Espresso Machine Brain Repair

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works at Disney Research and writes for Make and Boing Boing. He is training for American Ninja Warrior. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark -- if you like that sort of thing.

269 Articles

By John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works at Disney Research and writes for Make and Boing Boing. He is training for American Ninja Warrior. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark -- if you like that sort of thing.

269 Articles


I returned home from a recent trip to a tragically non-functioning espresso machine. When I powered it on, I could hear a relay clicking, probably trying and failing to turn the pump motor on. On a commercial-grade machine like mine, a Fiorenzato Bricoletta E-61 design, this often means your microcontroller box, or brain, is kaput. This being an Italian-made part with no benefit of consumer-level economies of scale, the replacement is about $200. Yikes.

I put my multimeter on the pump motor wires and could see it spiking at about 28V, but never supplying sustained current. This helped confirm that something was ill in the machine’s brain, but I hoped it might be a single component, rather than the whole unit.

I put this video up on my favorite coffee forum, Home-Barista, to see if anyone could help me diagnose it:

This lead to a correspondence with James “Pat” Boyt, who said it looked like a “dried up” power capacitor to him. I pulled the brain, tested the big brown capacitor in the above photo, and sure enough, it was dead. I desoldered it, replaced it with a new 330uF 35V capacitor rated to 106 C, and reconnected the brain. I plugged in the machine, flipped the power switch, and it powered right up. Hurray! That’s a 19 cent part, instead of $200.


There’s nothing quite like the internet for getting expert advice on a problem. I’m grateful for Pat’s guidance in bringing my machine back to life.

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