Upgrading the De’Longhi EC-155 steam wand

Note: This article describes how to upgrade the steam wand on the DeLonghi EC-155. This mod may work on other DeLonghi single-boiler espresso machines (EC-xxx model numbers plus the BAR32), but steps and requirements will vary. If you find an article for this mod with a specific model of DeLonghi, please leave a comment below with the link.

For the DeLonghi EC-702, Francisco over at his blog on WordPress provides the details.

For the DeLonghi EC-270/EC-271, see Ethan’s tutorial on Reddit.

If you follow this guide and make the upgrade to your machine, please consider sending a small tip as a show of appreciation. And also leave a comment below about your experience.

* * * * *

Recall from previous articles (here and here)that I changed out the portafilter basket on my De’Longhi EC-155 espresso maker from the stock pressurized basket to an unpressurized basket. Well I decided to see how much further I could upgrade it.

Along with the portafilter basket, the only thing that could really also be upgraded on the EC-155 is the steam wand. The EC-155 comes stock with a frothing aid on a short steam pipe (see below). The frothing aid works quite well once you become adept with it, but it does limit how well you could steam or froth milk with the espresso machine.

ec155_frothing.jpg

To get around this, some people have just modified the frothing aid by cutting the skirt off it, leaving just the plastic tip. I’ve heard mixed reviews on this option, too – good thing replacing the frothing aid doesn’t cost much as it’s just a molded piece of plastic, so if you’re going to do this, I definitely recommend buying a spare.

Another option that I did try that didn’t work well is replacing the frothing aid with a different tip. Namely I used a single-hole tip sold by Orphan Espresso. As this tip is shorter than the frothing aid, it actually takes ½” off the length of the steam pipe. On a 20oz pitcher this just won’t do. And on a 12oz pitcher you still might have issues getting the tip deep enough into the milk to get a good swirl going. I do not recommend trying this as I don’t see being able to use it effectively, plus you need to use plumber’s tape to get an effective seal, which I don’t want plumber’s tape anywhere near the milk I’m going to steam.

So it seems that if you want to effectively steam milk with the EC-155, rather than settling for the frothing aid, you’re going to need to replace the entire steam pipe with something better, such as the steam wand for another espresso machine, namely the Rancilio Silvia. But there’s a caveat. Isn’t there always? The part to obtain is a steam wand assembly for what is known as the v1 or v2 model of the Rancilio Silvia (you can obtain it through Amazon or EspressoParts.com – the o-rings the parts page mentions will not be used, so there is no need to buy them). This is the easy part.

You will also need hose clamps that can go down to 5/8″ (I found some at Home Depot for about 90¢ US each), or zip ties that can withstand temperatures approaching, to be safe, 250°F (122°C).

Warning: Performing this upgrade will void the warranty on your EC-155. Do not perform this upgrade unless you are comfortable with this. I cannot be held responsible for you voiding your warranty, nor for any incidental or consequential damages or injuries that may result from your attempt to perform this upgrade.

Disassembling the machine

First, you will need to, obviously, remove the tank and run out the last of the water in the machine before unplugging it. The frothing aid on the steam pipe also needs to come off. And this should also go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: ensure the machine has cooled off and is unplugged before attempting to work on it.

Next you’ll want to pop off the knob on the steam valve. It’s a friction fit, so just open it all the way and get a butter knife under it, or something like that, to pry it off. The two screws under this knob are of no concern and you can leave them in place. I think they’re for holding the “cup warmer” in place.

Next there are four long screws you’ll need to remove: two long screws on the top of the machine and two more on the front near the brew head. There’s also a small catch on the back you need to push in and release before the top will come off. Once you have all of these out and you start popping the top off, the lid that covers the water tank should come off relatively easily with it.

On the underside you have four Torx® Security T20 screws. If the post in the screw is low enough to get a standard Torx bit into the head, then go for it, but it’s best to use the proper bit, which you can acquire online or at a local retailer (such as this Craftsman set available at Sears). I also found that a 1/8″ flat-head screw driver works as well as it can wedge nicely into the screw head to allow you to turn it – I didn’t have any Torx® Security bits available at the time I did this upgrade. Once you have the bottom off, the two hoses that connect under where the water tank goes will need to be pulled off.

