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Gaggia Tell/LL 2 Group Restoration


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This is a little dated (~month) in terms of when some of this occurred, but I like sharing my stuff on multiple forums and I know some chaps do not check out HB!

To setup what happened: This February I purchased a Gaggia Tell (or LL. I never know which is which) for a grand total of €175. The catch for this was a missing piece of unobtanium: the drip tray assembly.  It is also shipped with my other machines and will thus arrive mid July. The machine itself is in decent condition, notwithstanding the missing drip tray. I will try to be as thorough as possible during this thread, and it will be my very first full restoration of an espresso machine!

Here is the machine as I received it: the panels are actually in pretty good condition and I already decided to keep it original after I finish repairing the machine. All of the knobs are accounted for as is the gas system and electrical wiring. All of it needs a good cleaning. The portafilters are an unusual type that I have seen online once or twice before, which I think are pretty cool in its design. They utilize an open style spout similar to a fountain pen.

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I started with the groups, as I did not want to too deep before the move and can reassemble them if needed. I unscrewed the left group first to check the inside, and it was what I expected: a grimy and decaying gasket stack and a rusted/very dirty shower screen. It was when I unscrewed the right group that I ran into my first unexpected find: clogged SOMETHING everywhere inside with the consistency of fine powder. My suspicion (though I do not want it to be true) is the former owner never cleaned this group, and as a result coffee continuously built up over time, to the point the piston itself, which is meant to wobble a bit, is stuck in one position! The good news is this powder easily falls out, so I have been just gently tapping the group assembly to get most of it out.
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Next I worked on the body panels. I will not fully go into what I did, but it was very painful compared to something like a Faema President, including a seized nut, stuck panels, and very inconveniently placed nuts needed to be unscrewed. The biggest reason for my pain was the cup tray was not detacheable due to the cup holder heating element being screwed to the boiler, which would have allowed me easier access. If you are truly a sadist you can see my sufferings on the HB forum https://www.home-barista.com/repairs/2-group-gaggia-tell-restoration-t58606.html

Nonetheless I managed to yank the panels off, here is how they are attached to the machine and the order you should take them off:

1)The side panels
This panel has two parts, one aluminum and one painted. For the side panel there are four chromed nuts that attach on the outside of the machine and are visible on this exterior. There is one bolt with a washer and security washer, and the nut itself is 10mm. Where the rear panel turns 90 degrees there is a u-shaped lip that attaches to the orange frame on the rear of the machine. You take off all the other nuts and pull this section out to take off the panel. You need to take off both side panels to properly accecss the rear panel nuts easily.

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2)The rear panel 
The rear panel is comprised of three parts, one aluminum and two painted. With the side panels off there are three bolts on each side that connect to the painted panels. Starting on the bottom you take off two nuts to take off the lower painted panel. The upper two rows of bolts (four total) will allow you to take off the upper painted panel. Finally you jostle the remaining aluminum panel up then outward to fully dissassmble the rear panels.

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3)The cup holder and metal flaired parts on top
When you remove the right side panel you can take off the cup holder tray by loosening the water connection between the cup holder heating element and the boiler. Taking off the cup holder will also allow you to take off the remaining exterior aluminum parts via a screwdriver and wrench. All bolts loosened during this process require a 10mm wrench.

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Edited by IamOiman
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Thank you! I guess I lied and simply could not resist putting the panels on. I'd say among the worst things to do when working on this machine is aligning the panels, being up there with the elec

I think I'll make this a thing now. For every machine I own I will put my Pavoni Professional, my first machine, on the cup tray (if possible) to show how big these machines can get. What I find prett

I have nothing to say other than the excitement is building as more parts are added. I did a final clean up of the group flanges before placing the groups themselves on the frame. All valves are also

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This was the extent I tore down the machine before I moved out (reassembled of course). This was mostly to ensure I had everything accounted for and determine what possible new parts I would need. This is where my other thread on this forum comes in when  I visited Franco at Luigi Forte in Salerno. I got some pretty unobtanium replacement parts for the groups, specifically old new stock pinion racks and brass shims.

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Even in 1979 they used mercury pressurestats, shown here with the bakelight top off. Looks dusty but I intend to keep it to ensure the machine is as original as possible, provided it works. I also tested the heating elements, which are 2.5kW factory but I measured a little higher. 

Left heating element 38 Ω          1274W
Right heating element 36.8 Ω    1315W

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The machine is both gas and electrical, which I believe is fairely rare on what I've seen online (usually they are electric, and thus the two center front knobs are plugged up).  The knobs are: Steam (top two), Cup heating element (middle right), and the bottom row from left to right, water inlet, gas control, power switch, hot water.

