ECM Synchronika owners - Page 2

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JB90068
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#11: Post by JB90068 »

dsc106 wrote:I didn't know the drip tray issue wasn't universal. Perhaps I will contact clive about this as I am under warranty and see if they can send me a replacement.
Hopefully ECM will help you out through Clive. Considering what we spend on these, they should get it right. It's a small issue compared to some of the problems that far more expensive machines are having, but it is still a blemish on a fit and finish that is otherwise really great.

Good luck and keep us informed of how it goes.
Old baristas never die. They just become over extracted.

cgibsong002 (original poster)
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#12: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

dsc106 wrote:I was in your shoes a year ago! Also in Portland, also bought from Clive. Misc items:

- Portland water is very soft, mine is about 19 PPM out of the tap. Yeah, soft. I plumbed in and I still did their homeland filter kit. Because it doesn't soften too much more than that, and it protects against fluctuations. Your PPM will go up in the machine, my water coming out of the machine is over 30 PPM. You definitely don't need a fancy BWT max kit from Whole Latte Love with Portland water. That said, if you were feeling really fancy, you could do one that reintroduces more minerals for improved taste. But honestly, I've been extremely happy with espresso quality as is. There are so many little things to learn, you can also look at upgrading your filter down the road. Their kit is only $130 and $60 of that is the filter. So don't sweat it, just do their homeland kit it's perfectly good.

- Watch your steam boiler and drain it every so often, mine after a year was up to 260 PPM! This is because steam in the boiler is caused by evaporation (obviously), but less obviously (until you think about it for a brief moment) evaporation leaves behind the minerals in the water, because those hard minerals don't evaporate. Many months of use later and the PPM creeps up and up and up. I just drained my steam boiler the other day and now the PPM is back to 35.

- The drip tray is my only complaint. It has sharp edges and doesn't sit level. I've seen people tinker with it and fix it. Weird on a $3k machine. Go figure. In any case, it's a minor niggle.

Hmm I'm sure I could go on but that's a solid overview eh? ;)
Lot of good info coming in! Awesome to hear you're running the same setup in pdx with the Homeland kit. I was looking at that and it seems like an equivalent kit to the WLL BWT but obviously different filter system. Couldn't find much info on it though and Clive hasn't gotten back to me with more details. For that price and for only about $50 instead of $200 per filter, that looks potentially perfect. I did start a separate thread on that in the water forum as well lol.

As for steam boiler... Does it need to be fully drained or just keep using it? I read some people also use the hot water wand to clean their PF which would be another good use. I tried that once and made a mess due to the double spout, but that should hopefully be easiest with the bottomless i have on the way.

It's definitely a slight learning curve compared to the Breville i had last, mostly just with maintenance. So far my routine has been pull shot> pull clean water through GH, wipe screen, pull more clean water>rinse PF. Last shot of the day i do 1 or 2 back flushes letting it run just long enough to hit max pressure.

As for the drip tray, I'd like to hear more info on this. Are we talking just the grate that fits in the tray, or the tray itself? My grate/top plate is a perfect fit, but the whole drip tray assembly moves maybe .25" in each direction. Kind of annoying when wiping it down but really awesome to empty without tipping.

Jshot
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#13: Post by Jshot »

Great machine the Synchronika. Owned one for over five years with a NZ. My 2 cents:

1. Water water water. Get it right like everyone says and you'll save yourself the trouble of descaling later. I descaled the steam boiler and it's not fun lol

2. Angled bottomless portafilter w VST baskets

3. A good scale.

That's it. I wouldn't do anymore until you get familiar with the machine and you develop a workflow.

Assuming you have a capable grinder.

Have fun with the whole process. I really enjoyed the Synchronika

dsc106
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#14: Post by dsc106 »

The tray, I am just referring to the grate that sits in it. It's not steady and can move around slightly. It's not a big deal.

The water, the simple answer is you are not at risk of over softening your water in Portland, because it's already overly soft. But you should definitely have the filter on to make sure there are not fluctuations. As I mentioned, PPM coming out of the machine is slightly higher than tap on my setup, which essentially I say just to point out that I am not getting a drop in TDS so much as I am using the filter as $57/year insurance to maintain our water softness and protect from any funny business. The rest of the initial kit buy in gets you the tubing pieces and the pressure regulator which you want.

If you want to get fancier with water down the road, you would be looking at a system that actually remineralizers your water with a "perfect for espresso" recipe. Yes, a water recipe. But that's complicated and expensive and really, as Jshot just said, K.I.S.S. for your first year. After that, you'll probably just stick to the simple homeland filter but you have the option to dabble. In my experience, I don't see the point. My coffee at home is better than Coava, Barista, Heart, Proud Mary, Water Ave, you name it... all the Portland places. I am simultaneously very picky and very happy, so getting into the deep end of water recipes (which could also introduce more scale into your machine) - pass for me. At least for now :D

As for the steam boiler situation, Clive never said a word about it. Never heard anyone say anything about it, until I had to come around asking why the water coming out of my hot water wand was slightly yellow. So I pass that knowledge onto you to save your boiler! You don't have to do anything fancy, just use the hot water want regularly. I don't, so from here out I need to remember to purge 16oz or so out of it a week and get rid of some of that old water that's building up minerals. I only ended up draining it because I didn't know this and hadn't paid attention. When I say draining, it sounds dramatic, I just mean turning off the machine so that it does not refill with cool water (which then reduces temp, which then prevents steam pressure from pushing water out). So turning off the machine and opening the hot water wand to let it empty as much as possible. Which is not everything as was pointed out to me, but it's as much as I could get without tipping the machine over, and it was good enough. My steam boiler water TDS reading dropped from 250ppm back to 35ppm. So knock on wood I haven't moved up my descaling needs significantly. When I asked Clive they just said I shouldn't have to worry about it at all... but my TDS meter doesn't lie!

