The Rescue of the Espresso Machine: Small Appliances and Silica Gel

Submitted by Michael Tucker


It is early one morning after Christmas and Mr. Smith is as happy as he can be. He bought his own present this year, a brand new automatic espresso machine with an attached coffee bean grinder.  He's about to make his first cup of coffee with it.

He's got the instruction manual in one hand. It reads, "Open the water chamber and put in one full quart of cool, clean water." Okay, he thinks, but where is the water chamber? He fiddles about with the machine looking for some kind of opening.

Finally, he pushes a button and a little door on the top of the machine pops open. "Ah," he thinks. "That's got to be it." He goes to the kitchen and comes back with a pitcher full of water and pours it into the little door. "Perfect," he thinks, "Now what?"

He turns the page of the instruction manual. There, he finds a photo of the espresso machine. Little dotted lines identify its various parts. And, he realizes, the dotted line marked "water chamber" goes to the front, not the top, of the machine.

And the little door in the top of the machine is…."Oh, No!"

With a sinking feeling he realizes that he has just poured a full pitcher of water into the coffee bean grinder.

So, is Mr. Smith's espresso machine dead as a mackerel? It might not be! Most of the time when water gets into a small appliance, like an espresso machine or a kitchen gadget, that is pretty much the end of it. But, not always! If you act quickly, and are very careful, you have a chance of saving it.

And you do so with Silica gel.

Here's how Mr. Smith's Christmas is saved.  It just so happens that his son-in-law, Bob, is visiting for the holidays. And the son-in-law just happens to have a bag full of Silica gel packets.

Acting quickly, Bob unplugs the espresso machine. He takes it to the sink and upends it, letting as much water as possible drain away. After that he rights the device and unscrews the faceplate to get direct access to the grinder motor. He dries it off with a towel and carefully inspects it.

It's fairly big, but fortunately Bob's prepared. He's got several sizes of Silica gel packets that he ordered on the web from Now, Bob takes a 10-gram packet and wraps it around the grinder motor. Then, he takes a few smaller packets and carefully places them in other spots in espresso machine. (He's careful to note how many packets he uses. He doesn't want to leave any inside it when he plugs in the appliance again.)

"Right," he tells his father-in-law, "now we wait." To brighten Mr. Smith's day, Bob takes the whole family out for lattes down at the local coffee shop.

A day and a night pass. Then, Bob examines the grinder motor. It looks dry as a bone. He extracts all the Silica gel packets (making sure he gets them all!) and puts the faceplate back on. "Now, for the test," he tells Mr. Smith. He carries the whole espresso machine outside and places it on the concrete driveway far away from the house and anything flammable. He plugs it in with an extension cord and then, very gingerly, flips the on switch.

It purrs like a kitten. Good as new. Bob and Mr. Smith carry it back into the house and make espressos for everyone.

And that's pretty much what you can do with almost any small electrical appliance that is given an unwanted bath. If you get it out of the water quickly, dry it out as thoroughly, and then let it sit for at least twenty-four hours with Silica gel packets to speed up the process, then you have a fighting chance of saving it.

However, several cautions: first always make sure your appliance is unplugged before you do anything with it. Second, if your appliance has been in the water for more than few minutes, or if it's been in a lot of water (for example, if someone dropped it in a swimming pool), then you probably shouldn't try to fix it.  Third, if you do try to save it, give it lots of time to dry and don't plug it back in again until you're absolutely certain that it's water free. Finally, when you test it, do so someplace where it won't do any harm if something goes wrong. That's why Bob put Mr. Smith's espresso machine out in the driveway where it couldn't ignite anything around it.

But, if you keep those things in mind, you, too, can save Christmas—or at least an espresso machine. It only goes to show that sometimes even Santa needs a little Silica gel.