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Here is my current parts supply for the machine (with a few Faema President parts thrown in). Primarily I purchased from Nuova Ricambi through caffericambi, but the bottom stuff including the boiler gasket and group parts were purchased from Franco for a price I can't find elsewhere, or even find the original parts like the shower screens or brass shims.

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Here's how the lever and portafilters are assembled. 

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And finally just for the kicks I took off a group and weighed it, which approaches 10.5kg, or 23lb, in weight!

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HA! 10.5kg is quite some metal...
Fair enough, back in the days they would should across the streets of Robecco, "chiudi il becco, or I'll kill you with a... with a group!!"

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  • 4 weeks later...

After nearly half a year of searching I have made the unobtainium obtainium. A complete 2 group Gaggia LL drip tray assembly with the drain cup. This would only have happened through two things: I contacted Doctor Espresso (Russel Kerr) directly and he kindly pointed me to a seller who had it. The second part of the key was my Italian Bar friend Manuel, who will let me use his address to receive the package as the seller only ships in the EU, and then finally it will be sent to me! The price I paid for was totally worth it (though will likely slightly be more than what I paid for the whole machine with shipping costs).

This may be a minor thing but it has been ticking me off this whole time I did not have a complete machine and would possibly have to attempt to create a shoddy shadow of the original design from photos.
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aaah great find
Patience finally pays off, congrats mate!

Looking fwd very much to seeing this come back to life - good luck

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  • 4 weeks later...

A few updates: I got a sonic cleaner and began cleaning all the knobs, which I will describe how to dissasemble below.

Taking off the Knobs
There are up to six plastic knobs plus the water inlet valve on a Gaggia Tell. There are two for steam arms, one for hot water, one for the cup heater, one for the power switch, and finally one for the gas control. They are a little painful to properly remove them without breaking the original OEM parts.

First you must obtain a very small flathead screwdriver set. I used a 0.5mm, 1mm, and 2mm thickness screwdriver for what I did. The 0.5mm is used to take out the outer black cap on the knob. There is a small horizontal inlet that allows the screwdriver or shim to be inserted and bring it out through pushing up the cap.

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Once the cap is removed there is a second black part that covers the part of the knob that connects to the worm gear screw. To take this off you use the 1mm screwdriver and then the 2mm screwdriver when loose to VERY LIGHTLY tap from the inside of the knob this part with a mallet. It will scoot outwards and eventually pop off if done properly. Doing it with force may dig into the soft plastic and while not completely make it useless this is generally not the best outcome from maintenance. The image shown has the knob on top of my vice for support as I gently rap the part off.
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The final step is removing the c-clip with some security ring pliers and finally you have a disassembled knob.
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The gas and power knobs are different in that they have a screw you can undo with a flathead to take them off. At this time I was only able to remove the gas knob as the power knob is stuck onto something I cannot figure out (any advice would be helpful!)
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Here are five knobs and the water inlet (which simply unscrews) together and what I threw in the cleaner today. 
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To make sure I did not damage anything from cleaners I simply put in a little dish detergent for the first cycles. The amount of glorp that came off in the first two 8 minute cycles was pretty disturbing to say the least. I am pretty satisfied so far with how the cleaner does but I am not sure how many cycles it would take to fully take off the brown crust from the knobs. Just in case I limited the amount of cycles for each part to three. If I know I can do more then I will proceed further.
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Unfortunately the original black caps are pretty worn and am not sure how to clean up the white texture on the fronts. This was why I purchased replacement caps if I really needed to. Any pointers on sprucing up the original ones would be appreciated
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Some other things I did: I got the boiler cap and heating elements off followed by taking the boiler off the whole frame.

 

Taking off the cap and heating elements

The first thing I did to prepare for the removal is disconnect the wiring. I took photos and labelled them prior to remember how to set up the electrical circuit when putting the Gaggia Back together. I then removed the mercury pressurestat. This is the same design used in the Gaggia Orione as well and I was very surprised it was still used for my machine considering it is newer. In the future I will go into more detail on how it is wired and its assembly but overall it is in very decent condition. I will try to use it over a Sirai if possible.

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After that this is when I took a heat gun and cranked up the heat on each boiler bolt for about a minute each. Then I applied PB blaster to loosen any stuck bolts that would be a hassle to deal with if not treated. I took the heating elements off before all the bolts came off as well. The brass nuts could be unscrewed by hand and I took the heating elements out. They need a decent cleaning in the future but they both work.
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I waited a day and took a 17mm wrench and a rubber mallet to the bolts. As OldNuc suggested I held the wrench a little under tension and hit the open end of the wrench pretty hard. Every nut eventually yielded to my whacks without hassle and I am pretty happy no bolts snapped off. 

