Pump/shot timer restarted mid shot?

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dsc106

#1: Post by dsc106 »

I edited this original post to make things more clear.


*****EDIT SUMMARY******


Making a quick/easy summary of the thread as of Thursday 12/2 so anyone new may be able to help more easily:

- 15 month old ECM Synchronika, direct plumbed via homeland water softening filter. Tap TDS is 35. The TDS from brewhead is also ~30-35. Machine on WEMO plug, on for 16 hours a day every day.

- 6 months ago (9 months into ownership), I noticed water from my hot water dispenser (stemming from steam boiler) was yellow tinted. TDS 260ppm. I never used the hot water wand, I always steamed milk only, so the evaporative effect caused mineral build up in the boiler. I remedied by draining boiler and now I purge some water from the hot water spout every use. TDS is now consistenly in line.

- 1-2 months ago my steam boiler pressure gauge started ping-ponging - or at least, I started noticing it. I believe it used to simply hold pressure where it was set (ie 2 bars). It started to fluctuate more, dropping pressure, then coming back up to maintain, each time with a "hissss" sound. It was intermittent at first, becoming ever more frequent. In the last few weeks, perhaps once a minute. Then twice a minute. Most recently, every 15 seconds. Basically pressure up, pressure down, pressure up, pressure down. Hisss... Hissss.... Hissss...

- This week, while pulling a shot the pump reset/hiccuped midway through. Almost like a brown-out or quick power loss (though the home experienced non). Shot timer started over from 0 seconds halfway through shot.

- Next day, a few hours after auto power on via the WEMO, came down for coffee. Some condensation within the pump pressure gauge. Pulled a shot, steamed milk, all was fine. While sitting having coffee, the pump on the machine turned on randomly, pump pressure was reading at 10 bar. Had to flip up the brew lever and flip back down, pump de-activated, no re-occurrence.

- Today, I used the machine without the steam boiler for about 1 hour. No issues electronically or with hissing noise or condensation. Perhaps more time would tell if an issue, just wanted to see if my theory (see below) may have something to it.

WORKING THEORY:

- Steam boiler calcification caused vacuum break/vacuum relief valve to get stuck partially open, and progress to a fail state of open
- Steam is constantly being released and reheating, meaning the plastic tubing is getting a lot of heat with machine on in this state for 16 hours a day.
- The T tubing in this plastic tube, or the tube itself, has worn down with heat and become brittle, causing a leak.
- Condensation leaking from tube into nearby machine internals, which on the Synchronika, just so happens to be right be the pump pressure gauge and the pump switch. See internal video breakdown @ 18 minutes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3IHsA_y1n8 and @ 21-25 min of same video for the switch. You can see how close the tub is to the gauge and switch.
- Moisture (or minerals) on the pump electronic switch have caused it to act flakey, but there is no permament damage to electronics. If I wipe down the connections there and resolve the leak, replace the tubing, clean or replace vacuum relief valve, leak will resolve, and no further interference with electronics

CONCERNS:

- Possibly more significant damage to electronics that will require a replacement? (I would think I'd be having more issues if this was the case)
- Premature calcification of steam boiler that is more serious, not just the relief valve? (seems unlikely given timing/facts)

OTHER NOTES:

- Pattern above could potentially be misleading, I present the pattern based on my theory. I suppose it's possible the steam boiler issue is completely non related and only coincidental.
- I had the machine off for one month before I started noticing the issues, at least more seriously. I am assuming that is unrelated.
- I installed flow control and lubed brew lever about a month ago before I started noticing the issues, at least more seriously. I am assuming this is also unrelated and coincidental.


More info follows in thread, just wanted to give a summarized version of the issue.


//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////



ORIGINAL POST

ECM Synchronika, direct plumbed, flow control device. Mid way through a flow control shot - about 25 seconds into what was planned as a ~50 second pull, the machine "hiccuped" and resumed. It was like the pump stopped for a microsecond or something and picked back up. The shot timer also reset and started counting from zero again. I have never seen this behavior before.

When I removed the portafilter, the puck was mostly stuck to the shower screen - almost as if there was a reverse suction. I had tamped as normal (Decent calibrated tamper) and have never seen that happen.

What could have caused this? Possible machine malfunction? Low pressure in the water line due to dishwasher? Power interruption (I had no signs anywhere else of a power interruption - no light flicker or clocks or anything). What really gets me is it wasn't just an interruption where the steam boiler calls for water, nothing like that happen. Just a quick hiccup and the timer reset and it kept going.

If it matters, the first 15 seconds of the shot were low flow around 3g/sec, then ramped up to full flow. It was shortly after the ramp up to full flow that this happen.

JRising

#2: Post by JRising »

If you can recreate it by pressing to the left on your lever (basically moving the cam a millimeter away from the switch) then it is possible your switch is only barely made. You could consider moving the switch forward unless it's perfect for pre-infusion where it is. I've always thought the cams should be a little more extreme on machines where it's possible to push the cam away from the switch, but I don't think that's the priority to fix on those machines.
It is more likely an electronic glitch that occurred, but that probably isn't going to be repairable by a simple adjustment, so I mentioned the switch.

dsc106 (original poster)

#3: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Tested the brew lever and it seems to be just fine.

Suspected maybe a random power brown out, but I don't think that's it either based on today...

