Sunday, May 31, 2020

Saeco Vienna Plus Troubleshooting and Repair Ultimate Guide

The Saeco Vienna Plus is a super-automatic espresso machine that has been long discontinued, but is a workhorse for many people. I bought my unit refurbished in 2013 and it has been going strong since, saving my family thousands of dollars on lattes and espresso. To keep it running smoothly takes some maintenance of the brew group, along with occasional troubleshooting of the rest of the machine.

I already have a guide on how to open up the Vienna Plus to replace some parts, and what follows here is a more general troubleshooting guide.
The Saeco Vienna Plus espresso machine
The Saeco Vienna Plus espresso machine



Vienna Plus general reference info



Troubleshooting


  1. Red light blinking—This video gives an overview of the different reasons the light comes on, usually because the drip tray or grounds container isn't quite seated
  2. Grinder clogged or grinds too long—see details in my page on replacing the dosing microswitch
  3. Unit runs normally except that no coffee or less coffee comes out—see sections below on descaling, cleaning the brew unit, and lubricating. That should do it! (Can also reference the Saeco page on this issue for more info)
  4. Coffee is leaking onto the countertop—See my video on how to unclog the drain hole behind the brew unit
  5. Brew group stuck or gears are not lined up—check out this document
  6. Broken power button—see my page on the fix and 3D-printed options

Test modes

See this video for an explanation of test mode on the Saeco Vienna Plus. Here is the gist put into a chart, and a summary of how test mode works:
Saeco Vienna Plus test modes
Saeco Vienna Plus test modes
  1. To enter test mode, hold the two buttons (coffee and steam) while turning on power to the machine
    1. The green light by the brew button will turn on solid, rather than the usual flashing while heating up
  2. Six functions can be tested, chosen by which of the two buttons is pushed and which region the knob is in (all the way left, in the middle [noon], or all the way right)
    1. Brew button, knob left: run the pump (the red light flashes to indicate flow from the pump)
    2. Steam button, knob left: move brew unit to the work position (as if tamping the grounds)
    3. Brew button, knob middle: heating element — would have to hold down to fully heat up. Caution! Be careful not to overheat system.
    4. Steam button, knob middle: move brew unit to the home position
    5. Brew button, knob right: actuate dosage solenoid
    6. Steam button, knob right: run grinder
  3. Tip: can simulate giving the brew unit a hot rinse before brewing (a feature of higher-end machines) by:
    1. Let machine heat up with power on like usual
    2. Turn off machine, then back on into test mode
    3. Move brew unit to work position (steam button, knob left)
    4. Run the pump to flush the brew unit (brew button, knob left)
    5. Turn machine off, then back on, and the brew unit will automatically return to home position

Brew unit cleaning

The brew unit should be cleaned weekly using just warm running water. (Video 1, Video 2 from Seattle Coffee Gear). Occasionally a more thorough cleaning of the output check valve is needed—see here (pdf).

Also good idea to ~quarterly soak the whole brew unit in Cafiza. This stuff is a miracle for removing coffee oils from the parts (and travel mugs, too!). Be sure to lubricate afterward (see next section).

Note on dishwashers: some videos mention yes, and some no. I personally wouldn’t do it since these are plastic parts and detergent is going to get into all the crevices. Rinsing with hot water seems to be the way to go.

Brew group lubrication

Lubrication should be done every 6 months or so (Video 1, Video 2), using a food-grade lubricant like is available in the Saeco service kit, and also available individually. But for a half the price you can get literally 25x more with this food-safe grease I use.

Descaling

The unit should also be descaled every few months or whenever there is a reduction in water/coffee flow. The instructions are in the user manual, and also this video. I recommend using Dezcal, and a bottle of descaler also comes as part of the Saeco service kit. Note that you can save a bunch of money with this big bottle of Dezcal instead of the packets.

