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Lelit/Imat/Nemox Machine Repair


Repairing domestic espresso machines is an activity that can be separated into 5 distinct phases:

1) Diagnosis
2) Disassembly
3) Repair
4) Testing
5) Reassembly

Diagnosing the initial problem can be something of an art, but the block diagram should help with some of the basic problems. Once the diagnosis is reasonably certain, the disassembly phase can begin.


At this point it's wise to note that certain machines (mostly thermoblock
machines made in China) are designed NOT to be disassembled by the
layman. If there are special screws or bolts, if the fasteners are concealed, if
the body is glued or clipped together with internal fasteners, it's fairly certain
that the manufacturer doesn't want you poking around inside. These
machines usually come with "Replacement" warranties, i.e. you send them
back to the manufacturer and they ship you a new one and scrap the dud.

One important rule with all repairs concerns the electronic connections,
particularly those for the various electronic bits like switches, thermostats, solenoids
etc. NEVER LEAVE THEM DISCONNECTED. If you have to take the wires off to
remove the thermostat, reconnect them to the thermostat as soon as it's
removed.  Any time that a wire will be disconnected for longer than a couple
of seconds, TAKE A PHOTO so you know exactly where and how it
reconnects.

Plumbing connections tend to more forgiving (there's usually only one way to
connect them) but Teflon tape, thread sealant and high temperature silicone
gasket sealant are proven methods for preventing inconvenient leaks.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER!!! ANY REPAIR WORK ON MACHINES SHOULD ONLY BE CARRIED OUT WITH THE MACHINE DISCONNECTED FROM ELECTRICAL POWER AND THE BOILER COLD. IF YOU IGNORE THIS AND DAMAGE YOURSELF, DON'T COMPLAIN TO ME; YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!


The first thing you need is a reasonably comprehensive tool kit. Note that (apart from the "weird bits" set) there are no really specialised tools involved, just metric spanners, metric sockets, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches and a hammer.

LELIT PL042 COMBI

Most of the steps outlined below apply to machines from Imat, Nemox and Lelit, as well as obvious rebadges such as the LaPavoni Napoletana. I have concentrated on the models with 3-way solenoid valves as they are the most complex.

SPECIAL TOOLS

There are 2 indispensable "special" tools needed for this class of machines. The first is an 8mm socket with the outside edge ground down sufficiently to give access to the group collar nuts. The second tool is a 14mm ring spanner ground flat so that it can undo the thin, soft edged brass water distribution nut and allow showerscreen removal. (Note that showerscreen types and fixtures may change from machine to machine, and the current Lelit machines don't have this screen and nut combo.)


GENERAL MACHINE ACCESS

Getting in to the machines is simple, there are only 2 small phillips head screws to be removed. One is behind the grinder hopper .. ..and the other at the corner of the water tank recess. The whole top then lifts off. You'll have to remove the filter on the end of the inlet hose to free the hoses.


ELEMENT REPLACEMENT

STEAM VALVE RENOVATION

SOLENOID VALVE REPAIR

Unlike the Silvia, this is as good as it gets for access to the internals in these machines. In order to fix stuff like the element, solenoid or some bits of the steam valve, you have to remove the boiler first. The first step in removing the boiler is freeing the indicator light, accomplished by pressing a finger on the little orange cover on the machine's front, then pulling the light away from the cover.

Then using a 15mm spanner undo the split retaining nut on the steam valve until you can slide it free of the shaft. The shaft can then be unscrewed and removed through the front of the machine. Stuff like o-ring replacement or shaft touch up can be done at this stage.

Next step is removal of the wiring; the thermostats unscrew. Remember to reconnect and/or label and photograph as you go along. Remove the wiring and outlet hose from the solenoid valve as well. Then undo the water inlet hose (12mm spanner.) Older machines have this brass nut and ferrule arrangement. Do NOT try grasping the hose with pliers, use sandpaper or a scotchbrite pad.

