Gaggia Synchrony Compact – Cleaning the Grinder
September 15, 2005
One of the realities of most “super automatic” espresso machines like the Gaggia Synchrony Compact (and many standalone grinders, for that matter) is that dark roasted, oily beans don’t seem to feed well — they tend to clump together somewhat, and often have to be “encouraged” to go down the chute and into the grinder.
I’d been sampling some of Intelligentsia’s “Black Cat” espresso blend, as a baseline to compare my own roasts to. I tend to like a bit lighter roast, so Black Cat, despite being a very tasty blend, was quite a bit oilier than my usual beans. Things were going along fine, with me “encouraging” the beans, when suddenly no amount of coaxing would get more coffee ground.
I’d been here once before with the Gaggia Compact, right after it arrived; a little bit of water had dribbled into the bean hopper (since it sits right next to the reservoir, you’ve got to be careful), and the grinder had clogged. That day, I left it alone to get well dried out, and with a bit of up and down adjustment of the grind size, everything went back to normal.
Not so lucky, this time. We’re going to have to go in…
The Gaggia’s grinder, like many others, has a less than “straight down” path out of the grinder. This lets grounds build up and eventually clog the chute exiting the grinder. My old Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder would do much the same thing, particularly with oily beans. Not a big deal, it just needs to be cleaned out. The Barista grinder was a tad bit more obvious than the Gaggia, however.
It turns out to have not been a terribly big deal after all, once you figure out the “lay of the land”, so to speak.
Important — I’m not responsible for damage to you, your espresso machine, your kitchen or your bowling scores. If you need service or advice, you should contact your vendor or Gaggia, or take it to an authorized Gaggia repair center. Proceed at your own risk!
If you should have this problem, the first thing to do is to unplug the unit and remove the brew group (just like you do to clean it a couple of times a week.) Wipe up any damp areas on the inside of the front, because we’re going to get some grounds on it, and they’re easier to clean up dry.
Once the brew group is out, if you look you’ll see a little grey triangle, point down, above where the brew group mounts. This is attached to the spring-loaded door to the grounds chute. Gently pull on it, and the door will open, and grounds will probably drop out. If you run your finger up inside (you did unplug the unit, right?), you’ll find the short horizontal “tunnel” to the grind chamber. If this is clogged, it’s possible that you can clean it out from the front (a cotton swab with a flexible shaft can be handy here.) If so, give the brew group a clean, remount it, and you may well be good to go.
If not, you’ll have to open up the grinder. This isn’t as bad as it looks. Remove the water reservoir, and remove the beans from the hopper. Make a note of the settings for both the dose size and grind (this is important.)
Three phillips screws hold the bean hopper on. Remove them, and lift off the bean hopper. There is a rubber gasket that fits over the grinder — four plastic tabs stick through holes in it to align it. Using a vacuum cleaner hose, suck up any beans and bean fragments you can, and then remove the gasket. Use the vacuum once again to get out any pieces you can.
Note carefully the position of the horizontal geared rod for the doser, and the gear ring on the outside of the grinder (this is important.)
Turn the gear ring on the outside of the grinder all of the way counter-clockwise. You should now be able to lift out the top burr assembly. Note the tab on the right side (as you face the front of the machine) — this is where it has to be to go back in, too.
Now you can clean the burrs, and most importantly, the little tunnel going out of the front of the grind chamber — this is the other end of the tunnel we saw earlier leading to the brew group. Get it cleaned out as well as you can, and remove as much excess grounds from the grind chamber as you can get out.
This should solve the problem.
Place the top burr assembly back in place the same way it came out, aligning the tab on the right. Now turn the geared ring on the outside of the grinder back to the position you noted earlier.
Replace the rubber gasket, and set the bean hopper back into place (making sure the grind and doser knobs are in the original position.) You may have to wiggle the knobs a bit to make sure that they mesh properly with the gears. As soon as the knobs are turning freely, replace the three phillips screws.
Replace the reservoir, clean and re-install the brew group and drip-tray assembly, refill the hopper, and you should be good to go.
It will probably take you several presses of the grind button before it grinds enough to pull the first shot; be patient.