The Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista group gasket or steam ring seal: the $2 DIY fix

Full disclosure: Amazon reviews rejected an abbreviated version of this post, even though I never once mentioned cock rings in my Amazon review, so here I present a very chatty and robust discourse because… I can. You can click away, speed read, or skim the upper paragraphs if my witty repartee gets on your nerves and wastes your time. šŸ™‚ I know what it’s like to desperately need a cup of espresso right f’ing now. I get it. Read on for the super-cheap and easy fix for the Cafe Barista’s failed group gasket or steam ring seal, apparently all too common, that Mr. Coffee arbitrarily refuses to sell replacements silicone seals for (which is total bull$h1t, imo).

We bought a Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista in 2015. In general, given its price-point and features and overall low maintenance, it has been a reliable source of quality espresso for 3+ years.

cafe barista

The Frother
(skip this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

It’s only real problem, aside from, eventually, the steam ring, which is an easy fix that I’ll get to in a moment, has been the frother. We quit using the automatic milk frother after about a year because it was such a hassle to clean the container. To be honest, my husband would have gladly continued using it, but I was tired of cleaning the fat scum and occasional sour milk and he definitely wasn’t maintaining it for himself, so I hid the damned thing. I had undiagnosed advanced cancer and wasn’t feeling too great. By the time I dug the milk container back out, after chemo and radiation, it wouldn’t froth milk anymore. Maybe it’s just an o ring that needs replacing. I don’t know because life is short and I still don’t have the time or energy to clean out that nasty milk container. I have concluded that a simple, old-school steam wand is the way to go and these automatic frothers aren’t worth the troubles they present. There are too many potential points of failure.

We knew we had a problem when…
(skip this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

We knew the quality of our espresso was flagging a bit and it sounded a little weird when it was brewing (like its owners), but didn’t undertake an investigation until the morning the golden liquid that keeps our semi-ancient hearts beating failed to be deposited in our cups. When hot water burbled out the side amid a flurry of grounds, we identified the point of failure as the head group gasket orĀ  steam ring seal. See how it is completely missing on the top there?

steam ring seal

 

This silicone ring is not connected and is simply sitting around the metal sieve or infuser. You can use a bamboo skewer or a small screwdriver to slide in between the two parts and lift the silicone ring out.

upside down cafe barista

And we were like: oh, yeah, no problem, silicone o-ring. They probably sell that as a cheap replacement part on the Mr. Coffee site. Seems logical, no? NO! Thing that is obviously going to fail sooner or later, nah. Buy a whole new machine, yeah! It was a Saturday and we live 30 miles from the nearest tiny town, so we weren’t even sure we could find an open hardware store, much less some sort of espresso machine emporium, like I know some elite fancy-pants have access to 7 days a week. We then spent several hours online attempting to locate a viable replacement. Not to be had. Eventually, I could not face the rest of the day or–horrors!–the prospect of the next morning without espresso. I think it’s pretty obvious by now, but it’s not like I can just trit-trot down to a an espresso shack or bar or salon or lair or whatever you privileged folk call these sort of places. It is a 30 mile and 45 minute drive to my nearest espresso dispensitorium. And I’m cheap anyway.Ā  Desperation setting in, and the clock running out (the welcome mats at local-ish stores roll in quite early), I leapt into my Prius, trusty freckled male side-kick of 26 glorious years riding shot-gun, turned on my radar detector, and floored it into town.

The Fix
(read this paragraph if you’re anxious for the silicone seal fix)

The helpful hardware people at Crescent City Ace Hardware (a man, but Ace seems to be trying out the gender-neutral pronouns, which I applaud) found us several rubber washers that were close and, eventually, a rubber “waste shoe washer” interior diameter 1&3/4″ and outer diameter 2&7/8″ that was very close to the original ring we had dragged along with us. We grabbed a few washers in other sizes too, but didn’t need them.

waste shoe washer

Yes, it is a rubber washer. I’m in California. If they thought this would be intended for use near food it would have a Prop 65 warning on it. But it’s supposed to be for a bathtub, which hardly anybody eats these days. My entire Wal-Mart store has a Prop 65 warning slapped on the front of its building, so does the new Delonghi Magnifica fully automatic espresso machine I bought. It sort of takes the meaning out when you over-use that sort of warning. Or, shoot, maybe everything is cancer causing. Doesn’t matter, I’ve already had chemo and external pointed and full torso as well as high dose internal radiation. The rest of you, I suppose you should make an effort to be properly horrified by the Prop 65 stickers.

Regardless, my husband claims the first shot he drank after installing our new waste washer shoe tasted like “an innertube.” I’ve seen the man sit next to fresh cat crap and claim he couldn’t smell a thing, so I am not impressed. He claims that subsequent shots were fine. Whatever. I say this only adds to the robust flavor of the espresso. But for you fancy-pants out there, you might want to run your $2 rubber washer through the dishwasher to… probably to release more lead in accordance with the Prop 65 warnings that every damn thing has lead in it, or on the off-chance that it reduces the innertube-iness of your espresso. Or not. Maybe you like the taste of rubber. And that’s for you to know and me to not know or contemplate at all. Ever.

the parts

This is how it looked after we removed the original silicone o ring (sitting atop the inverted machine here) and replaced it with a waste shoe washer and enjoyed a few espresso shots because we thought we were going to f’ing die by then if we didn’t get some caffeine pumping through our veins. People do not take caffeine addiction seriously enough. It is no gosh’durned joke, people! The washer slides in place and the lip in the machine where the portafilter connects pretty much holds it in place.

And here’s what it looked like after a few days of use:

steam ring

And another view:

fixed

My husband informs me he has purchased a “caffelat” silicone group gasket from Amazon for $8.50. It will be here in a few days and I will, maybe, update this post when and if it arrives and works. Or doesn’t. He asserts at this time that had the first shot with the rubber washer not tasted like an innertube he probably wouldn’t have ordered this gasket because subsequent shots were “fine.” Oh, if only the probably-a-silicone-cock-ring I found stuffed in the bottom of a drawer had worked I wouldn’t have had to drive into town and eventually order a $500 fully automatic espresso machine. Wah wah. If only…

So there you have it, the most self-indulgent and at times disgusting narrative you are likely to come across on the internet concerning a $2 waste shoe washer to make espresso flow forth from a Cafe Barista machine once again and into your life.

Would it be better if Mr. Coffee / Jardin / Sunbeam had replacement gaskets? You bet! But you do not have to throw your Cafe Barista away just because they don’t.

 

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