Grinder calibration and how to disassemble grinder

Sometimes the grinder backs up and needs to be cleaned — see this video for how. I recommend using these wax carving tools as implements to clean out the grinder. My page on replacing the dosing switch also covers this process.

Time for a new machine?

If this is all to no avail (and you've already gotten help from Seattle Coffee Gear) or it’s just time for a new machine, these are some nice options to consider (I haven't used these myself though):


I hope your machine stays healthy a long time! How is it working out for you?

-Mike

52 comments :

  1. Hi Mike,
    Can you create video for
    Step 5 Pull out the mechanical unit

    https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Saeco+Vienna+Sup+018+Opening+Procedure/88024

    A catch needs to be pushed backwards, then you can pull the entire unit upwards. BUT how??
    Best Regards,

    Zoran

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    1. Thanks for the link, I had never seen that repair guide before. I've never taken it that far down myself, but it seems like the trick is to depress multiple hidden plastic clips. I imagine this can be tricky! You could comment on the ifixit page too, the author might be able to help.

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  2. Hi Mike I think I overheated the unit while in test mode pushing down on the heating water button. I barely had my finger on it for a few aeconds and the unit turned off and won’t turn back on. How do I resolver this??

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    1. Bummer! I wouldn't even know what an overheated unit would act like -- definitely be careful with the heater test button, it's not intended to be held a long time. But I would have guessed a few seconds is fine. I'd try unplugging and waiting (to fully cool down) then trying again. For serious issues I consult the experts at Seattle Coffee Gear where I got my machine. Hope it works out!

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    2. Hey wanted to update you on this, I did over heat it. The machine would not power back on at all and I had just got it like 2 days prior hah. So, I did consult with SCG and they mentioned there are two thermostats connected to the boiler both of which have a button between the wires and they can be pressed until you hear a click which resets them. Unfortunately I couldn’t find them as I was looking at the boiler from the top. So I got gutsy and was able to remove the whole unit from the casing and viola there they were. I pressed the two buttons and while I was at it I gave the case a teal good cleaning. After putting everything back together I powered it up and it worked like new.

      On a separate topic, do you know the volume amount for the dial from left to right? Also what’s your go to grind setting for espresso/coffee?

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    3. Glad you got that fixed!

      On the volume dial I don't know how that correlates to numbers of ounces, but you could certainly measure. I use it at about 9-10 o'clock for espresso, and 12 o'clock for "coffee". My grinder is set to #12, so near the middle.

      When I first got the machine I thought I needed to calibrate it like a normal espresso shot, i.e. grind should be such that it takes some number of seconds to dispense 2oz. I could never make that happen, and just resigned to the fact that this machine works a little differently and makes perfectly nice espresso in a "weird" amount of time.

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  3. okay good to know, and do you keep your grinder at #12 for both coffee and espresso?

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    1. Yup, I keep it put since it's impractical to change it per shot. Maybe someone else knows a trick? So yes, I adjust the brew volume to whatever I want and leave all the other settings the same, and it all comes out just fine.

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  4. Hi Mike! My Vienna plus is have a grinding problem. It won’t stop grinding to make the coffee. I replaced the micro dosing switch (using your great instructions) but it didn’t solve the problem. I think I figured out what it is but I am having trouble putting the conical grind support ring back with the springs and ball bearings. My ball bearings got sucked up in my vacuum when I was cleaning it and when I lifted the grind support ring all the springs and the rubber abs conical grinder supp were out of place. Any way you have a picture of how it’s supposed to go back together? I have scoured the internet and just cannot find it! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Oh no, Becky! That sounds terrible. Yeah a lot of the old coffee web sites that used to hold the info have gone down, but luckily I saved a bunch of the files. At the top of this post, check out the "schematic diagram", "grinder cleaning", and "Doser cleaning guide" files. Let us know how it works out!