Today I used the machine and it did not replicate glitching mid shot. But after using and machine was still just sitting there, pump randomly turned on without being touched. Boiler pressure gauge shot up closer to 10 bar. Strangely no water came out of grouphead, it just was running the pump. I opened the brew lever and water came out of the group, closed the brew lever and then it stopped.

What would have happen if left unattended?! In fact it may have happen unattended because I have the machine on a WEMO plug and it's been on for hours before I went downstairs.

Perhaps related or unrelated, this AM I noticed condensation in my brew boiler pressure gauge which did not used to be there...

Really bummed right now, machine is only barely over a year old. Still under warranty but I don't understand why I am having these issues on such a new unit. I do leave it powered on for 18 hours a day but I heard that was fine and common...

JRising

#4: Post by JRising »

Sounds like you do have an electronic issue. If the pump gauge went to 10, then it wasn't just a boiler top-up. If a gauge is leaking, you should probably have the retailer repair it or set you up with somewhere that will repair it, before warranty ends.

User avatar
cafeIKE
Supporter ★

#5: Post by cafeIKE »

How old is the machine?

Have you checked connections inside?

You may have a water leak causing havoc

dsc106 (original poster)

#6: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

Thanks all. Machine is 15 months old so I guess it's just out of warranty which is frustrating.

CafeIke - yes... see following:

My steam boiler pressure gauge has over the last 1-2 months increased in ping ponging. It used to hold steady at the pressure set (ie 2 bar). Then it would intermittently drop to 1.5 bar and refill every few minutes, then every 1 minute. Now it does this several times a minute. Each time there is a hiss sound. It happened so slowly I didn't think much of it and wasn't sure if I was imagining things.

My theory is the vacuum relief valve has failed open and is letting off a lot of steam, and that a small leak has occurred somewhere - maybe the tubing or that T joint, which on the Synchronika just so happens to sit right by the brew boiler gauge and above the pump switch.

As far as cause, I don't know. Random? Or perhaps tied to not knowing to drain my steam boiler on a semi frequent basis via the hot water wand to prevent concentration of minerals? 6 months ago I discovered the water was yellowish with a TDS of 260 coming from the hot water wand. (33 TDS from brewhead. Yes I'm plumbed with a homeland filter, and my tap is soft to start with). I since remedied the issue and now pull water out of steam boiler regularity, but perhaps it caused mineral build up on the vacuum relief breaker?

///

Thanks a lot for the help. I am concerned that there's a chance it's caused more damage than just a little shorting by the pump switch, though the Synchronika seems well shielded and designed. Very frustrating for such a new machine and to be just out of warranty.

dsc106 (original poster)

#7: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

I'll also add to this, I keep the machine on 16 hours a day. So, perhaps 1-2 months of a small steam leak exasperated what otherwise would not have caused this? And/or perhaps the residual heat of machine + excessive steam release could have caused tubing to become prematurely brittle?

dsc106 (original poster)

#8: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

OK - one more additional thought/inquiry, this one is more a theoretical question of hope. This AM I used the machine with the steam boiler OFF, only brew boiler. I didn't keep it on too long, just over an hour or so. No visible condensation build up in the brew gauge, and no electrical issues. Maybe they would have transpired with more use and longer duration, but this may fit my theory above.

The inquiry/question of hope: I would think a true electrical issue in need of replacement would be consistent, but given that it's only happen twice and didn't replicate today, it makes me wonder if there is no permanent damage, but rather, when steam condensation from this potential leak builds up, if it causes moisture on the pump switch to trigger an electrical connection. Is it possible that this could happen without need for a switch or other electrical replacement? That resolving any moisture leak could solve the whole issue without further need for repair of the gauge or electrical connections?

TallDan

#9: Post by TallDan »

Before you go any farther, please make sure this machine is plugged into a GFCI outlet. If it is not, please stop using it until it is.

Are you comfortable taking the machine apart to troubleshoot and potentially fix it? If so, I'm sure people here can help. If not, it may not be worth discussing here, and you may be better off just sending it in for service.

dsc106 (original poster)

#10: Post by dsc106 (original poster) »

GFCI - yes (as far as I understand, all modern kitchens are required to have GFCI outlets by code, home built 2010). However, I didn't think that a minor leak or internal electrical problem would be a risk from outside of the machine, but I suppose it would conduct just as well to the exterior? Sounds like the machine is a risk to use at all right now?

Comfortable working (unplugged) - yes, to a certain extent. If it's a vacuum breaker/relief valve repair or replacement, or a tubing repair or replacement, that seems easy. The pressure gauge I am guessing would be more involved (but may not be neccessary if my theory is right?) and the electrical system would likely be too much if it needed actual work (though again it may not?)

I suppose at this point, I am interested in popping open the machine to see if my theory may be right and if an easy fix could be in order. If not an easy fix, or my theory is wrong, then sending it to local vendor for work would be in order. I'd like to gather some more info as I feel miffed by this issue so early into the machine's life, especially when I've taken extra precaution to do everything right. The vendor has no information anywhere about regular use of the hot water wand to prevent calcification and I even emailed them to ask about this while still within warranty and they said no need for worry at all as long as I am using the filter... which I believe was false info and may have caused the issue... so if I can find more information on what is happening internally, I would like to ask them to honor the warranty and make the issue right if the root cause of this was steam boiler calcification resulting in a problem with the relief valve.