La Piccola Sara Classic

August 25, 2009

La Piccola Sara with Steam

La Piccola Sara with Steam

Since the 1st of September 2005 I’m the proud owner of a simple but very reliable espresso and cappuccino machine. It’s really a simple machine and worked without ever failing. I got the machine from my wife as a present for my 45th birthday so it means a lot to me. The unique feature is that it contains two pumps, one for steam and one for coffee.

I don’t feel like a “barista” because I ‘feed’ my machine only coffee pads, not freshly grounded coffee beans. I especially like the dark roasted ‘Illy Black Label’ and the slightly milder ‘Blue Smart’. But about one week ago my espresso machine lost it’s appetite for these pads. It always grumbles a bit to me and if I use steam for a cup of cappuccino it hisses. But now it made a very loud noise, like the pump for espresso was broken or had run dry. I opened the water reservoir but there was plenty of water in it. I checked also the two little tubes for air bubbles. The one for coffee showed no movement of those bubbles.

I decided to call the shop where we bought it almost four years ago to ask where I should go for maintenance. The owner told me that the best I could do was to contact the importer directly (a more convenient address in Utrecht), he would repair my coffee machine immediately. Marcus took me to Utrecht in his car and after searching for a while we found the address. Once inside I looked immediately for the toilet and Marcus took my espresso machine of almost 10kg to have it repaired. When I came back from the toilet I was greeted by a gruffy man who stared at my blue helmet. At a certain moment he asked “What can I do for you?” in not a very way.  I realized that he didn’t make the connection between Marcus and me so I explained that I was the actual owner of the espresso machine. That reassured him visibly.

He explained to me that I had made a mistake. The tube with the huge water filter was not at all for coffee but for steam. The little tube was for coffee! Didn’t I know that for espresso the ideal water temperature lies between 88 and 92 degrees Celcius? And that therefore it never comes to the boil? To steam milk it’s another story: that water needs to be softened to keep your machine in perfect working order. Hence the huge water filter. Ahhhhhh …. I said, that’s why!

He took my espresso machine to the back and we followed him. He fixed my machine to his own water reservoir and made a few cups of coffee. He asked me what coffee I normally used and so I told him that I preferred the dark Illy for espresso and Blue Smart for the occasional cappuccino. Wrong answer! Didn’t I know that he was sole importer not only for the la Piccola brand but also for Jolly Cafe? I told him that I ordered my through the Internet but that I remembered that when I bought my espresso machine I got a huge box with Jolly cafe for free. And because I got annoyed with this man I added “I don’t like Jolly cafe so much, it’s not strong enough for me”!

Because the temperature in the room had suddenly dropped we decided to leave. We thanked the man (he wanted no money for his services) and took my espresso machine to the car. That evening I tried to make several cups of espresso. The loud sound was back although it produced a wonderful espresso! I told Marcus and he couldn’t believe what I told him. So tonight Marcus will pick me up from the RCA to listen for himself to the sounds of my espresso machine. To be continued!



  1. Dear friend, some comment on this: the coffe machines are often extremely noisy. The one I have @ my parents home sounds like a train… but coffe is perfect.

    I strongly disagree on the statement that perfect water temperature is 88-99 infact the “classical” coffe machines (the “caffettiera” old fashioned one you are putting directly on fires) is working based on boiling water principle: the water is down the coffe is up and water while boiling comes from down to up trough coffe podwer making the miracle of a good coffe. You know boiling water is 100…

    Then a suggestion to get a better coffe with the new generation coffe machine like yours is to switch machine on with some advance (5-10 minutes) so all the machine components are warming up before you make the coffe. It sounds stupiud but it helps (like using warm cups). My mom is switching on the machine when the launch/dinner starts… but she is always exagerating a bit…

    Last but not least… stick on your decision going for Illy (… Jolly?!?! what is Jolly…)

    Ciao Ciao :)


  2. Marcus found the cause of all problems: a metal plate that forms the separation between the compartment with the water tank and the compartment with the pumps was resonating. It could resonate because the rubber insulation was cut right through. All that was required was turning the rubbers and try again! Sheer silence and sheer pleasure! All thanks to my brother Marcus! Hurray!

  3. Dear Stefano,
    Good to hear from you! You will have read my comment that my machine is as silent as it used to be again. I agree with you that I should warm the cups as well as machine itself. I use your method already for years (to warm the machine in 5-10 minutes in advance). I also fill the cups with boiling water while I fill it with pads. I throw the water away cup by cup and dry the cup just before I push on the delivery button. I also agree on your taste of coffee: Jolly? What is Jolly?
    A Ciao ciao back to you from your friend Payter

  4. Sounds like you may have fixed it ~ YAY!

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