Using a European expresso machine 220v in the USA 110v?
December 6, 2019 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Any tips or suggestions on how to use a european appliance 220v (in this case an expresso/coffee drink machine) in a standard 110v usa kitchen?

My father bought a cyber monday deal off amazon uk (expresso machine) because it was 40$ less expensive than the usa version and got it delivered here in the USA recently but obvioulsy it has a european plug which needs 220v, whereas in his kitchen its the standard 110/120 voltage. I've googled voltage converters and most are large, black in color and take up too much kitchen space but found this one on amazon that's white and smaller below. Just wondering if anyone else has worked around this issue before (using a european or asian smaller kitchen appliance here in the usa and using a voltage converter) and has any tips, etc, as I'm worried if I don't get a quality one it may cause a fire or at the minimum damage the expensive expresso machine he bought etc. Thanks in advance to any replies or suggestions.
posted by HonestAsian to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The short answer; not really practical. See this previous question
posted by blob at 8:15 PM on December 6, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks, yeah also I meant he saved 700 on this expensive expresso machine, not 40 lol. I meant 40 percent off. I'll have to check if this expresso machine is duel voltage since many appiances are now dual voltage or universal voltage… they can handle a range of 100–250VAC and work with 50 or 60 Hz and all you have to do is get a plug adapter. The nameplate on the device will list the voltage range it can handle.
posted by HonestAsian at 8:35 PM on December 6, 2019

On nameplate, what is the listed watts? or volts and amps?
posted by H21 at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2019

ESpresso machines tend to be much more finicky than most consumer electronics in terms of what kind of power that they require. Even US models will have different 110 and 240 volt versions with trade offs between them. They handle a LOT of wattage powering the boilers and pumps at the same time. Increasing voltage with a transformer is going to come with caveats and downsides.

If he saved that much it may be worth talking to a home electrician about the best way to power this thing. Best thing might be getting a 240V circuit run from his breaker panel.

I wouldn’t run it through a transformer without an explicit O.K. from the manufacturer or a dedicated reseller of this brand or an electrician.
posted by supercres at 9:32 PM on December 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

it sounds like it could be a pain to use this unless it's dual voltage. my advice would be to return it.
posted by zippy at 11:26 PM on December 6, 2019

Note that the voltage converter you link is rated for 500 watts. Anything above that is going to require something heavier-duty. (Glancing at, the super-expensive espresso machines I see have a wattage in the >1k range, but no idea if that's representative.)

If heavy-duty converters aren't welcome in the kitchen, one workaround would be to run a Euro-style extension cord from a more converter-friendly location into the kitchen.

(In my experience, heavy-duty converters generate considerable heat when running, and typically need to be manually switched off when not in use, so it would need to go somewhere reasonably well-ventilated and accessible.)
posted by Not A Thing at 12:09 AM on December 7, 2019

Does he used to have an electric oven? If so, that power could be used for 240V, or if two circuits in the kitchen are on opposite legs, a 240V outlet could be installed in a multi-branch configuration using existing wires so long as the breakers are ganged.

But that's definitely electrician time.
posted by flimflam at 2:01 AM on December 7, 2019

It almost-certainly just won't work, rather than starting a fire (I am not your electrician, nor am I your anything). Still: don't try it on a wrong-voltage power supply.

That said: if there's any way at all to get a refund, that would be the best approach. Espresso machines are quite power-hungry (because the thermoblock is how you get your coffee faster than you could boil a kettle, and they have to run a pump at the same time). I'd be a bit surprised if a reliable, fits-neatly-into-your-kitchen voltage converter wouldn't be more hassle/expense than the discount received.

What H21 said.
posted by pompomtom at 3:14 AM on December 7, 2019

...that all said: I gather there's some way Americans get 240V for driers and such. Possibly, if such an outlet exists in the house, a heavy extension cord might work.

Really though: return it.
posted by pompomtom at 3:24 AM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The 500W step-up transformer you linked to is probably inadequate for the job. It's not just because nicer espresso machines tend to draw way more wattage than that. It's also because you should use a transformer that's rated to at least double the wattage of whatever you're plugging into it. And when you start looking at transformers capable of handling that much load, you'll probably find that they're way bigger and bulkier than you'd like for a kitchen.

Another thing to consider if there is an electric motor in the espresso machine aside from the heating element, is that it may not work properly with the US line frequency of 60 Hz as opposed to the 50 Hz frequency it was designed for in the UK/Europe. Consumer-grade transformers, as far as I know, usually don't convert the frequency.

Re: your followup note -- it's almost certainly not dual-voltage... kitchen appliances, large electronics, and tools with electric motors usually aren't. Dual-voltage things tend to be limited to rechargeable personal electronics like laptops, phones, tablets, cameras, etc. and grooming devices like electric toothbrushes and razors.

Unless you can get an electrician to do some rewiring in the kitchen, I really think the best thing would be to return the espresso machine if that's at all feasible.
posted by theory at 3:43 AM on December 7, 2019 [5 favorites]

Return it.

You can link us the exact model espresso machine here so we can see the electric details to confirm. Till then:

It's going to be too high powered for the voltage converter you linked, it may even be too high wattage for a standard 120v socket.