With all of this loose, it’ll make it easier to pull the body of the machine out of the shell. Some will say this isn’t necessary, but trust me, it makes things a lot easier, as you’ll have the innards of the machine out in the open instead of trying to mess around in the tight spaces around the boiler.

Around the boiler there are four silver Phillips head screws and four black hex key screws (Note: hex key screws, also called Allen screws or Allen key screws, are not the same as Torx screws). Do not remove the black screws as these screws are used to keep the boiler together. Only the Phillips screws need to come out. On the front of the machine, you need to pop the knob off the dial (it’s a lot easier to get off than the steam knob) and remove the two screws under it, then maneuver the dial assembly out of the way along with the two indicator lights. With this and the four Phillips screws mentioned also removed, the innards of the espresso machine should lift out of the plastic enclosing with ease. The steam pipe is going to give you a little bit of a hitch, but it should be easily overcome, and watch for the guide on the power cable as well as it might catch on the underside.

With the innards of the machine out of the way, it should become fairly obvious what you need to do next: pry the hose clamp off the hose at the steam arm and pull the steam arm out of the end of the tubing. Some force will be needed, but it shouldn’t be too much.

Installing the new pipe

Preparing the new pipe is straightforward. If you ordered the assembly I linked above from EspressoParts.com, you will need to unscrew the tip off the steam pipe and slide the burn protector off to get the giant nut off the pipe. There’s also a small washer between the nut and a small lip on the machine-end of the pipe. That nut and washer will not be used for this.

r_1054_2_full4_2086.jpg

Next, you will need to slide the steam pipe into the end of the steam/water hose. Make sure to slide it far enough that the end of the hose goes over the lip near the end of the pipe. This will ensure you’ve got a tight fit that should not leak. And to ensure it won’t leak, use the hose clamp or zip tie to keep it snug.

Piecing the machine back together basically requires reversing the steps that took it apart. Now getting the new steam pipe through that small hole in the machine will require some work. When you attempt to do this, you’ll see what I mean.

Don’t completely reassemble the machine back to the point where you’ve got everything covered up. Leave the top lid off the machine’s enclosure. The reason should be quite obvious: testing for leaks. Doing this requires pulling water through the new steam pipe, and you can’t easily see if there are leaks if you completely reassemble the machine. If you’ve ever built a computer by hand, assembling from separate parts instead of buying a pre-built machine, you should be familiar with the cardinal rule that you don’t close up the case until you confirm everything is working properly. Similar concept here.

Along with pulling water to check for leaks, I recommend pulling steam through it as well. Now you might say that if water comes through okay then steam will, too, but this isn’t necessarily going to be true, and it’s always good to be thorough. Note: the post for the steam knob will get very hot when you turn the machine up for steaming, so be sure to account for this.

So only after you’re reasonably certain that everything is working fine, both for pulling steam and water through the new pipe, let the machine cool off (might take at least an hour), then reassemble the last of the case.

In the end…

Now that you have everything reassembled, I guess it’s time to try steaming milk. Bear in mind that using a traditional steam wand, similar to what you’ve now installed in your EC-155, requires a quite different technique for steaming milk than the frothing aid. But after you’ve practiced enough, you should be able to steam milk and get better results than you could with the frothing aid. Interestingly, you can practice steaming milk with water and dishwashing liquid.

Will you be able to do latte art with this? I don’t know, but given some of the results I’ve gotten doing this, it appears to be possible if you get everything right for it. The results really are quite phenomenal. I’ve been quite pleased, and it can handle a 20oz pitcher without any problem (just make sure you’ve got enough milk in it), but a 16oz or smaller would likely be better.

Additional resources

Note: all images used in accordance with “fair use” as provided by 17 USC §107 in the United States and applicable international treaties.

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  • Matt

    Thanks for the run-through. I followed the instructions, but not able to maintain steam pressure in the new hose. Did you have any problems like that? I also can’t find any leaks or water/humidity anywhere either inside or outside the machine. I made a video of the issue at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TyFCt1-2qI .