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  5. Mike, I have a couple of Vienna's and interestingly they both exhibit this same problem. They will intermittently not stop after pumping the expected amount of water. When this happens they just keep going and then the red light comes on and I need to turn the unit off and back on to reset. Alternatively I have to stand there while it is pumping and stop it at the right point. I have descaled it. I assume it is the flow meter, but it seems odd since it is intermittent. I do not like any of the new machines so I must fix this! :) Any ideas?

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    1. Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by. That’s an odd one. Agree could be flow meter. Or perhaps a problem with the water volume control dial? Is that dial how you stop the flow early before the timeout? Maybe the potentiometer has a poor contact, but I’m not sure if that would result in your issue.
      You could explore the test modes described above and run the pump. The red light will flash when it is registering flow.

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    2. this is the issue I am having!

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    3. No I stop it by pushing the middle button. The wat volume dial (pot) is all the way to the left already. When you hit the middle button it starts a shot and it also stops it, so when it goes beyond what I know is the right amount of water I hit that button and it goes on to the next shot or just completes the current cycle. The flow meter seems to register OK in diagnostic mode, but it's hard to say if that is deterministic since it works properly about half the time regardless. I'll probably just try replacing the flow meter on GP and see if that works. I just hate going to a new machine because I have had 3 of these over the years and I know all of their quirks (except this one) and how to bypass them. Every one for example ends up having some issue with the switches that det dump tray out, front cover open, etc. and on the last one I just bypass that on the board as soon as I got it. Basically just jumper the contact so it thinks everything is happy.

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  6. Hi Mike. My Vienna Plus has stopped making coffee. We do regular cleaning, have done all of the checks, but coffee is leaking from the bottom and also going into the dump box. The brew unit is not blocked, it gets cleaned regularly. We only use R/O water. The drain hole is clean, no debris. We think the unit is 10 years old, perhaps older. My family believes it's "dead" and should be thrown out! How does one know if it's time to just let it go? There are no Saeco dealers/repair folks anywhere in our area. Thanks for your advice.

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    1. Hmm that sounds like a tough spot. Even though it’s all clean, I would still suggest multiple (~4-5) descaling cycles. I’ve seen odd behavior in mine (and other reports here) where descaling helped even though it wasn’t obviously related.
      Also try replacing the o-ring on the plunger of the brew unit. That sounds like a leak that could result in what you’re seeing, but hard to say. Also cleaning the screen filter — I’m not sure if you’ve gone this deep into cleaning the brew unit.
      Otherwise you can always call Seattle Coffee Gear for advice — there are more seals deep in there, I believe. People routinely ship their machines in for service. I agree the Vienna Plus is aging but gosh it works so well and simply most of the time!

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    2. Mine is having this same issue. Started with not brewing at all. Cleaned the brew unit, descaled, replaced gaskets and lubricated. Now have very soggy pucks, coffee pooling atop the piston unit, and leaking out. Can’t seem to figure it out. Any other insight?

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  7. Hi Mike-

    My Vienna Plus is partly plugged- water comes out very slowly and intermittently from both the frother and the brewer. You can hear what I think is the pump trying to pump water, but little coming out. I have tried 2 descaling rounds (using citric acid, 1 TBLSPN/quart) with no improvement. It still makes espresso, just VERY slowly, but I'm concerned about the internals. Any suggestions?

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    1. Hi Bill, the first thing I'd try is a good cleaning of your brew group and multiple (3-5) additional descaling cycles. I've only ever used Dezcal, no experience directly with citric acid. If there is still a problem after that, it could be related to the pump but would have to see. Hope it works!

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    2. Thanks, Mike! The water comes through so slowly that the machine runs about 20 minutes to force through a third-tank of water.

      I'm beginning to think the problem is at the water intake end. Is there anything that can get blocked up there, and anything to do about it?

