What does GENERAL ALARM or GENERIC ALARM mean on my Delonghi Coffee Machine?

So you are in a panic, you have stumbled out of bed and like every morning your first action is to make a coffee. Shit! today the machine is saying “GENERIC ALARM” or on some models it will say “GENERAL ALARM”. Others just a red triangle and others blinking lights.

general alarm

Ok before you get desperate and switch to tea or instant coffee maybe we can resolve this very quickly.

1. When you turn the machine on does it cycle the brew unit and then say “HEATING UP – PLEASE WAIT” and then time out to the “GENERIC or GENERAL ALARM”?

if No – then remove the infuser and drip tray and give the inside of the machine a good clean and clean the infuser and ensure its clear to travel up and down. Turn the machine off and it should go through it’s boot up sequence as normal and you will have your coffee.
if YES – We have a problem Houston. Proceed beyond this point only if you are qualified as we are going to expose ourselves to some high voltage electricity.

There are 3 possible causes of the failure, either a element, fuse or Triac. Unplug the machine and remove the back panel. You will have 2 boilers,  the water boiler or thermoblock that sits under the cup warmer (metal plate) and a horse shoe shaped flash steam boiler, or some models just have one. One of these boilers will not be heating. Both of these boilers should be warm. Note water passes through the thermoblock and then into the flash boiler in some models, water is heated their first. So it is possible for the flash boiler to appear hot and have actually failed. If the main thermoblock is cold, we have a winner but if both are warm I would be testing the flash boiler.
From this point on you will need a multimeter. If you don’t have one then probably you should put the back on the machine and bring it to us. Or this could be the beginning of something beautiful and you could go and and get one. Anyway assuming you have one, I usually test the continuity of the fuses first. Each boiler has 2, see the pictures. They do not reset and I have replaced a few to resolve this issue so its not unexpected to have a failure. I sell them see our Delonghi Parts. However, there are only 2 reasons a fuse fails, 1. Its faulty or 2. Its doing its job and protecting the boiler from over heating. If you see signs of over heating like singed plastic connects etc or both thermal fuses are gone, suspect that this may be a triac issue, e.g. the element is locking on, and not switching on and off. A triac issue which I have covered here.

If the fuses are ok you can meter the element, sometimes you will get no circuit other times you will. See the following post on testing elements.  its a sure bet that the element will be gone in a cold boiler with good fuses. If you want to satisfy your self that the boiler has caused this issue then remove the probe from the boiler and heat it with a heat gun (120 degrees) as you turn the machine on. The machine will boot up ok.

So the General or Generic alarm can mean a failure to detect a hot element by the NTC sensor, this is often caused by a failed thermal fuse or element or a failed Triac on the main board. But just to make things complicated the Italians have a host of other errors represented by this alarm as well. I cover these in other posts.