It'll cost a bunch of money to run a new 240v circuit, which may not be legal for kitchen appliances.
posted by TheAdamist at 5:21 AM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

This isn't just voltage, English AC runs at 50hz compared to American 60hz.
posted by nickggully at 7:17 AM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Using any sort of transformer (up or down) on an espresso machine is a bad idea for the longevity of the machine and for its performance.

A deal is only a deal if you don't have to replace the machine if you cut down it’s lifespan with nonspec installation.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:36 AM on December 7, 2019

Though it is possibly I'd bet the espresso maker is not going to be dual voltage (pretty much only a thing for equipment powered by a switching power supply).

Depending on the layout of your father's house you can run a lot of circuit for $700.

If heavy-duty converters aren't welcome in the kitchen, one workaround would be to run a Euro-style extension cord from a more converter-friendly location into the kitchen.

Please don't do this unless this will be an occasional use device and you remove the extension cord after each use. It's very unsafe and illegal.

Depending on the layout of the electrical on your kitchen you may have a couple reasonably cheap options to get a dedicated circuit for this appliance in the kitchen:
  • If the kitchen has three wire Edison circuit/multiwire branch circuit feeding the counter plugs (you can generally tell because the breaker feeding them will be two pole (IE: two breakers side by side, sometimes in the same package)); great! An electrician can replace one of the counter receptacles with 120/240V duplex receptacle like the Leviton 5031-w
  • If you instead have 20A counter receptacles an electrician can convert one branch circuit to 240V. Generally two devices (IE: duplex receptacle) will be on each circuit so your father would lose two 120V receptacles to gain two 240V receptacles (now would be the time to buy the European kettle/toaster).
  • Like flimflam said if your father has a gas range his kitchen may still be wired for an electric range (it's code in Canada now). It's a simple process to convert that the range outlet to a standard 15A or 20A 240V receptacle (though you do need to buy a new breaker, conversion plate and obviously a receptacle).
  • You could use a step up transformer like this or this (make sure to select an appropriate (IE: larger than the expresso maker) wattage). However if the espresso machine is more than 1500W (for 15A receptacles) or 2000W (for 20A receptacles) your father's wall outlets won't provide enough power to run the transformer with the expresso load.1
  • Finally a new circuit can be run. The price and feasability of this is going to vary wildly. If the panel is in a mechanical room right next to the kitchen this would be the simplest option (even easier than the other options outlined). If the panel is across a slab on grade, two story house from the first floor kitchen it'll probably cost more than the savings.
The frequency difference is probably not going to be a problem. If it has a motor it might, depending on the type, spin a bit faster. But unless the exact speed is critical to operation that is unlikely to be a problem given the duty cycle of a home use machine.

Be aware that the machine is unlikely to have a US listing (IE: safety certification from a certifying lab registered in the USA). It wouldn't bother me as long as it had a EU certification but because most of the options I laid out above require cutting off the EU cord end and installing a NEMA cord end (which technically voids the certification) your electrician might balk at modifying the equipment because of liability. And it is also technically illegal to use an unlisted appliance, though it's not something anyone ever gets in trouble for. Anyone remotely handy can put a cord end on though.

[1] The description of the Simran transformer says to upsize by 3x for resitive loads. That generally isn't required for quality equipment used to specifications. Whether they are trying to upsell or the equipment isn't actually rated for the name plate is impossible to tell. I found the link via google so it shouldn't be take as a specific recommendation just an example of the sort of thing you would be looking to purchase.
posted by Mitheral at 9:09 AM on December 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

The frequency difference is probably not going to be a problem. If it has a motor it might, depending on the type, spin a bit faster. But unless the exact speed is critical to operation that is unlikely to be a problem given the duty cycle of a home use machine.

The (probably vibratory) pump in the machine is probably calibrated to put out 9 bars of pressure. I bet running it 20% faster, if it works at all, could have pretty big lifecycle implications for the pump, fittings, gaskets, etc etc

If the machine has a PID for temperature control it might not work at all at 60 Hz. If it has a simple thermocouple... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by supercres at 6:14 PM on December 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe, I've only done this for a couple units and those in a commercial setting.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 PM on December 7, 2019

Are you going to be depending on warranty service if something goes wrong? 'Cause I'd be willing to bet they'll balk at covering this sort of setup if so.
posted by Aleyn at 11:23 PM on December 7, 2019

Response by poster: Wow, thank you so much to all the detailed thoughtful responses, this is such a helpful website and the amount of feedback is really appreciated.

Anyhow, my father doesnt want a bulky up voltage converter (and as mentioned the one I listed isnt enough wattage anyhow) in the kitchen so most likely we will just return it to amazon uk. I did email the manufactuer (Delonghi) and ask them what is the us equivalent of this particular model and once I hear back from them I'll just buy the US model of it refurbished or something on ebay to hopefully get the price point similar to what he paid for this cyber deal from amazon uk. We did find an electrician that would come in to get the 240v kitchen line for 400 but obviously probably just easier to return this item to amazon uk and buy the us version of the same machine etc.
posted by HonestAsian at 1:53 AM on December 8, 2019

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