What can I do with my broken espresso machine?
April 24, 2009 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I have a Francis Francis! X5 espresso machine that I would like to sell. The problem is that it's the one referred to in this question, meaning it doesn't work. What's the best way to proceed?

It's a rather expensive machine — $650 — bought back in the days when I had a job (!) and money (!).

The thing is, I'm not sure I can afford to get it repaired in order to sell it. The estimate is $200 to look at it, which then can be applied to the repair. I could probably somehow manage the $200, especially if I could then turn around and sell the repaired machine for, say, $250 or $300. (Which seems totally possible.)

But, say I find out the repair is $400. I really can't afford that. So in that scenario I'm out $200 for the repair estimate and I still have a broken espresso machine.

In the end, I can't bear to just throw it out. And . . . I'm not quite to the point mentally where I can just give it away. Because I look at it and see a potential sale and thus a bit of income.

So any ideas on how to handle that would be welcome. It seems to me to be a fairly clear-cut case, and it looks like I don't have any options, really. But I'm hoping I'm overlooking something and the hivemind will enlighten me. (Let me be absolutely clear: I am not entertaining the notion of somehow covering up the fact that it's broken to sell it, if that were even possible.)

Finally, if there are no ways to wring a bit of money out of this machine, I'd welcome ideas on what I can do to avoid simply throwing it out in the garbage, which would be a real shame. Freecycle occurred to me, but I'm interested in other ideas.
posted by veggieboy to Food & Drink (6 answers total)
Yeah, if you're explicit and upfront about the fact that it's not working, you'll get *some* money for it on eBay, if only as a source for parts.
posted by unixrat at 8:26 AM on April 24, 2009

Another possibility is to put in on craigslist with the true description of the problem, and accept barters for it. Maybe someone will be more likely to take it off your hands if they can trade you a good or service that you want.
posted by sickinthehead at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2009

Selling it as broken isn't a bad idea, but I'd consider posting a listing on the CoffeeGeek forums, and sell the machine as needing repair, for parts, etc.

Alternatively, it's quite possible you could find enough advice and leads to parts there to attempt repairing it yourself, after which you could sell it as a working machine, or hey -- make espresso...
posted by nonliteral at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2009

Honestly, you can probably fix it. My Gaggia was completely messed up last year, and I'm not an appliance repair guy at all, but with the help of some people on a Yahoo! Group focusing on espresso machines, I got really good advice on how to get it up and running again.

At least where the Gaggia is concerned, everything is pretty much plug n' play -- I discovered, disassembling the machine, that as long as I took lots of notes and photos for where everything went, the actual disassembly and reassembly was much less harrowing than I thought. I broke my Gaggia down to almost its component parts, found the bad bits (in my case, a dispersion disc that had become so calcified that it had fused to the parts around it, and was finally only fixed after I spent an hour pounding on it with an Estwing hammer wielded like the mallet of Thor), ordered replacement bits, and put it all back together. And it worked! A blog post from midway through the process here.

So I'd say if you have $200 for a repair estimate, you have money for parts: roll the dice and crack the sucker open. Check it out:

Worst-case scenario: you have a busted espresso machine. Hey, no worse off!
Mid-case scenario: Maybe you replace the boiler and the problem persists. Then you're down to the gaskets (probably), which is a cheap fix. Take lots of pictures and inquire on CoffeeGeek and somebody will probably be able to help.
Best-case scenario: you save a lot of money, learn a lot about espresso mechanisms, and have a working Francis Francis!

Again: I am not a repair guy. I can barely replace the brakes on my bike. But once I got rolling, I actually found the digging-in-the-guts experience pretty liberating and empowering. Since your machine is broken anyway, you don't have much to lose and a whole lot to gain.
posted by Shepherd at 2:00 PM on April 24, 2009

I rebuilt an F!F! X5 a year or two ago for a friend - they're pretty simple machines. You'll need to sign some sort of insane waiver when you buy replacement parts from the manufacturer but otherwise it should be a piece of cake. You almost certainly need to replace the gaskets in the boiler (it's two pieces with a rubber gasket between the two halves) the heater gasket, possibly also the water lines but that's likely to be it. I'd figure if you spend about $30 on gaskets and postage and a few hours taking the machine apart, cleaning it, and reassembling it you'll have a working espresso machine again.
posted by foodgeek at 3:50 PM on April 24, 2009

Thank you all very much for your answers.

One thing I neglected to mention in the original post is that somewhere over this last year of hand-wringing I popped the top of the machine to see if I could see anything obviously wrong. (Given how little I know about the insides of espresso machines, it would have to be blindingly obvious.) But I got a bit intimidated and that's about as far as that went.

But! Shepherd and foodgeek, you've convinced me to forge ahead. It seems like a decent project to tackle given that I have the time for it now and the upsides definitely exceed the downsides.
posted by veggieboy at 8:53 AM on April 25, 2009

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