Once all of them were taken off I took a chisel and the mallet and from the top pointing into the old gasket I whacked it in which resulted in the face plate coming off. Presuming the gasket to be asbestos I took precaution prior and misted the gasket while wearing a safety mask. I also had an air filter fan and a regular fan running that blew the air away from me. The scale accumulated at the bottom is likely from when I was hitting stuff with the mallet and forced it off the boiler wall. 

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Removing the Boiler
This is the last thing I did before going to college. First though I also got the dippers off the groups with some more whacking. What is interesting to note is that on one group I only got the dipper out while the other I got the dipper AND the inner collar that connects the dipper to the group. I am not sure if it will really make a difference when cleaning but I thought it was neat to see the shut off valve from the bottom rather than from the top.

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Taking off the boiler (after removing all pipe and wire connections) involves unscrewing six 13mm bolts, two in the back that connects the boiler to the rear frame and two bolts to each group that connect to the front. Once they are off you pull the boiler back and manuever it through the frame. To access the front bolts you must take off the collars that cover the group necks and hold the group gasket in place. removing the bolts that connect to the Groups will likely not be too difficult and will just need a clean up. I do intend to replace the boiler cap bolts as they are quite rusty. Note that the nuts themselves are made of brass rather than the material of the bolt. They do this with all other nuts as well on the machine which if I remember correctly is to prevent fusing of the metals from rust (?).

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Now that the boiler is off I can wrap up dissasembly of the frame and determine how much work needs to be done to it outside of cleaning. I will also eventually begin descaling once I obtain a big enough bucket and citric acid. Overall I was pretty happy with the outcome and cannot wait to begin the reassembly. I currently have most of the boiler pipes and the boiler itself on one table and exterior parts and groups on another. In the background I have the Faema President waiting for its time to shine after I finish the Gaggia...
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  • 1 month later...

I've made progress on the groups which I will document more fully once at least one group is fully in pieces. I've run into a situation where my spring is quite stuck to the inside of the piston. I was able to take off the piston and spring easily enough with my fashioned spring compressor tool, but in this particular group there is the infamous brown powder inside. I am not sure what exactly happened but it appears to be very old coffee grounds or residue that somehow gummed up the piston and spring. The spring itself is very rusted and weak, and is absolutely stuck to the piston, perhaps even fused. I have taken the heat gun a few times to heat it up and nothing happens besides more powder coming out smoking a little. Are there any ideas on how to wrestle out the spring so I can have a replacement placed when I am assmebling the groups post-cleaning?

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Nevermind, I figured it out! I asked Russell Kerr what he does and he said to rap the spring with a hammer on all sides to knock loose the grime/rust while laying the piston on its side. It came out after about a minute of doing this and nothing was damaged! To be sure I did not use too much force I used a half-sized hammer. Looking at the piston shaft I noticed it appears different than what I expected. Instead of the traditional rack design it is something slightly different! I will need to check that out more.

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Yes. For me it popped out as soon as I took out the piston from the group! I do not intend to unscrew the piston as I already checked my piston valves, which open after some tugging as expected. The next question is how to properly clean the chrome piston and rack assembly!

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Edited by IamOiman
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The original finish was just blacked carbon finish, not surprising they rust, I would be tempted to  sand and wire brush - then rub in high temp silicon grease, in theory they never get wet until the piston seals go 

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So would you not recommend some liquid bath for cleaning purposes like white vinegar?
It won't do any harm, what I'm cautious about it the piston and if it's plated brass, don't want to start lifting chrome etc, I'm not sure what it!

Having said that turning the whole thing upside down and soaking it in whatever should be ok, I've been using a rust eater made by Rustin's lately, much better than the ones that claim to turn rust into black oxide.

Sent from my Moto G (4) using Tapatalk

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Probably one of the most notorious parts of wrestling apart a lever machine is the group disassembly. I will document here how to do it and overcome this stigma so if you ever need to do it you have a general idea of how to do it!

The tools you will need are shown in the following photo, but listed they are:
10mm socket with socket extender
Hammer or mallet
Two wrenches to hold the spring tool
Heat gun
5mm allen key
3mm spigot tool
Flathead screwdriver
Bearing Extractor
Spring Compression Tool 
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Some suggested tools but not necessarily needed for this procedure:

7mm wrench for the shutoff valve
An extra pair of hands if the group is already off the machine

The first thing you will need to do is lock the lever into the preinfusion setting, so that the top nuts are not holding the rack system. Take off these two top nuts and insert the spring compression tool with an appropriate washer and padding (I used a ¾” washer with paper towels). 
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Unlock the lever and allow the spring tool to rest on the top of the group. Take off the lever itself using a wrench. This may require some force if you have already not loosened or taken off the lever in the past. I used a flathead screwdriver with rubber padding and leveraged it off between the group and the lever cam. Take off the locking mechanism as well. 