It's easier on the latest Lelit machines. With these fittings you simple depress the green plastic ring and pull the hose out of the fitting, and replacement is accomplished by simply pushing the hose back into the fitting. At this stage you undo the group collar nuts and remove the group collar. The whole boiler, steam arm and solenoid assembly can then be lifted clear of the machine. This is the point where the steam arm o-ring and the solenoid coil and valve can be removed and replaced.

Now comes the tricky part. The water flow through this boiler to the group goes >>boiler input>>steam assembly>>solenoid valve>>teflon pipe>>copper pipe>>water distributor. First undo the 10mm compression nut and remove the pipe from the nipple. Then unscrew the 12mm nipple nut from the top of the copper pipe through the boiler. Do not damage the thread or lose the o-ring...

Now you can undo the 4x8mm boiler bolts and separate the halves. At this point things are easy; you can replace the element, replace the boiler o-ring, whatever. The reassembly goes in reverse order, but with the addition of a little bit of silicone at the top of the copper pipe, and around the element and boiler o-rings. And make sure that the group collar is on the right way before doing up the nuts. MAJOR TIP: Don't Forget to push the solenoid drain tube back onto the nipple before testing the machine.


GRINDER REMOVAL

First, MAKE SURE THE MACHINE IS UNPLUGGED. Remove the water tank and pull the filter off the intake pipe. Next, remove the trays. Turn the machine upside down and empty the grinder hopper.
Use a flat head screwdriver to gently lever off the grinder adjustment knob. Pull the grinder hopper straight up and it will come out. Record the setting before you do.
Undo the screw behind the hopper. And above the water tank area. Remove the top plate of the machine and set it aside.
Unscrew the 2 screws holding the adjusment gear on. Remove the gear and the washers underneath it. Unscrew the 3 screws holding the grinder in the machine. Gently push the pump and wires towards the front and pull the grinder up and out.
Disconnect the female connector from the bottom of the switch and the male connector from the brown wire. Remove the grinder from the machine. Slide the plastic exit spout upwards to remove it.


TIPS

  • Every stainless steel edge is razor sharp. Move slowly and gently when your hands are in the machine.
  • Take care that when you're moving wires around that they're not rubbing on the sharp edges.
  • When you put the top back on, there's a little tab on the "down" part that sits in the hole in the red rubber washer.
  • Use a screwdriver set with replaceable magnetic bits, it makes everything a lot easier.

REASSEMBLY
  1. Slide the exit spout onto the outlet.
  2. Move the grinder into the machine to the left and connect the wires.
  3. Move the grinder into place (GENTLY move the pump and wires) and screw in the 3 screws.
  4. Put the brass washers over the screw holes, put the adjusment gear in place and screw up the 2 screws.
  5. Replace the adjustment knob.
  6. Replace the machine top and screws. Remember you need to feed the water hoses through the slot.
  7. Replace the filter on the input hose.
  8. Push in the hopper with the setting in the same place.
  9. Replace water tank, drip trays beans etc. and you're good to go.



TIPS AND TRICKS

The steam valves on these machines are needle valves, and tend to wear as the machines age. Filing about 0.1mm of brass from the flat seat about 1cm from the needle tip allows the valve to do up a tiny bit further and compensates for wear. Removing stuck showerscreens can be a pain, but removal can be helped by using a hammer and flat head screwdriver at the edge of the screen to "chisel" it in the anticlockwise direction. When the screen begins to rotate you should be able to undo the screw.

Sometimes the showerscreen is so dirty no amount of detergent or scrubbing will clean it. Heating it to red hot over a gas flame burns away the crud clogging the holes quickly and effectively. The quickest way to remove old group gaskets from any machine is to screw a couple of self tapping woodscrews into them and pull the screws out with pliers. Even if the gasket comes out in chunks it gives you a chance to chisel out the rest.
The el-cheapo socket set. You can get even cheaper sets (or sometimes solo 8mm sockets) for a few bucks at $2.00 stores, hardware stores or reject shops. In this case I stuck the grindstone in an electric drill, put on my safety glasses, locked the drill into place and attached the socket to the all purpose handle from the set. Turned on the drill and slowly rotated the socket against the grindstone, it took about 3 minutes to grind down.



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