Brass Boilers Expose You To Lead?

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Whiplash Willy
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:20 pm
Real Name: Andy
Equipment: Bezzera BZ40 (1996) ; Rancilio Silvia V3 ; Mazzer Mini Timer
Location: Portland

Postby Whiplash Willy » Fri Dec 23, 2011 3:46 pm

I just noticed this warning on a website selling the Rancilio Silvia:

This espresso machine contains a brass boiler. Brass is made with lead and so the espresso machine will ship with this warning label: Proposition 65 Warning: Consuming beverages that have been prepared in this espresso machine will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm.

Is this really something to worry about, or is this another example how lawsuits are ruining our country?

coffee driven people, people driven coffee
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HB
Posts: 14651
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:13 pm
Real Name: Dan Kehn
Equipment: La Marzocco Strada, Elektra Microcasa a Leva, Compak K10 WBC
Location: Cary, NC

Postby HB » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:02 pm

Wikipedia has good background on California Proposition 65, including some of the controversy that surrounds it. To your question, I personally wouldn't worry about Silvia's brass boiler since its full contents are flushed regularly as part of normal usage, but this is based on my purely unscientific assessment of risk. I believe my efforts would be better spent on improving my diet and exercising than worrying about minute exposure to lead. *shrug*

PS: I've been around coffee forums long enough to know a heads-up is warranted, so... For those replying to this thread, please note the site's Guidelines for productive online discussion, specifically Stay on topic. Those who want to discuss the implications of Willy's side comment "...is this another example how lawsuits are ruining our country?" are welcome to seek out a more suitable forum for political discussion. Thanks.
Dan Kehn

Whiplash Willy
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:20 pm
Real Name: Andy
Equipment: Bezzera BZ40 (1996) ; Rancilio Silvia V3 ; Mazzer Mini Timer
Location: Portland

Postby Whiplash Willy » Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:33 pm

Dan, Thanks for your response! I will be reading up on prop 65. I am not concerned specifically with the Silvia, i am concerned with any espresso machine with a copper and or brass boiler. The website I saw that warning on, has that warning on all of their espresso machines, like the Rocket Giotto, for example.

For me personally, I use an 1996 Bezzera BZ40 with a 3.4L boiler (copper with brass endcaps I believe). It is a HX machine, so the brew water gets flushed through quickly, however the water for steaming sits in that huge boiler, probably for a long period of time, because it would never fully get flushed out, unless I manually drain it. I wonder if the longer it sits, the higher the amount of lead that could get leached into the water. I am mostly concerned, because I make my wife 1 latte every day. She currently breastfeeds and we are planning on having another one in a year or so. I would hate for our coffee habit to cause any issues with our kids.

I wonder if there is some kind of test kit i could use to test the amount of lead in the water coming from that machine, to see if the levels are dangerous or not.

User avatar
HB
Posts: 14651
Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2005 9:13 pm
Real Name: Dan Kehn
Equipment: La Marzocco Strada, Elektra Microcasa a Leva, Compak K10 WBC
Location: Cary, NC

Postby HB » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:22 pm

Ah, that's another story; once babies and/or lactating women are involved, my risk comfort level drops precipitously as a matter of principle.

I am straining my recollection of 7th grade chemistry, but as I recall, if one condenses steam, the result is pure (distilled) water. If one accepts that as fact, then there's no lead content in the exiting steam. Also, if water goes in the boiler and only steam comes out, mineral levels will rise, including any leeched lead from the brass. That said, since it's an HX espresso machine, you don't drink that water. Even so, it's wise to flush the boiler down from time-to-time if only to lower the mineral concentration and thereby slow scale formation.
Dan Kehn