Will distilled water harm my Elektra Semiautomatica?

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#1: Post by sixty9 »


One of the things i like about my Elektra is that I'm able to put distilled water in my boiler to avoid scaling, and use spring water for my espresso, to get the optimal taste.

Recently though, my local roaster warned me that using distilled water in my boiler can harm my machine. After googling it further i found this article http://www.wholelattelove.com/articles/ ... boiler.cfm which states:
...deionized molecules will attach to and take away whatever ions they come in contact with - often the heating element inside the boiler or the boiler itself. Deionized water has also been linked to the corrosion and pitting of metal components within the boiler.
After further research I found this process is tied to the use of stainless steel. However the Elektra's boiler is brass (not sure about the heating elements).

So i'm wondering if i'm doing more harm than good using distilled water. It was suggested that if i use a water that has the right hardness, then i won't get an scaling, and it won't do the harm that distilled water can cause.



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#2: Post by VeniaCoffee »

Don't use distilled water.

Two things mean the death of an espresso machine, heavy scale and corrosion. Both of these can be addressed almost entirely by the water that is used. If your water is hard, scale will be an issue, potentially fouling solenoids, clogging tubes, and causing heating element failure.

However, a little scale is a good thing and can be beneficial in preventing corrosion from electrolysis. Corrosion will be a big risk when using deionized or distilled water. I am not a metallurgical engineer so I can't answer with certainty your brass boiler question, but I can guarantee that there will be points in any machine where two different types of metals in contact with each other. These areas are prone to galvanic corrosion caused by electrolysis, which is accelerated by using deionized water.

So, no. Don't used deionized water.
Keith Eckert

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#3: Post by VeniaCoffee »

The following is what La Marzocco indicates for water quality in there machines. These numbers are fairly universal. Link can be found here: http://lamarzoccousa.com/docs/tb/LMUSA-Water-Spec.pdf

As of 1-2013
La Marzocco USA Water Specification
Optimally, the water for the espresso machine should have the following
Total Dissolved Solids 150 ppm
Total Hardness 3-5 gpg
Total Alkalinity 80 ppm
pH 7.0 gpg
Calcium Hardness 3-4 gpg
Total Chlorine <0.1 ppm
Free Chlorine <.05
Total Chlorides <30 ppm
Total Iron 0 mg/L
Silica not more than 5 mg/L
Sulfate 25-50 mg/L
Hydrogen Sulfide 0 mg/L
Manganese 0 mg/L
Nitrate 0 mg/L
Keith Eckert

da gino

#4: Post by da gino »

The catch for following LM's water recommendations is that LM's numbers are based on the assumption that the water will be used for espresso because unlike the Semi, none of their machines can use two types of water - one in the steam boiler and one for coffee.

That said, I've always been advised to use distilled in the boiler to protect the machine, but wondered the same thing as the OP - if while there were clearly positives, there were also negatives in terms of health of the machine or not due to things like electrolysis mentioned above.

There are a lot of people on here who have been using distilled for a long time in the boiler and I've never heard of a problem that it caused, but that is an anecdotal observation, not science.

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#5: Post by VeniaCoffee »

These numbers are fairly universal across most manufacturers.

The SCAA also has guidelines for brew water that are not at all related to how water interacts with machines. Distilled water is also not recommended. See link here:

http://scaa.org/PDF/ST%20-%20WATER%20ST ... V2009A.pdf
Keith Eckert

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#6: Post by HB »

I worried a little about metal leeching from distilled water, so I initially filled the Semiautomatica with regular filtered tap water, but otherwise use distilled water for the steam boiler (not the brew water). Since I only make a few cappuccinos per month, one gallon of distilled water lasts almost a year. To keep the mineral content from dropping to zero, I top off the Semiautomatica's steam boiler with regular water every once in awhile. The steam boiler therefore does have some mineral content, but so little that it would need descaling in, I dunno, 10 or 15 years.

I do the same for the Olympia Maximatic, since like the Elektra Semiautomatica, the steam boiler is filled manually. Again, the brew water is filtered tap water and the heat exchanger needs descaling every couple years.
Dan Kehn

sixty9 (original poster)

#7: Post by sixty9 (original poster) »

I've decided to just use my spring water (Mangiatorella) for both boiler and brew. It's rated at 66.5 Total dissolved solids and has a hardness of 2F. It may be a bit soft but i've read conflicting reports on what water is best.

Hopefully the TDS is light enough so that i won't have to scale, but it won't be as harmful as distilled. In any case, based on my taste tests, it makes me the best tasting shots.