    Any suggestions?

    • When did you last descale your machine? If it hasn’t been within the last 2 or 3 months, that’d be the first thing I’d do and see if your situation improves after that.

  • John

    Thanks for your detailed instructions! You really helped speed up my upgrade a lot!! Just want to add 2 things. Firstly, I found that the original spring clamps on the rubber hose is already snug so a zip tie / hose clamp wasn’t necessary for me. Also, if you’re willing to sacrifice the black plastic piece holding the original steam wand in place, you can cut it in half and piece it back together around the new pipe to keep it from wobbling (it fits the Silvia wand perfectly).

    • I recommended getting zip ties or hose clamps because I kind of bent mine all to shreds in taking things apart, making replacements necessary. If you managed to leave them intact and reusable, then you were a little more careful than me when doing this…

  • Noodlebell

    Do you think this would work on the Kmix?

    • As the kMix has a ball joint for its steam wand, I’m going to have to lean toward No on this one, at least for the Silvia v1/v2 wand that is used herein.

      However the Silvia v3 wand is on a ball joint — it’s also 3x the price — so you might be able to get that working. I don’t have a kMix and so can’t say for certain in either direction as I don’t know the internals of it. But if you can find a forum thread or something like that showing how to disassemble the machine (with detailed pictures!), that should give you an idea of what is possible.

  • Ronald

    do you think this mod would work on the EC702?

  • petepete16

    Terrible advice. Those torx screws you described did not need to be removed and doing so broke my device. 100 bucks down the drain for your lack of proper instructions…

    • Unless DeLonghi has changed the design of the EC-155 since I purchased mine (April 2012), I fail to see how my instructions are improper. The Torx screws only hold the bottom onto the machine, so I also fail to see how this broke your EC-155. About all the base of the machine holds in place is the power cord, in that it holds the collar going around the power cord, aside from also having the rubber feet that keep it from easily shifting around on the counter.
      And to get all the insides out of the machine, so you’re not trying to work in the rather tight space around the boiler, the bottom needs to come off, meaning removing the Torx screws is necessary. How did you try to remove them? Did you use a Torx Security bit?
      If by Torx screws you’re referring to the 4 black hex-head screws around the boiler, I explicitly said in my article to NOT remove those.

  • Dawicka2

    I just wanted to say thank you for the detailed walk through. Followed all steps, and was done in about 45 minutes (would have probably been faster if i want holding a sick 16 month old for most of it.) Only thing i would add is to take a pair of needle nose to snap the centers out of the bottom torx screws. Other than that…. straight forward.
    I also believe that petepete16 removed the torx screws that you explicitly said not to. There is no way these bottom screws would effect anything mechanically.

    • He had to have. There is no other explanation. So I’ve updated the article to reflect that, specifically calling out that the Phillips screws are silver while the hex key screws are black and to not remove the black screws… I think now I know how the legal departments at products manufacturers feel…

  • JPrapha

    Hi. Thank you very much for this nice walkthrough. I purchased the machine and was very disappointed at the frother. You ended up making this purchase worth while. Here are a few points I would like to contribute to the article:

    1. As John was saying below, the plastic piece from the original wand works well around the new one. I sawed only half of it and slid it on and off both pipes by making the gap face towards the outside of the angle I was maneuvering around. It keeps a nice fit.
    2. One shouldn’t tug too hard on the tube when removing the original pipe. The tube started to tear a little but with the extra length I ended up cutting it and proceeding as described.
    3. The tube is very rigid therefore one should make sure the wand is inserted in the proper angle when the build is complete. Mine has a tendency towards the inside of the machine which isn’t too bad but this could save someone the trouble.
    4. I really appreciate your time and the whole article, but if I may include a bit of constructive criticism, I found it was hard to find the actions blended in the text. I appreciate the extra explanations as I like to understand the big picture, but for future articles similar to this, I would suggest either you isolate the sentences in which there are actions or bold them in the text for quick reference while working.