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    3. You can definitely crack open the machine (see instructions on my other page https://mschausprojects.blogspot.com/2014/11/saeco-vienna-plus-opening-top-cover-and.html ) to check the connections and make sure the hoses are clear. Can cross-reference with the exploded parts diagrams at the top of this page.
      I'd still try multiple descaling cycles first, since low flow is the key indicator of scale buildup. Beyond that, can always call Seattle Coffee Gear and see what they recommend. Let us know how it pans out!

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  8. Hi Mike, The dump bucket for the ground pucks has alot of water in it. Other than the cleaning recommendation, do you know of any other reason this may be happening?

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    1. Hi Peeps, I would experiment with the grind settings. This can happen with either too coarse or too fine of a grind. Check out this video for more -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wng0gL_R27A

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  9. Hi Mike,
    My Vienna Plus grinds and then dumps the puck in the bin without pumping water through it 50% of the time. The other 50% it works just fine. Any thoughts on what might be happening?

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    1. On the times it doesn't work, is the pump trying to operate and then times out? Regardless, the solution seems to follow a theme like for most issues: the brew group needs a thorough cleaning and lubrication, and the machine also needs a few descaling cycles. See if that helps! (Details on those steps are in the article)

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  10. Hi Mike, great website! My Vienna is leaking water, the water tank empties when not in use and it comes out towards the back of the machine. I cracked it open and when I push water in using a syringe, I see some dripping from the flow meter. I took the flow meter apart and everything looks clean, no clogs, no scale build-up, the O-ring is intact. Do you think that could be the real source of leaking or could that be due to me pushing water with a syringe?

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    1. Hi Sasha, I'm not too familiar with where leaks can be at rest. Pushing with a syringe could give a false positive I suppose -- with some of the machine apart, can you watch for leaks in the scenario you are having the issue? Then you might be able to find the source. Besides that, I'd consider a call to Seattle Coffee Gear or another coffee machine specialist. Hope it works!

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  11. Thanks for sharing such an informative post.

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  12. Mike. Awesome articles on troubleshooting my Vienna. Went through the test cycles, pump works, heater works, bre group does it's thing. Problem I am having is when I brew I get a espresso shot and then a error light. It's like the pump logic decides ok, only espresso for you and doesn't make a cup of coffee. Same for if I use the milk frother, it starts doing it's thing them stops and I get the red light of death. Power off, Power on, another expresso shot, shuts off, error light. Any thoughts?

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    1. Hi Ben, thanks for stopping by. For that I would definitely try multiple descaling cycles. Scale buildup leads to lots of weird behavior. When you are trying to get high volume draw, does it come out at the normal rate then stop abruptly? Or come out very slowly for a long time? In the latter case, the cycle is timing out and can't get enough flow -- time to descale a bunch. Hope this helps!

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  13. when I have the coffee setting on its most concentrated setting (6:30) it is delivering more than usual - and then the red light comes on. Is there a way to fix this?

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    1. This I have not heard of! I'd call a professional :)

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    2. ok thanks, Ive had this happen before - its something about the dosing

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    3. This is identical to the problem I described above. Water dial all the way to the left (most concentrated), machine goes past that minimum shot amount and keeps pumping and then the red light comes on and it needs to be reset. BTW in diagnostic mode LED show the flow meter working. The light pulses as I would expect. Very frustrating problem.

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  14. Hi Mike, I have a strange problem. While the my machine makes coffee, I can see water coming up the drain hole at the bottom of the water resevoir. When I don't pay attention and make a second cup, water starts to leak from the bottom of the removable water container. When I lift it up, the seals look fine and I notice the water is hot. Is this a simple descaling issue that can go away or is it something else. When I run the various test, I do not hear anything when I press the brew button when the dial is at 12 o'clock (Heater) Should I buy a new machine or have you heard of this before?

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    1. Hi, I would suggest to look closely at the sealing area between the tank and machine to make sure there are no beans or other stuff stuck in there. Could just need to replace the o-ring, too. I found this site with a description: https://www.cerinicoffee.com/blogs/default-blog/replacing-a-water-tank-gasket-on-a-saeco-vienna-or-spidem-trevi

      You can also call up any of these espresso machine supply shops and they will help you get the right part for your machine.

