LA PEPPINA Espresso Machine Rebuild
First, a few observations! The La Peppina is very simple to rebuild, in fact it seems to have been manufactured with this in mind. You will only need a few simple tools, a sturdy table or bench that the La Peppina can be clamped to, and only about 20 minutes of your time! This short primer will cover the replacement of the Piston O-Ring, Group O-rings, and the all important One Way Valve Washers. As a rule of thumb, never, never attempt to remove the a ORIGINAL slot head dispersion screen screws without removing the kettle. It is VERY Simple when the kettle is removed so you can work on removing the screws easily, but it is VERY easy to ruin the screws, or break them, while trying to work on it upside down & backwards if you do not remove the La Peppina Kettle from the Base.
Please note - any admonishments, or ‘rules’ come from personal experience!
2 Clamps (not needed if you have an assistant - this is a ‘3 hand’ job & the clamps will provide the 3rd hand)
1 Band (Cable tie is pictured, you could use wire, strong string or twine)
1 Regular size Flat Tip Screwdriver
1 Small Flat Tip Screwdriver
1 - 5mm Allen Wrench (Metric is necessary - if you don’t have them, you must get them - SAE will NOT work)
1 - 2.5mm Allen Wrench (Metric is necessary - if you don’t have them, you must get them - SAE will NOT work)
Dow 111 Lubricant
Clamp your La Peppina to the front of your worktable, securing the clamps to the front edge of the machine. Use your Cable Tie on the right hand clamp to make a loop that is about 3-4" long.
Loosen the Set Screw on the front of the Cast Base, using the small Metric Allen Wrench, by turning the screw Counter-Clockwise (CCW). You may remove this screw completely, or just back it out till held in by a thread.
Loosen the Bolt on the back of the base, using the large Metric Allen Wrench. Once the bolt is loose from the nut, remove bolt & nut completely.
With both of the Set-Screws loose, and the bolt/nut removed, the Group will ‘pop’ upward slightly - you will sense a ‘release’ of the top from the bottom.
Next remove the Kettle from the Base. This is an unnerving part of the procedure if you’ve never done it, because you will be spreading the cast metal, at the back seam, enough to slide the Kettle off the base. The machine was designed to accomodate this flex!
Insert your Regular Size Flat Tip Screwdriver into the seam at the back of the base. Using the hammer, tap gently (but with a little pressure) to push the screwdriver into the seam, you WILL be startled when the group & kettle ‘pop’ up about 1/4".
Next, grasp the Kettle with both hands - you should be able to rotate the kettle at this point - it is stiff, but should move. Turn the kettle counter clockwise, just enough for the plug housing at the back to be moved toward the left, away from the seam at the back - be sure that you don’t turn it too far as the group should not be in the way of the lever handle when you push it down.
Reposition the screwdriver to the top of the seam, tap the screwdriver downward into the seam - again, gently, the cast aluminum has enough resilience to do this many times over, but excess force could damage it. You just need to open the seam enough to work the kettle off the base, and not more.
Now, try some different things - grasp the top of the kettle, wiggle, pull up, jiggle, while pushing the lever handle down. This may be enough to lift the kettle off. With the seam spread, the only resistance is friction between the base & piston sleeve, and the actual friction of the piston O-ring against the cylinder wall.
If this has not been enough, then, push the lever handle down & loop your cable tie over the handle to secure it in the down position. Now you will have 2 hands to work the kettle off the base - you may need to tap your screwdriver down a little bit further to spread the seam, but it should come off at this point. With handle down (and the piston down), the piston maintains a reasonable alignment in relation to the cylinder so you don’t scratch the inside of the cylinder.
Once the kettle is off the machine, turn the kettle over. You will be able to see into cylinder at this point. Clean the inside of the cylinder walls with a paper towel or cloth. Some black deposits from O-ring wear is normal.
Using a flat tip screwdriver, remove the washer screw, and the old washer. Clean & inspect the surfaces inside. (If there is pitting or scratches you may want to address them, but that is another issue, not addressed here.)
Next, using the flat screwdriver, remove the three screws in the dispersion screen. PROCEED WITH CARE - the old screws are beautifully machined, but they are SOFT. Make SURE the screwdriver FITS THE SLOT perfectly. Any slop in the fit may lead to distortion of the screw slot, breaking of the screw head, and a trip to the machine shop to have it removed, and retapped. This CAN be done, but be CAREFUL!
Bear down firmly on the well fitting screwdriver, slowly turn the screw CCW. Please remain aware that this is a critical phase! Once the screw is loosened, it can be removed like any other screw, and the danger is over. Breathe easy once you have all 3 removed!
Remove the Dispersion Screen. Clean the area & inspect for clogging, plugged holes, etc. Now is a good time to clean it with coffee machine cleaner. Lift the Group Collar straight up & remove it. You will see the inner O-ring, 2 spacers, and the small washer. Take note how the 2 spacers are assembled - each spacer has one side that is smooth, and one side that has small scores. The sides with the scores should face each other when reassembled.