    Thank you again very much for all of this. I will eagerly read the rest of your work.

  • Coffeelover

    Just did the upgrade. I feel like my EC 155 gets hotter than it previously used to. Is that something expected? (it kind of makes sense to me since now I’m using a Rancilio steam wand which does not allow as much steam to pass through than the original steam wand that comes with EC-155, so you can imagine steam building up during the frothing process)

    • I do believe it is a slightly more restrictive opening in both ends of the pipe, so that is going to create a little more pressure, but I don’t recall observing my EC-155 getting hotter after doing this upgrade.

      One thing you can double-check, though, is the hose. Make sure there aren’t any kinks in it and also make sure the steam pipe isn’t coming out of the end of it at an angle as that can restrict the steam and possibly cause the machine to get warmer as it’s trying to evacuate the steam through the wand. Another item as well is to descale your machine if you haven’t done so recently. Steam can keep the heating element from effectively heating the water, which can make your machine feel like it’s getting hotter than usual as it’s trying to compensate.

  • PF

    Anyone here know which part from the parts list matches the tubing that goes from the steam wand to the boiler? I can’t figure it out for the life of me and mine broke when I tried to do this hack.

    • It’s part 74.

      But it looks to me to be just braided vinyl tubing, so you might be able to find something similar from a local hardware store or elsewhere online quicker than trying to order the part through a dealer. Just not sure what inner-diameter you need to find — either 1/8″ or 1/4″ I think — but you’ll just need to make sure you get a type that is rated for a high enough temperature — at least 250F, and the higher the better — and suitable for water delivery. Search online for high temperature vinyl tubing.

      Or if you’re so inclined and in a bit of a modding mood, you could try to use soft copper tubing to create something workable.

      • PF

        I considered getting copper tubing, but I couldn’t figure out how to make seals from one copper hose to another that would withstand high pressure.

  • d

    any idea why my machine would be leaking a good amount of steam out from where the portafilter goes after doing this mod?

    • That depends on when the steam is coming out. If you’re going from steaming milk to pulling a shot, there will be some steam coming out of the portafilter area if you don’t “temperature surf” first — pulling hot water through the wand to get the temperature down and evacuate all of the steam out of the boiler.

      If the steam is coming out of the portafilter while steaming milk, there could be a bit too much back pressure, so I’d say to check the hose and connections for kinks or other obstructions.

  • Saadi

    Ok, I bit the bullet and did the mod on my precious $80 machine 🙂 The jury is still out on whether this will be an improvement and whether I can learn the proper technique. Made on cappuccino so far and it was just ok, slightly worse frothing than the previous unmoddded frother, which I put down entirely to my unrefined technique.

    The one big issue is that the new frother want has nothing holding it to the machine, so it wobbles all over the place, some during frothing and much more during the attempt to wipe clean it after frothing. I was some suggestions here for attaching the plastic piece from the previous wand but I can’t figure out how to do that. What about if I give up all rotation and just attach it at the hole where it goes into the machine with plumber’s putty or something? Of course I would give up the ability to easily open up the machine.

    Any thoughts?

  • Jordan

    Thanks it worked great on my device. I used the previous plastic piece that holds the pipe. I drilled it 2 or 3 sizes bigger so it would slide up the bend of the pipe. I had no other problems. Used stainless steel clamp that went down to 5/8 ths and worked good with no leaks. Great instructions.

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  • sonianin

    Good evening!
    Please, advice if this will work for the DeLonghi EC270. Thanks a lot! Sofiya

    • It’s difficult to say. I would need to see an EC270 with the top lid removed so I can see how the boiler and the steam/hot water wand are connected, and I cannot find any such pictures.

      • sonianin

        Kenneth, thank you for your interest in my question.
        I have the schema of machine’s parts. Maybe it will help somehow http://www.ereplacementparts.com/delonghi-ec270-coffee-maker-parts-c-122345_122351_122732.html

        • I had looked at that schema before typing the reply, but unfortunately it leaves unanswered a couple details that I would need, the biggest detail being the tubing (if any) that goes between the boiler and the steam wand. Given that questions have been asked about whether this will work with the other DeLonghi machines, I will continue to see what I can find.

