220 volt espresso machine to USA

I fell in love with my espresso machine down here in Uruguay.

When I return the states can I use my Kitcorner espresso maker if I use an adapter or will the machine and/or my house blow up?


No, nothing will blow up, but it’s not going to work very well at only 1/2 power. You can have an electrician run a 220v outlet for you, but it won’t be cheap.

BTW, this thread is probably in the wrong place, so I’m going to alert a mod to move it.

I suppose that you could have an electrician come in and install a custom 220 outlet, perhaps buy the correct one at a builders supply store in Uraguay and bring it back so he has something to install. It would be just like installing a 220 appliance outlet for an oven, or dryer I would guess.

First, a word of warning: it may contravene your local building codes operate the device in the USA if it isn’t approved by the UL. (Basically if it’s found to be the cause of a fire your insurance co might be able to weasel out of paying.) A South American outlet would almost certainly not be already approved.

You would be able to have a North American style 240V outlet installed, though: they look like this. And you can probably find an adaptor that will allow you to change the cord type, and if not, there are replacement plugs that can be grafted onto the cable. It’s also theoretically possible for you to run it off the same outlet your stove plugs into (if you have an electric stove) but I’ve never seen a device that can allow two appliances to plug into those outlets. And it might be against code if your local code requires a dedicated circuit for the range.

I’m not an electrician… but I have read Ontario’s electrical code a few times and have it around here somewhere.

Another complication is the fact that Uruguay’s power is delivered at 50hz, whereas in the US it’s 60hz.


Moved to General Questions.



Rather than rewire your house, you can purchase a step-down voltage regulator:

Please stop with the bad advice. Power overseas is 220V single phase. In other words, instead of 120V from phase to neutral, you have 220v from phase to neutral. What you will need to make the coffee pot work is a simple step-up transformer: 120 in, 240 out. Most transformers that you buy over the counter for home use are autotransformers, so polarity is also important. 60hz should make no difference to a coffee pot, unless it has a clock on it. Talk to an electrician.

:confused: Do you think the electrons care?

it’s 230VAC, 50 Hz in most cases. it’s not necessarily bad advice. US residences get 240VAC, 60 Hz single phase. it’s just fed from a transformer with center tapped at neutral, so what comes into the panel is two hots, one 180° out of phase with the other. connect a load from one hot to neutral, you get 120VAC. connect across both hots, you get 240VAC.

the main concern is with appliances with induction motors, which might not work at their best if they’re designed for a different mains frequency.

Most domestic espresso machines are agnostic to frequency. They are a simple heater and a vibratory pump. The pump will work across 50 and 60 Hz without caring much. Cheap machines use a thermo block, better machines have a boiler.

A step up up transformer will probably cost more than the value of a cheap machine. You need to factor in that most machines have a heating element that draws of the order of 2kW. A 2kVA transformer isn’t cheap. So the alternative is a 240V outlet (as described earlier, in the US these are hung across both phases.) The cost of having one installed may also exceed the cost of a cheap machine, but unless you are renting, likely the best solution, if the machine is worth it. So it probably depends upon how much the machine is worth. You can spend any amount of money on an espresso machine. From sub $50 for a steam toy (no pump, works off steam pressure alone and does not generate the 9 bars of pressure usually associated with real espresso machines) up to over $10,000 for a single group Synesso. If you have become hooked on the joys of good coffee you are potentially at the start of a slippery slope.

So, you may simply decide that new machine is the right answer. They don’t last forever so you can pro-rate the value of your current machine by its age to justify the choice. There are a number of good speciality coffee stores with internet fronts where you can find any manner of machines and grinders.

It is worth pointing out that more important than the machine is having a good grinder. Using just-ground coffee from even a cheap burr grinder versus buying pre-ground will make a bigger difference than anything else you do.

Actually, it will probably run at 1/4th the power. Half of the voltage is probably going to result in half of the current as well.

There are different types of espresso machines. Some use a simple heater which builds up pressure to force the water up through the machine. Others use a pump. If you’ve got the pump type, the pump may not work at all at 120 volts. With either type, the heating element isn’t going to work very well at 120 volts.

As beowulff said, you could have an electrician run another 240 volt outlet for you, but it’s not going to be cheap.

Another option is to modify the espresso machine. If it is meant to be sold in different countries, this may be as simple as flipping a switch or connecting a wire to a different place on the machine’s transformer. It depends on how the machine is designed. Some machines will not be easily modified though.

Using an external transformer is also an option. Just make sure it is rated for the current that the machine draws. Remember that the current on the 240 side will be doubled on the 120 side. Power in has to equal power out, so if you halve the voltage you have to double the current to have the same power. Make sure the 120 side of everything can handle the current.

50 Hz vs. 60 Hz probably isn’t going to make too much of a difference, but if it is the type of machine that has a pump, the pump may run a bit slow, depending on its design. It probably won’t stop the machine from working though.

Depending on the machine, it may be cheaper and much easier to simply scrap it and buy a similar machine that is designed to be used in the U.S.

There are two types of service in the U.S.

Most homes have exactly what you describe. They are fed from a transformer that is center tapped, so you have 120 volts from either line to neutral and 240 volts from line to line.

Some homes though are fed from two lines out of a three phase system. Line to neutral voltage is still 120 volts, but line to line is 208 volts since they are 120 degrees out of phase instead of 180 as you get from a split phase transformer.

Sadly espresso machines are pretty much always too primitive. I have never seen one with a transformer, they use mains driven heaters in either a boiler or a thermoblock. Better machines (i,e. boiler based ones) can have the element replaced, but this is usually not cheap - with typical spare parts rip-off prices. Thermo-blocks have the element essentially integral to the structure of the block. Most machines are regulated with an equally primitive bimetalic trip thermostat. There is a new crop of high end domestic machines with PID regulation, but we start to talk real money. Large expensive domestic machines (usually sporting an E61 group head) have a large heat exchanger boiler, and use a pressurestat to regulate temperature, which is remarkable accurate for such a primitive mechanism. These machines come in at about $1000 odd. They probably would be cost effective to modify with a new element.

:smack: I knew that…

No, I’m just not sure how you’re going to connect two 120V lines and a neutral to a 2-prong plug.

The machine will need to have the plug replaced with a NEMA 6-20 plug, and the outlet installed with the matching socket.

Okay, so you’ve replaced a plug with three connection points with a differently configured plug with three connection points. The cord for the espresso machine has three wires. One is for the 230v line, one is for the neutral line, and one is for the grounding conductor. Are you all saying that you don’t need the neutral conductor in this case? Just two 120v lines and a ground?

Well, in this case, this is just a standard 4-wire connector, like this.

But, I suspect that there is no neutral connection - just two hots and a ground, which is what the NEMA 6-20 outlet provides. You only need a neutral if the machine requires 110v internally, which is unlikely (especially since the original plug couldn’t supply it).

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this. Overseas 230V wiring looks like this:


American 240V (4-wire) wiring looks like this:


There is no component in the machine that uses 120V. It’s like a European lightbulb in that regard. So the wiring in the second schematic doesn’t seem to be even remotely like the wiring in the first schematic. In other words, how do two 120V lines take the place of a single 230V line?

Because the two 120v lines are 180° out of phase, so there is 240v between them. So. you just replace the “N” in your first diagram with the other 120v leg, and everything will work the way it’s supposed to.