There are two spigot screws you will need to take off. It is likely gunked with coffee oils and be stuck. Simply take a heat gun and use it for 30-60 seconds and it will cause the oils to become liquid and even may act as a lubricant when unscrewing. I had to file down my spigot as it was originally 4mm, a far more common size than the 3mm diameter for the ones on the group.
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Edited by IamOiman
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Disassembling the Gaggia Group

Taking off the spigot caps will reveal two bearings inside, most likely covered in grease. You will take the 10mm socket attached to the socket extender and with a hammer whack the pinion rack on the left side of the group when facing the front. Sometimes a normal hammer will not be enough, even after applying the heating gun multiple times. This is where you get a bigger hammer (within reason. You do not want to shatter the mechanism with TOO much force). I used a hammer whose head is lead. Group 0 me 1. The cam as you can see is quite jammed up with grease and was why I had so much resistance.
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Take the same 10mm socket w/extender and rap the left bearing from the inside with a mallet. The right bearing will come off with the pinion rack and require a bearing exractor to remove.

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The reason you need to take out the pinion gear is the rack teeth do not go all the way up to the top of the rack. If it did you could simply unscrew the top and the piston would be able to be taken out afterwards. A downside to this is that you would have no control in how rapidly the pisting would come and could go flying due to the spring force. Hence the teeth end. Unscrewing the piston while keeping the rack in place would simply stop decompressing the spring once you reached the final tooth, and may put strain on the pinion gear teeth.

Edited by IamOiman
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Now you can start decompressing the piston the entire length. You may need another wrench or a pair of pliers to keep the M18 bolt from moving with the nut you are unscrewing as well. In this process you may need to put the group on its side as the piston will eventually start supporting the group from its height as the spring relaxes. When you are able to unscrew the nut by hand you can take off the spring tool and pull the piston out of the group
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The remaining steps involve taking off the 80mm nut that compresses the gasket stack inside. You need to unscrew three worm threads with a 5mm allen key to loosen them from the threads. If they are stuck apply some heat and wait a bit. I was fortunate in that the hex nut unscrewed easily enough but I needed some leverage to separate the top of the group from the hex nut. I used padding and copper teeth in the vice to prevent my metal stock or the vice from damaging the parts.
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The gasket stack is the lasting thing you remove. You may have the worm thread block the shimmies and brass sections of the stack, so you would need to tap it from the inside to make it flush with the sleeve. Presuming anything is asbestos either mist the stack or wear a proper mask with a fan blowing away from you. I think the fibrous gaskets are cotton but I like to take precautions. Bag up the stack afterwards. 
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And you have a disassembled group. You may still need to take off the shut off valve but for me they are both absolutely fused to the group on my machine, so I will need to address that in a different manner.

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The groups are mostly in pieces right now excluding the bearings on the cams, the safety valve (which are pretty fused right now), the lever, and the three parts that attach to the top of the group for the preinfusion locking mechanism. I was able to observe what parts I needed to replace or switch out, and I made my (hopefully) final parts order. Some parts may have been reseusable like the bearings but they do not cost much to buy new so I may just end up with some extra parts, which is not a bad thing!
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Nothing crazy has happened so far, so it will be time for the cleaning process. At a minimum I want to clean the inside group sleeve and have the gasket stack placed with the locking 80mm nut before finishing school. At best I want the groups ready to be placed on the machine. I want to almost say I've nearly reached the halfway point for this machine. I do not intend to rechrome partially due to cost and partially due to the lack of needing to do it. There is very slight flaking on one of the levers but that's about it. There are some dings on the group but I will try to polish them out and are not very visible without being close up anyways.

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When I get back from break the last few parts to the frame will come off and I will start the cleaning process for the boiler. I intend to use citric acid and keep the water warm in a bucket big enough to hold it. I will also need to take off all of the boiler flange and heating element rods, but they are not very rusted and I do not anticipate any nightmare scenario after some heat, PB blaster, and the double nut technique.

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Edited by IamOiman
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I cleaned the group sleeves and exterior chrome of the groups today. This involved a fair amount of Joe Glo to get rid of the coffee oils accumulated over its previous use. Removing the portafilter gaskets were nasty as they were extremelly fused and brittle. I had to take a small flat screwdriver, whack it into the rubber gasket, and leverage it to pop out the old gasket. I had to make sure I was not hitting any brass but in the end they both yielded to my efforts. For the sleeves I used 360 grit scotch brite with soapy water to get off the accumulated stuff. If it was cleaner I would have used the 600 grit.
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My next task is cleaning the piston racks and cams. I am a little lost in terms of the best method of cleaning off the gunk as Joe Glo will not take off that much gunk easily. What would be the best approach to degreasing these parts? I am not sure if the prior suggested methods would still work with this much grease.
 

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Edited by IamOiman
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