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Beauty of brass and copper espresso machines

Postby rpavlis on Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:07 pm

There have been discussions before on HB about brass and copper machines and their advantages and disadvantages. There are some techniques that can keep such machines beautiful without constant polishing and cleaning.

The brass portafilter on the left and the bronze one on the right come from a 1999 and a 1978 Europiccola respectively. They have both been stripped of their original polymer coating.

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Neither of these has been polished for over three months! A day hardly passes without using the brass one, and the bronze one gets used at least every other day. After each session I immediately wash what ever portafilter was used under cold water, dry it with an ordinary towel, and then wipe it with a flannel strip about 8 x 40 cm that has been used in the past to polish brass, so it has some barnesite or cerium oxide polish on it. I only go over it once each day, and it looks just as good as when polished three months ago. (Without drying it, and the "once over" with the flannel it would look drab and ugly.) This takes only a few seconds per day to keep looking so good!

The 1999 Europiccola boiler and everything soldered to it is NOT and was NOT coated with any polymer when I got it. About once every two months I remove the plastic sight glass cover and polish the copper boiler and soldered on brass parts with "Brasso" or Simichrome polish, whichever I locate first! As oxides form on the copper the colour changes, it is at its best appearance, I think about a month after the polish phase. I last polished the boiler on 30 October, today is 4 December. Here is what it looks like now:

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The polymer coating on the group is beginning to deteriorate. I plan to strip it the next time I disassemble it. I then plan to wipe it with the same cloth after each use, one wipe a day takes the place of labour intensive polishing! Bare brass actually looks better than coated when kept in good condition. The simple wiping really is "instant polishing". A simple daily wipe is all that is required to keep it in perfect polish.
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Postby yakster on Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:14 pm

Nice, thanks for posting this. I really need to start doing this with my brass mantle ships clock (as well as winding it). It has a very nice 8 bells chime (Soundcloud).
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Postby drgary on Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:29 am

rpavlis wrote:After each session I immediately wash what ever portafilter was used under cold water, dry it with an ordinary towel, and then wipe it with a flannel strip about 8 x 40 cm that has been used in the past to polish brass, so it has some barnesite or cerium oxide polish on it. I only go over it once each day, and it looks just as good as when polished three months ago. (Without drying it, and the "once over" with the flannel it would look drab and ugly.) This takes only a few seconds per day to keep looking so good!

...

The 1999 Europiccola boiler and everything soldered to it is NOT and was NOT coated with any polymer when I got it. About once every two months I remove the plastic sight glass cover and polish the copper boiler and soldered on brass parts with "Brasso" or Simichrome polish, whichever I locate first!


Robert,

Since you've probably looked into this there may be nothing to worry about. When I considered using Brasso to polish brass parts on my Conti Prestina restoration I read the directions, which warn of its toxicity. "Danger: Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Eye irritant. Vapors harmful. Combustible." That's just the start of it. I expect your daily polishing routine avoids introducing small amounts of toxins into your espresso or steamed drinks. Are the "barnesite or cerium oxide polish" and Simichrome you use toxin free? Of course no one's going to drink anything that hits the side of the boiler, but sometimes water spills over the side of the portafilter into the cup, and someone trying to get things really clean might polish inside the portafilter as well.
Gary
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What I WOULD do for a good cup of coffee!
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Postby rpavlis on Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:56 am

Actually Cerium oxide and barnesite are common polish materials. In recent years polishing agents have been modified to eliminate the volatile organic materials they formerly had. Simply drying off the outside of the portafilter with a dry cloth that still retains a bit of dry polish is not going to get anything into the espresso. These identical materials are used for polishing sterling dinnerware, and they are in the sterling polishing cloths.

Even wiping with a towel would probably keep brass shiny, even had the cloth not have any polishing agent in it. Optical rouge would also work for this.
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Postby FotonDrv on Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:29 am

Very nice looking! Good job and nice to know.
LMWDP #417. Where are we going, and why am I in this HANDBASKET???
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