      FYI the heater won't make any noise, it is just electrical.

      Let me know how it goes!

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  15. Hi Mike. My machine makes a buzzing sound when it starts up like the brew group motor is stuck. i have taken the motor out and tested it. it works fine. but when it is back in the machine it cant move the gears.

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    1. Hi Collin, check out the link at the top of the post called "Troubleshooting a stuck brew group or misaligned gears", I think that might cover you. Besides that, sometimes a careful cleaning of the brew group with Cafiza (link above) and lubricating will help.

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    2. Hi Collin, check the voltage across the motor. This happened to me, and I saw that it read 5-6 V instead of 30-35 V. It might be a TIPS33C resistor problem.

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  16. Mike, our machine does not pour liquid into the cup after the brew button is pushed. It seems plugged up as it goes through the cycle but when it is pumping the brewed coffee through the spout nothing comes out. I have descaled and cleaned it. The steam spout works.

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    1. Hi Tom, my machine struggles with this intermittently too. Besides normal cleaning and descaling, I've done extra cleaning with Cafiza and lubricating the brew group. I haven't found the exact cause of this yet but a few others have commented here with the same issue. Let us know if you find anything!

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  17. Great Content!You have explained everything very nicely,thanks for providing quality content.

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  18. Hi, my problem is when i want a half coffee the machine give me a tall cup. How to recalibrate the quantity of water from the control ?

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  19. Hi Mike- I have a Saeco Vienna Superautomatica espresso machine manufactured about 2002. It has been in storage part of the time so not used continuosly. I have had various issues with it, but it works most of the time. My Problem: It was unplugged but the On button was depressed. I plugged it in and it quickly went on and then off. Now it will not turn on. I've let it set several days unplugged but it still won't turn on.I'm wondering if the machine has a fuse inside that might have blown and if that might be the problem. If there is a fuse, can it be reset or replaced? How would I access the fuse (if it exists)? If that's not the problem, what else could it be? What do you recommend? Thanks. So glad that you are available with your expertise here.

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    1. Hi Marty, certainly sounds like it could be a fuse, but I've never had to replace one. Check out the link to the schematic at the top of the article -- looks like there is a cable in there somewhere with a built-in fuse. Hope it works!

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    2. Yes, there is a fuse that you can flip back on. It's next to the boiler. If you have thin long fingers you can get to it without taking the case off. See it here on page 6 here: https://nebula.wsimg.com/5c5e834410137931bafe88b2980890cb?AccessKeyId=8403FA9688F35B9A6A71&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

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  20. Mike- BTW my machine is the SUP018 type, manufactured 4/2000.

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  21. Hi Mike. My Saeco initially stopped brewing coffee at all. I descaled it and replaced the large red gasket on the piston, cleaned the screen and greased the brew unit. It started making coffee again, with the shots looking really nice (good crema), but tasting week. The pucks were now soggy and extra coffee seemed to be both in the discard bin as well as pooling atop the piston. Any insight as to what could be causing this? I'd hate to get rid of it if its something I can actually fix, but I haven't been able to tell. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Egans, good job cleaning. For the soupy pucks, Gail at Seattle Coffee Gear probably has the answer for you:
      https://youtu.be/Wng0gL_R27A

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  22. Hi Mike, please help me in the following problem: the machine does not enter test mode and the dossing solenoid always works (BZZZZZZZZZZ!!!) then... The brew unit is stuck in the wrong position. It stuck like that following a strange sound while it was working. What do you advise me to do? Thanks

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    1. Hi Mar, check out the link at the top of the post called "Troubleshooting a stuck brew group or misaligned gears"

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    2. Also see the reply to Collin above from "Anonymous September 23, 2021 at 7:33 PM"

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