Have I caused scale build up in my steam boiler by not purging the water?

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dsc106

#1: Post by dsc106 »

Direct plumbed ECM Synchronika (dual boiler e61) via a homeland water filter from Clive. Clive's official statement is that you don't really need to descale your machine if you are using their filter, and plus, I live in Portland, OR where the water is very soft. Near 30ppm BEFORE filtration. So very, very low TDS.

However, one thing I recently discovered that no one ever mentioned was the potential for mineral build up in the steam boiler if you do not use the hot water wand frequently. I very, very rarely use the hot water dispenser. Maybe 32oz in an entire year, 2-3oz at a time, every couple weeks. Not much. I've had the machine for about a year now.

I recently decided to use the hot water and noticed a mildly yellow-ish tint to the water - close to a very pale amber. It was mild, but noticeable. The best theory I could find for this was that since I am only using my steam wand, and at that multiple times a week, the pure mineral-free H2O was evaporating into steam, leaving behind only minerals that were never released out of the water in liquid form. Those, my water turned the slight yellow color from all the minerals left behind.

And it's come to my attention that, despite having very soft water and a filtered plumbed in machine, this could cause scale build up?? So, now I am a bit frazzled about my $3k machine.

(1) Have I caused harm?
(2) Have I caused scale build up that is in need of a descale?
(3) Clive doesn't recommend descaling your own machine... thoughts on the need for a descale?

I since flushed a 1 liter out of the hot water wand and the water from the steam boiler is now running clear, but I am concerned I left scale deposits in the boiler and that I could harm my machine.

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dsc106 (original poster)

#2: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

And, I just found this from Whole Latte Love:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR1RLPVYza8

Since I am using Clive's homeland water filter, which doesn't remove calcium, and since I never knew to empty the steam boiler like in the video on a regular basis, here I am one year later. Have I done damage, and if so, how much, and what do I need to do to remedy such?

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BaristaBoy E61

#3: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

You should be OK, I wouldn't worry too much. It's a good idea to preheat your cups with hot water from the hot water spigot before pulling a shot. That way you'll be flushing the steam boiler regularly.

Disassembling the hot water spigot's filter/aerator might also give you an indication of scale in the steam boiler if you find scale deposits collected on top of the filter. Slow or lower flow out of the hot water spigot would also be an indicator of scale build up.

Given the age of your machine I doubt you have gotten yourself into any trouble. It would be a good idea to periodically test your water quality.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

dsc106 (original poster)

#4: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Thanks for the reply. I test water quality quarterly, but it's always very low. I think Portland officially says TDS is 7-8ppm and my test strips just show a range. With the water filter in front of it, I suspect water is very soft. I haven't noticed any water flow problems, I don't think... but everything was so new to me I don't really have a baseline to compare to, so I can't be sure.

Carmd1281

#5: Post by Carmd1281 »

You have not done harm. Dual boiler helps in the your flow path is simple and does not involve the e61 brew head. I would recommend purging completely several times. Each time let the steam boiler warm up for 30 minutes or so. Then open the hot water valve until no more water comes out.

I have a dual boiler as well and am in MYC where water quality is good. No matter what when you use steam you are leaving behind the minerals that were in the water. They build up quickly if you use steam daily. I tend to flush about once a week and you can see the white minerals left behind if you let the water cool and the sediment settle to the bottom. I open my steam boiler about once a year and pour in Urex or citric acid mixture, then close it and turn it on until it comes up to temp, then shut it down and open it again, use a siphon hose to empty the boiler, fill and flush with the siphon a few times before finally closing back up and letting it come up to temp then purging through the hot water valve. That clears out most sediment left behind and cleans the element.

Note turning off you machine and then back on also helps clear the heating element as well. As the heating element heats and cools the elements expands and contracts breaking off built up scale. If the machine is constantly left on this does not happen.
Carm
New York, NY

JRising

#6: Post by JRising »

Take out your level probe and look at it. If it's shiny, then everything's shiny. :D

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BaristaBoy E61

#7: Post by BaristaBoy E61 » replying to JRising »


+1

I'm sure this is true!
Why? Because I've been there.
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Nunas
Supporter ♡

#8: Post by Nunas »

At 30 ppm overall TDS before filtering, I'm sure you don't have a problem. As others have suggested, and as I do with my Synchronika, you need to use the boiler water regularly. About once a month, I dump the boiler through the hot water wand just after using the machine (switched off) and let it refill on the next cold-start use. My drinking water system runs at about 25 ppm and I've never had a problem, either with my Magiseter (HX) or my Synk.

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homeburrero
Team HB

#9: Post by homeburrero »

I agree with others here that at your low hardness you have done no damage. If your level probe indicates scale, then you could remedy that with a steam boiler descaling. If you only have light scale deposits in the boiler, and if down the road you do a periodic purge or flush as advised by others on this thread, that scale will dissolve over time.


dsc106 wrote:The best theory I could find for this was that since I am only using my steam wand, and at that multiple times a week, the pure mineral-free H2O was evaporating into steam, leaving behind only minerals that were never released out of the water in liquid form.
Your theory here is spot on. Here's some discussion related to that: Using hot water tap to manage steam boiler water concentration


dsc106 wrote:Since I am using Clive's homeland water filter, which doesn't remove calcium, and since I never knew to empty the steam boiler like in the video on a regular basis, here I am one year later. Have I done damage, and if so, how much, and what do I need to do to remedy such?
The Clive Homeland filter does remove calcium very effectively. Your Portland water has very little calcium to start with, and that filter will drop it even lower, so you should be fine despite neglecting to purge your steam boiler. Doing a periodic purge or flush as advised by others will be a good idea. If you are curious about how concentrated that water has gotten you can pull some water from the hot water tap, let it cool to room temp, then check it with your TDS meter.
Pat
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BaristaMcBob

#10: Post by BaristaMcBob »

If you're not using the hot water wand regularly, it's not possible for minerals to build up. Where would the minerals come from if you are not replenishing the water in the boiler? Running the hot water wand unnecessarily is exactly the wrong thing to do if you're worried about scale. A daily "flushing" is actually just adding a fresh supply of calcium to your boiler.

Otherwise, I don't know what the yellow stuff is. If it were me, I'd just speak to the tech people at Clive or wherever you purchased that (very nice) machine.

Good luck!