ECM Synchronika owners

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
cgibsong002

#1: Post by cgibsong002 »

Well, I tried searching and it appears the "official" thread for this machine is too old and not accepting comments anymore. I see many other machines and equipment have their own dedicated threads so i thought it would be nice to have one for this machine (kind of surprised there isn't yet).

Any advice to new owners? I see a lot of people upgrade the baskets, shower screen, steam tip, group gasket.

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BaristaBoy E61

#2: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

cgibsong002 wrote:Any advice to new owners?
Many people own the ECM Synchronika and like them. If that's what you'd like too I'm sure you'll be happy with the machine and the coffee.

My best advice is to feed it with non-scaling water from the time you fill up the reservoir for the first time and forever thereafter!
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JB90068
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#3: Post by JB90068 »

What do want to know? I can offer my thoughts about mine if you like. If you haven't bought one yet, you can stop in at Clive Coffee and check them out in person.
Head of lifestyle maintenance.

bonjing
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#4: Post by bonjing »

Synchronika with flow control owner checking in!

All I did was add the bottomless angled portafilter, e&b screen with cafelat 8.5 silicon gasket.

cgibsong002 (original poster)

#5: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

JB90068 wrote:What do want to know? I can offer my thoughts about mine if you like. If you haven't bought one yet, you can stop in at Clive Coffee and check them out in person.
Stopping in at Clive is what landed me here :lol: i was planning on getting a Bianca but it kind of looked and felt like a toy by comparison. Really happy i was lucky enough to get hands on with the machines.

So I've got some rewards points and just looking for some feedback from owners on what upgrades, parts, or accessories they found most useful. I'm definitely going to get the angled ECM bottomless and then probably the 18g VST (which Clive doesn't sell). I'm also currently looking into options for direct plumbing but need to figure out what kind of filtration system i need.

I see others have recommended the shower screen and gasket as well but to me it looks like those aren't really needed until they start to go bad?

Other than parts and stuff, always nice to see tips and tricks. Any info on the boiler temp calibrations on these? Is the set temp fairly reliable with actual temp or should i go through the boiling point test?

bobkat
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#6: Post by bobkat »

BaristaBoy E61 wrote:My best advice is to feed it with non-scaling water from the time you fill up the reservoir for the first time and forever thereafter!
This is excellent advice. I should be getting my Synchronika next week. I plan to feed it only R Pavlis water made with a gallon of distilled water and .4 grams of potassium bicarbonate.

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JB90068
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#7: Post by JB90068 »

Ok, I can tell you what I did and maybe it will help with some of your decisions. Keep in mind, these are just my opinions...

Baristaboy made a very good point about filtered water. Not sure how hard the water is in Portland, but I do know from my experience from my house in Hood River, that there is a lot of silica there. You should be able to look up what the hardness is by going to your water utility and checking there. I'm sure the folks at Clive would also be able to tell you. With that in mind, that will help with your decision on what to buy. I plumbed mine in and I went with a BWT Bestmax filter kit. I got the inline pressure reducer because ECM advocates that you have no more than 30 psi (2 bars) coming into your Sync. At our house here in L.A. we have almost 80 psi. I also got the Aquameter to keep track of how many liters have gone through the filter. This may be unnecessary for you, but since I never remember to change batteries in the smoke detectors, I figure I might miss changing out the filter. As far as plumbing out the waste line from the drip tray, there are a couple of ways to do it. You can use the plastic tray that comes with your Sync and to that addd a 5/8 I.D. hose to your sinks drain. I've found that that plastic drip tray is small and I'm concerned that it might overflow, so there are other ways to do it. One is to get an elbow that ECM makes and mount it to the bottom of the chrome drip tray. Two drawbacks on this: The part is really hard to find. Nobody except Jet Black in Australia seems to have it as of last month. The part #'s are P7020 & P7021. Also, if you want to pull the tray out to clean in your sink, you have to have a quick disconnect fitting placed within a few inches of the the elbow. The second way is to get a larger drip tray 3D printed. This replaces the plastic one that comes with your Sync and allows the chrome tray to flow into. This takes a lot more volume.

ECM Synchronika drain pan upgrade - Espresso machine drain plumbing

You might also want to invest in a flood / shutoff alarm to be plumbed into all of this.

Baskets:
I immediately went out and bought VST 18 and 20 gram baskets for my bottomless and double portafilters. I think I got mine from Amazon. I used the ECM shower screen once and replaced it with an IMS. No regrets there.

I can't say that I'm super fond of the two hole steamer tip that comes stock. You can get 3 or 4 hole ones from Clive that don't cost much or you can get a steam tip made by Weber Workshop. If you aren't familiar with Weber, don't go there because it will give you a bad case of upgradeitis.

Boiler temp is dependent on what sort of roast you like. I set mine at 200 F. because I like medium to light roasts and the local roaster that I buy my beans from suggested it. Seems to work well for me. Check with the place you get your beans from since they will have taken out most of the trial and error. FWIW - Should you ever go to Hood River, look up 10 Speed Coffee. I love their roast.

You may or may not need need to get a wifi timer plug to warm your machine up in the morning. I find that mine gets up to speed in 15 - 20 minutes.

Not sure what you are doing for a grinder - but that's a whole other discussion.

Hope this helps.
Head of lifestyle maintenance.

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dsc106

#8: Post by dsc106 »

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.