          • sonianin

            Thank you for your research!

          • Ethan

            Great Tutorial – thanks for sharing!

            I’m currently in the same boat after purchasing an EC271.B.

            I’ve managed to crack it open but cannot for the life of me figure out how the wand is connected to the machine. (See the attached images) If you could shed any light on how to get the awful pannarello style wand out to replace I’d really appreciate it!

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/60eada0eab967d59a685c957e6ec9fafd67278a0d991fc77a944d9944a4a78d8.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/73aeb55e4e8afc7e9af78195c61804284590b172dd64a07c0c7ab61cef1cc5cd.jpg

          • Post a couple pictures like these but zoomed out. I don’t know that particular machine, so I want to make sure I can get some orientation on what I’m seeing compared to the product pictures from DeLonghi’s web site.

          • Ethan

            Thank you for the speedy reply Kenneth!

            I hope this is what you’re after (I’ve also taken an image of the exit point of the current wand if thats of any relevancy):

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f41ec769c7eb8ea88279ab58ccf932d3fe262ed0f00b0274586466b7485fa76d.jpg

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c64afa243c33933a9b3dfed87c617f568ed65d90891400f0db01799106e0b45b.jpg

          • That’s perfect actually. The tubing on the left side when looking at the back is definitely the steam tube. It looks like you’ll want to take off that clamp that holds the tubing to steam wand. I just can’t tell from looking what kind of clamp it is, or whether you’ll probably completely destroy it in the process.

            Looking at a parts diagram for the EC270, I can see that there is a plastic “pipe joint” as well, which is basically just a plastic collar (same one on the EC-155). And looking at a picture of a replacement frothing wand, I wonder if you’d just need to get the tubing loose by taking off the clamp and then just give a firm downward pull or a little leverage to pop it through that plastic collar, pulling it straight down. The plastic collar may come loose near the boiler after doing that, so be sure to grab it afterward. Depending on the kind of plastic for the collar, that may do the trick.

            Let me know how that goes.

          • Ethan

            That’s brilliant information, thank you so much. I’ll order the parts and report back in a week or so when I get around to fitting the new wand. If I have to fix it in place then so be it (Due to any forcing that may break something upon removal), as long as its fitted in the correct position I suppose it won’t really matter as long as it works. The current wand only rotates left and right anyway, no up/down motions like my older EC820.B had.

            Many thanks for the help and reassurance – Hopefully I’ll be able to perfect my flat white using this machine, wish me luck!

          • Ethan

            Fitting the new wand went great – the previous wand came out fairly easily and the new one was a little harder. I had to melt a larger hole in the plastic to fit it in using a soldering iron. This does mean that its a little loose at the moment but I’m going to buy some mouldable glue to fix it into place as this will still allow me to rotate the wand which is a bonus.

            The tube is fixed with the original clamp and a cable tie to ensure it doesn’t come loose. The cable tie did however cause cracking on the tubing from being too tight but it does not leak after lots of testing as the damage is after the seal made by the original clamp.

            Many thanks for all the help!

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ceba6f7aa1f9ca8ae8315de3f7c24d61fa9990baae4172151f286ff5b5c0f89a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e207c491c2dfba4be3d414e253316629a1cd74fe807ea7eca817e91e090043fe.jpg

          • That looks good. Glad to know the installation went well. I’m not sure if it’s just the angle of your picture, but it looks like the wand is pointing inward toward the machine, which isn’t entirely good if that’s the case. It’ll still work for steaming milk, though. I’d be more concerned if it was locked to pointing straight down.

            Only thing that’s left now is getting a non-pressurized basket, but that’d also require getting a decent grinder to go with it.

            If you write up instructions for doing this and post it to a forum or somewhere else, let me know so I can link it here.

          • Ethan

            Hi Kenneth, I eventually got around to posting my process/experience onto Reddit here: https://www.reddit.com/r/Coffee/comments/57ry6u/gear_how_to_photo_delonghi_ec271_essential_mods/

            Thanks again for the help with the steam wand!

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