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The Exploding Krups FND1 Espresso Maker

Q: About a year ago a friend (?) gave me a brand-new Krups espresso/cappuccino maker (Type FND1). One thing I noticed right away was that Krups had "integrated" the steam valve into the on/off switch, necessitating un-plugging the machine in order to release the pressure through the steam nozzle. (And yes, the instruction manual specifically indicates you have to un-plug it to release pressure - when you turn to "steam" or "coffee" position, you're also turning on the heating element). That poor design feature and minor annoyance aside (which could get to be pretty major if you use your machine daily), the 3rd or 4th time I used it (strictly according to the manual), the basket/handle assembly --- which had been snugly in place - exploded out of its seat, smashing into the carafe below, sending glass, hot coffee, and hot coffee grounds all over the kitchen. I went back to using my older Krups model 871 which sensibly separates the steam valve from the on/off switch and which does not explode. I don't know what possessed me, but a few weeks ago, I thought I'd give the Krups FND1 another try. I got out the manual, followed instructions to the letter, and - BOOM!! - basket, and handle shot off the machine again. I e-mailed Krups about it and got a form-letter reply telling me to include my purchase receipts when I mailed it to their "repair" facility. Checking out the Krups web-site, it looks like they no longer manufacture the FND1, but have another model, the FND111, which looks just the same and has the same poorly designed "integrated" steam valve/on-off switch. Has anyone else had that experience with the FND1, or any other Krups model, for that matter?

A: From the web, it appears that the FDN1 is a steam machine so few here will have any more tan a cursory experience with it. Basically, it is useful to open envelopes and to use as a backup machine to steam milk for parties, but not much more than that. Being that they sell for about $45 retail, it is hardly worth the effort to put a stamp on it to send it for repair. The FND111 sells for even less! the minimum price of entry for any kind of a real espresso machine is around $150.00 - not less! Use this as a planter for a starter coffee tree? Since the steam force does not approach that which a pump can achieve, it's possibly a matter of the PF not being properly locked into place because of something like a dirty gasket, worn basket, bent ears on the PF or brewhead, etc. While these are not the world's greatest coffee brewing devices, they usually do not explode in the way you describe. It's possible that there was some defect in the one you received, but it's much more likely that (despite your insistence that you followed the directions) there was some defect in your technique - in other words "operator error", which is the cause of most accidents of all types - machines are very consistent but humans are not. Perhaps Krups can still be blamed for instructions that are less than clear. I'm not sure what the lack of a separate on/off switch has to do with your explosion problem. From what you describe, the explosion did not occur while you were trying to remove the PF while the machine was under pressure. Rather, you say that the PF spontaneously launched. Most likely the PF was not really properly secured in the head (again despite what you say). In pump driven machines (which do not really differ in their method of securing the PF in the head - i.e. bayonet "ears") the pressures achieved by the pump (up to 15 bar) are far greater than those possible in the Krups even if the basket was clogged and steam pressure was allowed to rise to the maximum before the safety valved opened (somewhere in the range of 3 bar) and yet the PF does not normally blow off those machines. Did you torque the PF tightly into the head - in small machines like this it is really a two handed operation - you need one hand to hold the machine still while you tighten the PF securely with the other. The open/closed indicators that are sometimes found on the finger guards are worthless - you need to be a "human torque wrench" and judge the tightness by feel - you don't want to break the handle off the PF but you do want it nice and tight. Also, overfilling/tamping the basket can lead to a situation where it's not possible to tighten the PF because the compressed coffee cake acts as a solid wedge. In a steam machine you should not be tamping the grounds at all.