Troubleshooting & Cleaning

Trouble shooting your Coffee Machine and Cleaning

No Coffee coming out or dripping slowly or from one side only !!

Grind too fine
Tamp too hard
Basket blocked

Coffee too weak no crema !!
Could one of two things:
Change grind setting to finer setting
Tamp harder ( if you use ready ground coffee )
Change the blend ( too high Arabica content )
The machine has not been warmed up suffiently, its not enough to start making coffee once the boiler light goes out to indicate that the boiler has reached the correct temprature. If you make coffee at that point all the hot water from the boiler loses much of its temparature as it comes into contact with the cold parts such as the portafilter and brew head, you must let the machine warm up until all parts are hot that the water will come in contact with, thats at least 20 – 30 minutes.
Here is a link to demonstrate how to get your machine hot in the shortest possible time

Coffee too strong or acidic !!

Change grind setting to a coarser setting
Tamp softer
Machine very noisy !!

Pump is running dry – prime pump and boiler asap.
Check hose not inserted in the tank correctly

When removing porta filter grounds are sprayed out !!

Cheaper units do not have solenoid valve to relief pressure when the pump is switched off, do not remove porta filter immediately leave it on till the next time.

I cannot seem to get the correct volume from my lever machine !!

A single stroke from a lever unit equals one espresso, therefore if you are making two at a time , you need to use a double basket and perform the operation twice to get two espresso’s

I cannot get a good coffee from my lever machine !!

The tamp on a lever unit should be fairly soft as when you tamp too hard the water is unable to infuse the puck when the lever is raised.

Only commence the down stroke once coffee has begun to drip from the portafilter whilst holding the arm in the topmost position ( La Pavoni ) on Elektra you hold the lever in the down posiition and release once the coffee starts to come through.

I cannot froth the milk properly !!

Open the steam valve only a quarter turn, opening it further does not produce more steam. Initially start the process by inserting the frothing arm in the milk the once a proper flow of steam comes out bring the tip to the surface and maintain that position until you have got both froth and enough heat in the milk. If there is enough froth and the milk isn’t quiete hot enough, lower the steam arm into the milk at the end to heat the milk further.

On machine such as Gaggia there is a Cappuccinatore frother on these machines all that needs doing is that you insert the beginning of the nozzle in the milk and this will correctly froth the milk for you. If it’s not frothing then the nozzle is probably blocked with old dried milk, remove the sleeve and clean this properly.

Rocket Espresso – Milk Texturing from Rocket Espresso Milano on Vimeo.

Frothing nozzle keeps coming off !!

You have not attached the nozzle correctly, it’s a 3 piece construction and needs to be disassembled and then attached to the arm making sure you haven’t lost the rubber grommet that secures the part to the arm. Do not attempt to push it on whilst assembled as this will bend a bracket inside the machine. You will end up with a loose steam arm ( This relates to Gaggia Machines).


When frothing most machines do not activate the pump, this means no fresh water is delivered to the boiler, in a very short period of time the boiler will run dry and your boiler element will then overheat and burn out. This is particularly important in single boiler units ( like Rancilio Silvia and Gaggia), machines like Elektra have a sight glas installed to check water levels, others such as Rocket units are protected by auto stop and auto fill functions ( this fills the boiler for you, this also applies to the larger machines from Isomac) We recommend you run your pump for a short time after frothing milk to top up the boiler.


Please, please clean your machine, especially the frothing arm. 99% of all problems with Coffee Machines not working correctly are usually related to cleaning.

If you have a machine that has a solenoid valve, you must back flush the machine every 6 months at least. Else your valve will end up being gummed up and fail.




Descaling is only required once a year unless you do have a hard water problem. We recommend the use of a tool like a Britta Jug to remove the impurities in the water before filling the tank



Hard water has a high number of dissolved minerals, predominantly magnesium and calcium. Water is naturally soft when it falls from the sky and gains its hardness after coming in to contact with the ground.

If rainwater lands in an area with porous rock such as limestone, the water penetrates the ground and as it passes through collects and dissolves particles and minerals such as calcium and magnesium, gaining its hardness. If the water falls on non-porous rock such as granite, the water cannot penetrate the ground and therefore cannot pick up any particles or minerals and so stays soft.

