descaling a Gaggia expresso machine

I just dug the ol' expresso machine out of the back of the cabinet after a couple of years since it's been used; dusted it off, filled it with water and tried to use it. The heater works, the pump works, but no water comes out. t's plugged up with scale somewhere.
I put a pint of water and a 1/2 tsp of citric acid in it and let it sit for a while and tried it again. No joy. I took the screen off and it was clear. I notices a stainless steel bolt (looks like a big carburator jet) in the middle under the screen. I unscrwed it with a 13mm wrench and it is obviously plugged up. I turned on the pump with this jet removed and it works.
I have the jet (online parts store calls it a boiler valve) soaking in some vinegar, but I don't know if that'll do it. The valve looks like it would come apart with two 13mm wrenches.
Is this something that will clean out OK if I just give it time in the vinegar (or citric acid)? Will I ruin it if I take it apart? Will I ruin it if I use something stronger, like hydrochloric acid (diluted 50%)? I also have phosphoric acid, which is safer for stainless steel, but I dunno if it will remove calcium scale.
Worst case is I have to buy a new valve for $20 plus shipping. Wha'd'ya think?
Thanks, Bob
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zxcvbob wrote:

I think that's the check valve aka 3-way valve, and you will most likely have to carefully take it apart. There's a ball and spring arrangement inside so be careful and take note how its arranged. Clean the orifice and then reassemble. Unless you take it apart, the cleaning solution will take a really long time to get that orifice clean since its blocked on one side by the ball and spring. HTH - Love my Gaggia
--
Grandpa

What is that dripping from my fingers?
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Grandpa wrote:

Thanks. I did take it apart; I felt the spring in there as I was loosening it, so I was careful not to let it fly apart. I had used a needle to poke the hole that was completely blocked before I took it apart when I was trying to just soak it clean.
I soaked the taken-apart valve in vinegar for a while, then used a Q-tip with some phosphoric acid to clean the inside where the check ball seats. Rinsed it, put it back together, and ran some fresh water thru the machine.
It's working just fine now. :-) It's kind of odd that the holes don't line up between the 2 halves of the valve and the water has to travel a little ways through the screw threads. The water doesn't seem to mind.
Best regards, Bob
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zxcvbob wrote:

Glad I could help. Don't ask me how I knew about the ball and spring! Enjoy the espresso!
--
Grandpa

What is that dripping from my fingers?
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zxcvbob wrote:

Hi there, try first with a needle, the valve must be clogged, so you can clean it with a needle or even with compressed air.
Regards from Mexico,
Alex.:
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Bob,
You could accelerate the vinegar action by putting it in a plastic bottle or jar and shaking it for a while. Maybe add some oil to the vinegar for some lube factor?
$0.02,
Andy
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Oh pshaw, on Sat 08 Jul 2006 11:20:19a, zxcvbob meant to say...

You could try CLR and/or coffeepot cleaner. Neither will hurt the machine. You will still probably have to probe the tiny whole with a needle.
--
Wayne Boatwright
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Try some Lime-Away. And have $28 in your hip pocket just in case.
--
-Barb
<http://jamlady.eboard.com Updated 7-5-06, Pannekoeken
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"snip : Is this something that will clean out OK if I just give it time in the : vinegar (or citric acid)? Will I ruin it if I take it apart? Will I : ruin it if I use something stronger, like hydrochloric acid (diluted : 50%)? I also have phosphoric acid, which is safer for stainless steel, : but I dunno if it will remove calcium scale. : : Worst case is I have to buy a new valve for $20 plus shipping. : Wha'd'ya think? : : Thanks, : Bob
Each of the different Espresso Brand makers sells "Descaling Liquid". They all stress NOT to use acids.
This is for, of course, after you have got it clean from the blockage as it has to circulate.
You should be able to go on line to Gaggia to find a manual for your machine and it will describe the routine descaling operation.
The modern electronic ones signal that you have to do a descale after 'x' number of cups.
If you use only deionised water to fill the machine you will not need to descale in the future.
Frenchy
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My favorite cleaner for this type of things is a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. The combination of the two, fizzes and bubbles things fairly clean. It's totally harmless.
The combination also is good to pour down your drain once a week. And if you put it in a coffee canister, and swish it around a bit, rinsing afterwards with clear water, your cannister will appear brand new. . .no cloudy glass!
Myrl Jeffcoat http://www.myrljeffcoat.com
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zxcvbob wrote:

I think that if you post in alt.coffee you'll get some responses from people who fix Gaggias for a living.
--
--John
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