Relieving some pressure

After much searching around and research, I purchased a De’Longhi EC155 espresso maker. Now this espresso maker is certainly quite good for a little machine, but there are some limitations on it. For an espresso maker that can be had for $100 or less, depending on retailer, this is no surprise. It has a single boiler, a pressurized portafilter, and a frothing aid on its steam pipe.

Any person who has been making espresso for a while or has done significant research on it knows that these limitations are true limitations in making espresso as you don’t have a lot of control in how things go. I’ve had my machine for a couple months (as of the time of this writing) and I’m now finding these limitations to be frustrations.

To get true control over the espresso, you need a machine with a non-pressurized portafilter, a tamper and a good grinder. But the least expensive espresso makers that come with a non-pressurized portafilter option that I could find are in the Saeco Via Venezia line, which retail for about triple the price of the EC155. There must be a better option.

So I read around and found that owners were substituting the basket in the portafilter with that from another model. Typically, if you read around on the EC155, you’ll find that the most common “mod” seems to be switching the basket for De’Longhi part no. 607706, which is the basket from the BAR12 espresso maker (long discontinued), and they’re turning their portafilters “bottomless”. Which this would be a great option… if you could actually get ahold of that part. But I searched around numerous web sites and couldn’t find it. Even attempting to order it from De’Longhi resulted in it being “backordered”.

So in reading around further, there was another basket mentioned: the 51mm portafilter basket for the La Pavoni Millennium line. According to one thread, this basket was rumored to fit. Well, to me it is rumor no longer as the basket does fit the De’Longhi EC155 portafilter.

But there’s a caveat… This is the basket in question (picture courtesy OrphanEspresso.com):

milldoublebasket.jpg

Notice that lip around the edge?

If you own a De’Longhi machine, you know that the portafilter basket doesn’t have that lip. And, as I would discover attempting to do this, if you set the basket into the portafilter, you won’t be able to engage it into the brew head. The machine expects the basket to lay flat in the portafilter, whereas obviously the La Pavoni machines are designed for the lip. So that pretty much tells you what you need to do: take a wrench or something else and flatten the edge out. It doesn’t need to be perfectly flat, but flat enough to allow you to engage the portafilter into the brew head. If you have a workbench, you can probably hammer it perfectly flat.

And when you get it flat enough, the basket will fit into an unmodified portafilter and the portafilter will engage the brew head.

So how well does it work? Well recall from above that I don’t have a tamper or a grinder. I did try it with some of my preground coffee that I buy and grind at my local HyVee (I buy a local roaster brand called The Roasterie), tamping as best I could on the awkward tamper on the machine, and it came out extremely fast – i.e. under 10 seconds for a double-shot (and no, I didn’t bother tasting it as I knew it’d be nasty – it had no crema at all). So before I can make use of the basket full-time I definitely need a tamper and a grinder, but at least I have a proof of concept, and that is all I was looking for at this point. I might also buy another “sump” (portafilter) and take the bottom off it so I can see how well my adjustments go as I accustom myself to the non-pressurized way of doing espresso.

So there you have it. If you want to take your pressurized portafilter and make it de-pressurized, you can buy the basket for the La Pavoni Millennium series (the 51 mm basket) and flatten out the rounded lip and voila!

Note as well that this basket will work on these machines as well: EC310BK, EC702, EC270, BAR32, and kMix DES02. It should be noted that the EC310BK, EC155 and EC702 all use the same portafilter.

You can find the basket through EspressoParts.com, Part No. MP68, or through Amazon. Previously you could find it through OrphanEspresso.com, but they have since stopped carrying the item. And Seattle Coffee Gear has been out of stock on it for as long as I can remember.

Note: Please see my follow-up to this article, originally written October 8, 2012, in which I discuss the grinder and tamper I purchased to go with this setup. I have also since upgraded the steam wand on my machine to get better results while steaming and frothing milk.