Brand new La Pavoni Professional: the steam smells funny

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#1: Post by Happicup »

Hi everyone. I'm a budding coffee nerd. My first post here.

I just bought a La Pavoni Professional. Hopefully there are many happy days ahead. Yey!

Concerning me though is the smell of the steam. It smells kind of like cotton being ironed, and it affects the taste of the milk. Bad enough that I'm using the stove to heat milk.

Looking for a cause, I scraped my finger on the inside of the boiler (when it was cool of course), and found my finger to be covered in a fine black smudge (see photo). I'm suspecting this is machine oil.

What do I do?

(I have already "commissioned" the machine as per the instruction manual with baking soda)


#2: Post by Seacoffee »

Commission it again.

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#3: Post by rpavlis »

From the picture it seems that you have the unplated machine. I think that the ideal one because it avoids rusting and peeling plating except on the handle. It is also amazingly beautiful, especially to an espresso lover! The inside of the boiler which is copper, should become coated with CuO in time which is black. It adheres tightly to the metal, so the black deposit you are getting is not that. The CuO provides a protective layer. I suspect that you are correct--the bad smell and black film you see is left from manufacture.

I have had problems like this. My solution was to drain all water from the boiler and add about 125 mL of 190 proof ethyl alcohol--95% and swirl it around with the cap on, and invert it to let the alcohol cover everything, and then drain out the alcohol. Then rinse with sodium bicarbonate solution, then rinse with plain water. There really are not any other safe solvents here. I would avoid getting alcohol on the external brass and copper coating. (My boiler was coated with coffee oils from seal failure when I did this, the alcohol worked fine for that. I would not leave the alcohol stand for a long time in the machine, just swirl it around to be sure everything inside the boiler is wet with the ethanol.) You should not use denatured alcohol, because of the toxic things deliberately added to it.


#4: Post by pacificmanitou »

Where does one buy such a high proof? :shock:

In my area, at least, anything over 100 proof is denatured. I can get 70%-90%, but it'd be denatured or isopropyl.
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Happicup (original poster)

#5: Post by Happicup (original poster) »

Thanks for advice.

Last night, I followed the "commision it again" advice before i received the "alcohol wash advice": there was some improvement. So I "commissioned" it twice more.


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#6: Post by rpavlis »

You can usually get 95% alcohol in stores that sell alcoholic beverages. Oddly it does not cost much more around here than denatured alcohol. They tend to sell it as "grain alcohol" or "Everclear" (I suspect that people who buy it to drink must use it to mix drinks rather than drink it straight!) Most other solvents that dissolve oils and the like are highly toxic. When one tries to use soapy water to remove oily contaminants, it is VERY difficult to get the soap or detergent out of the system system again. (Avoid leaving alcohol in contact with metals for long periods of time, it can be quite corrosive toward certain metals.)


#7: Post by pacificmanitou »

rpavlis wrote:They tend to sell it as "grain alcohol" or "Everclear" (I suspect that people who buy it to drink must use it to mix drinks rather than drink it straight!)
I would hope they dilute it somehow.

I suppose I'll have to check the liquor store and see if I can get some. It would be good to have on hand next time I clean out my boiler.

I imagine it would also sanitize, giving me peace of mind on e-bay purchases
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