The South East of England and London water hardness levels are predominantly high. Scotland, Ireland and Wales in the main have soft water as you can see in the water hardness map.


Hard water is measured in parts per million (PPM) and how many particles of hardness are dissolved in the water per million particles gives a rating. This rating has been developed over time to the following categories:

0 – 50 PPM Is soft.
51 – 100PPM Is moderately soft.
101 – 150PPM Is slightly hard.
151 – 200PPM Is moderately hard.
201 – 275 PPM Is hard.
276 – 350 PPM Is very hard.
350 + PPM Is aggressively hard.


When hard water makes its way through the mains and into our homes for cooking, cleaning, washing and heating is when problems can arise. Millions of people in the UK receive hard water through the mains water supply with London having particularly large areas with hard water. When hard water molecules are agitated (Warmed up) in kettles, dishwashers and any home appliance the hardness can precipitate as scale.

Scale is not something you want in your home for numerous reasons including blocking and damaging pipes, reducing the effectiveness or braking household appliances including the boiler.

Common hard water and Lime scale issues are:

  • Blocked valves
  • Reduced bores in pipe work
  • Less efficient appliances
  • Higher electricity and gas bills
  • Limescale build up (see image)
  • Longer cleaning times
  • Boiler breakdown
  • Poor surface appearance (chrome work)


A water softener system attaches directly to the mains water supply and works by passing the water through the system, stripping the hard water particles from the water, before releasing the softened water back into the ongoing water supply. Aqua Cure water softeners come in various sizes for domestic use to fit under a kitchen sink or cupboard and larger sizes for bigger households and commercial use.

The chemistry bit:

Hard water passes through a cylinder inside the water softener containing ion exchange resin beads packed with sodium ions (Na). Hard water minerals such as magnesium (Mg) and Calcium (Ca) react with the resin and exchange places with the sodium ions (Na) leaving the outgoing water with sodium ions instead of hard water causing minerals.

Each softener can soften a certain amount of water before reaching its maximum capacity and no longer has any sodium ions to exchange. After the maximum litre capacity has been reached (each softener is different) a salty brine solution will wash over the ion exchange resin to regenerate the Sodium ions (Na) and removes the hardness minerals such as Magnesium (Mg) and Calcium (Ca). The process is now reset and is again ready to start the exchange process with the incoming feed water.



It is a fact that more problems are caused by poor cleaning than actual machine failure so a simple daily routine will help the machine, along with keeping up the quality of coffee.

Filter Basket

Clean daily in hot water. Common practice is to soak filter baskets in hot water and a detergent, such as cafiza overnight to dissolve deposits.


Clean daily, in the morning. Place a teaspoon of group head cleaner such as cafiza into a blind filter basket in your porta filter. Attach the portafilter to the group. Run the coffee delivery switch for approx. 10 seconds and stop for a few seconds and run again. Do this 4 times. Remove the portafilter and rinse then put back on the machine and run the coffee delivery switch for 10 seconds, stop take the portafilter off and rinse and repeat this 4 times. It also helps to do this ‘back flushing’ throughout the day without the detergent.

Perform this operation only if your machine is equipped with a 3-way electrovalve that allows backflushing from the portafilter though the grouphead to the drip tray. Basically you cannot backflush machines unless it has the equivalent of an E61 grouphead.

Steam Nozzles

Steam Nozzles should be kept clean at all times. When frothing milk wipe the steamwand with a clean damp cloth, when finished and purge the wand with a blast of steam to clear any milk in the tip. If you notice not all steam jets working use a paper clip to clear short term but remove the tip and clean with a detergent such as rinza when possible.

Water Softener

If you have hard water in your area then a proprietary water filter must be installed. Scale build-up in coffee machines is a costly problem and replacing filters on a regular basis in line with the volume of water you are using is essential. Or a Britta jug will suit most hand fill machine whatever the brand or size.




Rocket Espresso – Care and Maintenance from Rocket Espresso Milano on Vimeo.




How to establish what the water quality is, watch the video below please.

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