and then “kicked in” with more power? The space heater had reached the desired set temperature and turned off!

Which brings me to why I’m writing this post in the first place (weren’t you wondering?). So many other people have reported similar performance problems from their EC155’s that I thought it might be helpful to share what we figured out about the mysterious behavior problems of our machine. We all have so many gadgets in our kitchens that it can be easy to forget what demands we might be making of a single circuit. The espresso machine uses about 1000W when it is heating and pumping. The toaster oven is a 1100W model. And the space heater can use 1500W! Wow…running either the toaster or the space heater (at full power) is just too much to keep the full amount of power required by the espresso machine.

So if you are having a similar frustrating experience with your espresso machine (any brand or model), it might be well worth looking at your wiring and figuring out what’s sharing your machine’s circuit. Fixing your machine may be as easy as making sure it’s the only thing using the circuit while you’re making your drink.

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