Speaking of that, I like the Third Wave TDS meter that Clive sells. Much better than using water test strips and only $15. Recommended.

he only place I'd asterisks Jshot is to research Decent PF baskets vs VST. I am biased because I purchased Decent, but like I said, it makes it compatible with their Decent tamper which seemed to me to be the best tamper on the market after I looked around. I also got the Decent tamping cradle, but the ECM one should work equally well. I think it is helpful to have and I prefer it to tamping on a counter edge.

Anyway, hope that helps!!

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JB90068
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#15: Post by JB90068 »

I can say from using it daily, the ECM tamping cradle works very well. It's far better than what I used to do which was using the counter edge or the bar in the knock box. Anything that allows you to work hands free is a nice addition to the workflow.

As far as knock boxes, I've used half a dozen since I started pulling shots in the early 90's. Not too long ago I got the ECM. It is very well built and looks good. It doesn't move around like some of the other mistakes I've used in the past. This is my favorite box other than one that I had mounted flush into a counter top.
Old baristas never die. They just become over extracted.

Jshot
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#16: Post by Jshot »

Off topic a bit, but does the op use a tamping cradle w current setup? If not, I wouldn't recommend even with a bottomless pf. I know they are popular but I haven't seen a practical use for them. Just one more object on the counter.

I use a small folded towel that comes out of a drawer where I keep the tamper. On the counter edge goes the towel and bottomless pf (angled or not) and funnel. Hands free and I pour in grounds then pick up, tap and tamp. As I push the pf into towel/counter I can easily feel if it's level, then tamp. Easy. Less stuff on my counter is a bonus but now we are getting into personal preference for workflow and workflow and esthetics.

cgibsong002 (original poster)
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#17: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

dsc106 wrote:The tray, I am just referring to the grate that sits in it. It's not steady and can move around slightly. It's not a big deal.
That's interesting then. My grate is a very nice fit in the tray itself. Won't fall out even upside down.

Ok so, so far I've ordered the ECM bottomless, 18g VST, and also got the 8.5mm silicone gasket and some molykote for down the road when i need them. My next project will probably be plumbing in the machine so i can do proper preinfusions. Everything else seems kinda trivial, but maybe I'm wrong?

Is anyone doing anything else for standard maintenance other than daily back flush and steam boiler refills? Should i do a chemical back flush based on the schedule from the pid controller? Anyone got a good resource for general e61 maintenance including some of the more involved tear downs, lubrication, etc? I'm a maintenance engineer for a living so I'm pretty comfortable and would prefer to keep this in pristine condition!

cgibsong002 (original poster)
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#18: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

dsc106 wrote:But you should definitely have the filter on to make sure there are not fluctuations.
Does that HCHS filter actually regular tds? That's my biggest concern i think. Like i said Portland City water can jump from 3ppm all the way to 80ppm when they switch sources throughout the year, and it's not like they tell you that either. And i don't want to be testing ppm constantly. But if you've already done that hard work and have seen consistent outputs with that filter, that's awesome news!

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JB90068
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#19: Post by JB90068 »

Jshot wrote:Off topic a bit, but does the op use a tamping cradle w current setup? If not, I wouldn't recommend even with a bottomless pf. I know they are popular but I haven't seen a practical use for them. Just one more object on the counter.
Jshot- all valid points. I completely get what you mean about reducing clutter an added steps. I do think it's about personal preference and a persons workflow. For me, once I started using a Weber shaker cup, using a cradle really helped. The PF sits in it while I put the grounds in it, WDT and tamp. Mine sits in a tray next to the knock box, tamper, leveler etc... This works for me because any spillage falls into the tray and not on the floor, into the under counter refrigerator gasket or on the counter. I slide the tray to to the front of the counter when I need it and once done, it is slid to the back and out of the way. In effect it's a bit of a micro work station. For me, this is easier to keep the whole area clean. Is it necessary? Not at all. It's just my preference.

Sorry for taking this even more OT.
Old baristas never die. They just become over extracted.

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JB90068
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#20: Post by JB90068 »

cgibsong002 wrote:Is anyone doing anything else for standard maintenance other than daily back flush and steam boiler refills?
Daily back flushing shouldn't be necessary for home use. It's a good idea in a cafe where they are pulling 100+ shots a day. I generally do a water back flush once a week since I'm typically pulling 25 - 30 shots. Even that is overkill. Probably once a month is enough.

If you have a flow control valve, you might want to hit the O-rings with a small bit of lube every six months or when you feel some gritty resistance. Out of the box, mine needed it...

Other than that, it should be pretty maintenance free.
Old baristas never die. They just become over extracted.