Breville Cafe Roma
Fixing a Breville Cafe Roma.
Read the article below or skip to the end and just get the
Owning a Breville Cafe Roma is not without its trials and
tribulations. That is not to say that they aren’t
really good appliances, I bought one nearly three years ago
and I have made an ocean of coffee with it since then. Good
coffee? Yes. The machine is a manual, and once you get the
knack you can produce coffee that rivals the output of the
best trained baristas on the best machines. As far as the
$169 I spent on the Cafe Roma goes, the machine was a grade
a solid gold bargain.
There are drawbacks though, but, unusually there are ways
to fix the drawbacks. The Breville Cafe Roma is prone to
blocking up and when it it blocked it is useless. But, the
blockages are easily fixed. Here is how.
The Cafe Roma is an expresso machine. It pushes very hot
water, under pressure, through coffee and through a very
fine filter. All well and good. The thing is that the pump
on a Cafe Roma is not really that powerful (which is why
the machine is so cheap) which means that the whole machine
is built around a neat engineering cheat. Instead of a big
expensive pump forcing steam and coffee through a fine
filter, a small affordable pump forces steam and coffee
through a fine filter and a tiny hole. If you look at the
pod (the small cup like thing you put the coffee into in
your Cafe Roma) you will see what I mean.
Picture: The Small hole at the base of the coffee
Picture: The inside of the coffee pod.
can see, the pod has a false bottom, rather like a
smugglers briefcase. The steam is forced through the
coffee, through the filter and then through the extremely
small hole at the bottom of the pod. The system works well.
The machine makes good coffee. Sadly the space in the false
bottom of the pod fills itself with tiny coffee granules
and eventually blocks up. When this happens the
machine’s pump sounds strained, and no coffee comes
out. This is bad.
If you are like me, you went to a shop and were sold
“coffee machine descaler” at about $20 per
100mls. This stuff is to descale coffee machines. It is the
wrong thing, but, with a bit of luck, it might actually
help with your problem. The thing is, “scale”
in coffee machines is bluntly, crap in your local water
that adheres to the inside of the pipes inside your machine
and makes them narrower thereby reducing the pressure the
machine is capable of putting out. If you actually have
this problem AS WELL AS blockage of the pod, and use
descaler, you can boost the pressure the pump is putting
out, force coffee through the blocked pod... and get
coffee. Problem postponed. Eventually the pod will block
again, and the descaler won’t work. I should know.
I’ve put litres of descaler through my Cafe
The problem is the little hole at the bottom of the false
bottom of the pod. I eventually worked this out for myself,
and came up with the wrong solution. What can I say? I was
in need of coffee and not thinking rationally. I got my
electric drill and drilled the hole in the bottom of the
pod larger. At 1/32nd of an inch, I doubled the size of the
hole. It worked. Coffee came out. Problem was, the coffee
tasted rough and had fine coffee granules in it. But, it
was coffee and it helped me think. Amazingly enough,
Breville will sell you a new false bottom pod for your
Breville Cafe Roma. In Australia they cost about $13 and
according to the people at Breville, they “sell a few
of them” and “they are in demand”... I am
not surprised. Do tell. The whole machine is, after all,
built around the idea that the coffee pods are sure to
block up. Anyway, once my brain started working and I rang
Breville I found that they were all out of pods, for the
next several months. I wasn’t happy, but my brain was
Picture: The new larger hole. This technique only half
The false bottom was blocked. I needed to dissolve the fine
coffee crap in the false bottom of the pod. I talked this
over with my SO. When I got up the next morning I found the
coffee pod soaking in nail polish remover. This is not
recommended. Not only does it stink, it also does not work.
I reasoned... coffee is acidic. One should try something
strongly alkaline. Hmm.
“Caustic Soda” (also known as Lye) is a strong
alkaline. The next afternoon the blockage was dissolved. In
a strong mixture of Caustic Soda. The machine had been
blocked, now it worked like new. It had not been descaled
but it now worked. The answer was and is, Caustic
When you are using Caustic Soda always use thick rubber
gloves. Keep all exposed skin covered. Wear proper eye
protection. Caustic soda can easily give you a very bad
acid like burn. Always read the label. Keep the stuff away
from children and pets. Use a bowl or a deep china dish.
Never use hot water. Never use galvanised utensils. Ignore
these safety instructions (and any on the package) at your
own peril. Be very careful. This stuff is dangerous. Please
don't try to use me as a reference if you are planning on
trying to win a Darwin Award.
Here is how.
Get a small china bowl. Add a tablespoon full of caustic
soda to half a cup of cold water. Use a plastic utensil to
stir it to dissolve the granules. Carefully add the
coffee pod so that the false bottom is submerged in the
mixture. Leave overnight or for about eight hours.
You will now notice that the water/caustic soda mixture has
turned brown. (If your pod was blocked that is) Carefully
take the pod out and rinse it in a large quantity of cold
water, being careful not to splash yourself, or your
dishes, or the children or pets. Put the remaining mixture
of water/caustic soda down the drain. It is a drain
cleaner, so it will do the pipes good. Next,
Run two full tanks of water through the newly
cleaned pod. Then, make coffee. This is very important.
Caustic soda is a drain cleaner and will not do the pipes
inside you any good at all.
There you go, all done.
If all this didn't work you might want to talk to