- I got Decent Espresso accessories. Went for their precision baskets over VST. I can't compare but they seem excellent. One of the reasons for this was for compatibility with their Decent Tamper, which allows you to perfectly/repeatability control tamping - it is both pressure controlled and auto leveling. I also got their dosing funnel, which I prefer for dosing my grinds vs using the Niche Zero cup upside down in the basket. While I can do this, it also creates more clumping. The gentle slide via the dosing funnel is better. I then use the Decent WDT tool. This tool helped me get MUCH better shots. I have the OCD levelling tool as well. I have seen more come out against these, and I am not sure it is neccessary (Decent even advises against it these days).

- Yes to the bottomless PF, I use it 100% of the time. The single spout has a blank disk in it full time for water backflushing after each shot. The double spout is my backup if I want to split a shot with a guest. I got two 18g and two 20g baskets from Decent Espresso because those are the ones I use, and that way, I don't have to swap baskets when I want to use the bottomless PF and double spouted. It's a small price for the convenience. Another lesson was I bought all of the PF basket sizes from Decent. Don't. You really only need 18g and 20g, IMO. Single shots don't pull very well. Maybe I'll use my larger baskets for spro-over now that I have a flow control.

- I got the 3+4 hole tips from Clive but I've never swapped out from the 2 hole tip. I bet I would if I was steaming higher volumes of milk but I make cortados, cappuccinos, and occasionally an 8oz latte. The 2 hole tip is plenty fast for that. I will experiment with my 3/4 hole tips later, but haven't even had the desire yet.

- I got the IMS shower screen and Cafelat red and blue gaskets. For me, I use the blue gasket. The shower screen did seem to make a difference to me and is worth the $20 to experiment. You don't need to replace the gasket right away, may as well use the stock one for a few months.

- Installing a new gasket is a PIA! Tough to get in/out. I didn't love the idea of using molykote food safe lube in there, because it still felt weird to me. You can put the gasket in the freezer for 20 minutes to cause it to contract, and install it into the machine when it's fully heated (as things slightly expand). This trick has made installing a new gasket much easier.

- I got the Niche Zero and have been very happy with it as a grinder with my ECM Synchronika.

- I am on a coffee subscription with Coava here in Portland. I have found that a temp of 199F and ~5 seconds of line level pre-infusion, followed by full pressure, has made great shots. The line level pre-infusion helps a lot. I just picked up a flow control and am looking forward to playing around with that. Because I found the pre-infusion so helpful to a better shot, I am excited to see what the flow control allows for. There are a lot of variables up front, I thought I had a very strong handle on it, but the reality is head knowledge isn't comfort and flow. I'd recommend adding the flow control after you are 100% comfortable on the machine stock, it's just another thing to worry about. Adding it later is very easy.

- Spending so much $$ on the machine, I had a lot of stress on breaking the thing. And I still do at times, lol. As I've learned more and more, fears are constantly more alleviated. Questions were how often to backflush, can I backflush too long and break the pump, will I cause scale accidently, am I using too much line pressure from the plumbed in, and many more. Every time the answer has essentially been... "you're fine." The ECM with it's rotary pump and great build quality removes a lot of the stress from cheaper machines. I didn't see the Bianca in person but it's interesting to hear your assessment. All I can say is I've seen endless things on how the Synchronika is extremely well engineered and repairable.

- 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? ;)

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JB90068
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#9: Post by JB90068 »

I agree with everything that Ben just wrote.

A few things that I would also add based on what he said:

I use my bottomless filter !00% of the time as well. Only recently did I buy a mirror to sit on the drip tray because honestly, I still like watching the shot come out. The mirror makes it really easy to view the filter. It's also good to have because I always check the shower screen when I wipe everything down after I'm done. If it has some grinds on it, I see it every time.

Back flushing:
To me, it's a necessary evil and consumes more time than I'd like. My understanding is that it doesn't affect the the pump, because the water is flowing into the drip pan as long as you have it on. One way to check is if you have flow control, you can see what the head pressure is on the gauge. My way around the workflow issue was to get a Spring Clean from Weber Workshops. Makes the process fast and easy and I find I'm more inclined to do regular back flushes than I was before. It's a two step process instead of 10 or more.The critics will tell you it's not worth the money, but if you have some extra coin and want to make this step a no brainer, then check it out. For me, it was worth the cost...

You guys are fortunate in PDX having soft water. LA on the other hand has hard water and my best option was the BWT. Ben just saved you a bunch of $$$. I've heard from a few different sources that if you pull a cup or two a day of water from your steam boiler, that cuts down on mineral issues. My wife and I like our cups nice and warm, so I fill them both with hot water around the time I'm grinding our shots. I pull four shots a day, so this way I'm getting more water turnover than if I was just steaming milk. Solves both problems that way.

Maybe I got lucky with my drip tray. No play or wobble what so ever, but as in Ben's case, I've heard of others having the same issue. Hopefully you will get a good one too.

One more thing: you might want to get a micro fiber cloth to keep the chrome really nice and clean. Other cloths can add micro scratches to the finish and since it looks so great to begin with, you will probably always want it looking it's best.

Cheers.
Head of lifestyle maintenance.

dsc106

#10: Post by dsc106 »

JB - thanks for this post! Weber Spring Clean looks very interesting (and a clever name, too). And 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.