Using your small screwdriver, remove the small screw that holds the group washer. You have completely disassembled the La Peppina Group & Piston!
While you have it apart, this may be a good time to thoroughly clean the channel that runs between the kettle & the group. To do this you removed the large chrome screw from the front of the group. Pass a pipe cleaner, or very small brush in/out a few times. This can be done any time, but it’s a good idea to clean it now while in the mood! Replace the chrome screw.
To replace the Piston O-Ring, remove the loop from the lever handle, allow the piston to move upward. Using your small screwdriver remove the O-ring. Clean the O-ring channel.
Take the New Piston O-ring, coat with a small amount of Dow 111 Lubricant. Loop the O-ring over the back of the piston, and stretch it over the piston top and down into the channel.
Next, replace the small group washer, using the small screwdriver. Tighten the screw down snugly, making sure that it is not too tight, causing the washer to ‘choke’ off - when viewed from the side, the washer should be flat against the surface, not cupped, and not loose.
Replace the 2 spacers, aligning them with the 3 screw holes of the group. Apply a thin film of Dow 111 Lube to the small Oring. Place the small O-ring around the spacers.
Next you will replace the Group Collar. Note that the Group Collar has 2 small holes, which fit over 2 small pegs in the Group. These are for alignment. If you did not take note before, of the position of the 3 portafilter locking tabs in the collar, note now that the collar is placed so that one tab is aligned to the cylinder and the other two are to the front. Picture a triangle with the top point of the triangle pointing toward the cylinder.
Drop the Portafilter O-ring in place (no lubricant). Install the dispersion screen using the 3 new Phillips Head screws provided. If you have not damaged your slotted ones from before, you may want to reuse them as they are a perfect fit! But, the relief of having the Phillips head screws is great!
Snug the screws up a bit at a time, one after the other, so the dispersion screen is applied straight, and with equal force.
Install the large washer in the piston, making sure that the rubber washer is centered on the shoulder of the screw before you tighten it all the way. Apply a small amount of Dow 111 Lube to the sides of the cylinder, taking care not to get the lube on the washer - you just want it on the sides of the cylinder. Good time to wash your hands, use your back up Espresso Machine to recharge your batteries...but, you ARE almost done!
Next, take the Kettle, turn it over, slide it onto the piston. Rotate the kettle slightly so the plug housing is out of the way. Using the flat tip screwdriver, gently tap it into the seam again. If all goes well, you should be able to work the kettle & cylinder down over the piston & into the body, while pushing down on the lever as the piston lowers. This is, of course, the best of all worlds, but if the seam is open just enough, you can install the kettle in one smooth move.
But, often, it’s not that smooth. Loop the handle down again. You may have the screwdriver fall out of the seam (replace it), You may need to jiggle, wiggle, replace the screwdriver again, drink more espresso, hurl a few epithets, replace the screwdriver and try again. It will go back on. Eventually, with the lever held down with the loop, it will go back on. Suddenly. Remarkably! Remember - it is a new O-ring so there is more resistance putting it on, than there was taking it off.
Leave the handle held by the loop, the kettle & group will turn stiffly in the base, check the alignment, centering the group at the front, and the plug housing at the back. Check to see that the chrome collar is flush with the base. Replace the bolt & nut at the back seam of the base. Tighten securely.
Replace, or tighten the Set Screw in the front.
Remove the loop & release the lever handle.
Remove the clamps.
ENJOY your Rebuilt La Peppina!
Additional notes & update: Since preparing this La Peppina Espresso Machine Rebuild Guide we have upgraded our washer material to Viton - the small washer you receive will be black, not white as it is pictured above.
Helpful hint for the adjustment of the small group washer: If you have upgraded to the Phillips head screws you can fine tune the washer tightness in situ with ease.
1. Empty the Kettle, and turn the machine upside down.
2. Using a stubby Phillips screwdriver, remove the 3 screws, screen, group & spacers, leaving only the small washer in place.
3. Insert the 3 screws back in, just enough to plug the holes.
4. Set the machine back on it's base. Add a little water to the boiler. By jiggling the handle you can watch the water squirting out at the small washer. Improper adjustment is indicated by water squirting out of one spot only (also, when releasing the lever air may suck in at this spot) The goal is to have an even distrubution of water spraying out around the washer.
5. Adjust the screw in, or out, until water squirts evenly - usually 3 or 4 places around the washer. Also, when properly adjusted, when you release the lever it won't suck in air - you'll be able to see the washer seal.
6. Reassemble the group. You may want to put a bit of Dow 111 on the screw threads when you put them back in for the final time.
We have found this in situ adjustment to be the ideal approach - once done properly you won't need to revisit this again!