Boiler PID Sensor Problems with 3rd Wave Water - Page 2

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.
shotwell

#11: Post by shotwell »

another_jim wrote:Let me be a little blunter: these problems are the result of human error.

A water whisperer mixing up chemical packets at home and selling them on line. Then you mixing these into a jug of water ... This is not a manufacturing process that will deliver consistent results. What are the chances that there's an oops somewhere along the line, and you'll get 1/10th or 10 times the minerals you want?

So if you mix your water, always check the result with a TDS meter. This is exactly the same as running a reverse osmosis system with bypass or remineralization. You need to check the result to see that the manufacturing process is on target.
Not to be contrarian, but have you or anyone measured the results of water treated with TWW packets? I don't use them so don't have a dog in the fight but I don't personally believe it is fair to be calling TWW out like that without some kind of evidence beyond the claims made by a retailer's service department and an intuition that their manufacturing process is inconsistent. If you or someone else has done at least preliminary testing, that would be helpful for people to know.

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Bluenoser

#12: Post by Bluenoser »

another_jim wrote:Let me be a little blunter: these problems are the result of human error.

A water whisperer mixing up chemical packets at home and selling them on line. Then you mixing these into a jug of water ... This is not a manufacturing process that will deliver consistent results. What are the chances that there's an oops somewhere along the line, and you'll get 1/10th or 10 times the minerals you want?

So if you mix your water, always check the result with a TDS meter. This is exactly the same as running a reverse osmosis system with bypass or remineralization. You need to check the result to see that the manufacturing process is on target.
Yes.. everyone should have a $20 TDS meter .. after I mix my TWW and 5 gal, I check the TDS to ensure that it doesn't exceed about 75 ppm.. I also periodically check my RO water. I only get my RO from a single source because it consistently measures below 5. I was trying out a major grocery stores but they were measuring between 50 and 100. When I mix my 5 gal or RO with the espresso brand of TWW, I get between 60 and about 90 on the TDS meter. If one is seeing silver flakes in the machine, I'm thinking that undissolved crystals might be getting in..

I dont think Jim is criticizing TWW water crystals, but the human error which can happen when we humans use them incorrectly. I would think (hope) TWW is pretty consistent in what they put in their packets of chemicals. But they can't control if someone uses the non-espresso (classic) blend, which does contain chemicals that will cause scale; or mixes the wrong concentrate or the solution is not fully dissolved.
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bigdaub

#13: Post by bigdaub »

another_jim wrote:There have been a rash of complaints about steam boilers with PID controls going overpressure.

According to Jim P at 1st Line, this is not a manufacturing problem -- he's been getting this complaint all summer for his entire range of machines with PIDed boilers. His service department thinks there are several 3rd wave water recipes that create this problem since they appear to foul or film the thermocouples used for the PID sensors. Distilled or extreme RO water also cause overpressure problems by defeating the autofill controls.

So if you experience this problem and you are using a 3rd wave or super low mineral recipe, please go with natural waters that have normal calcium and magnesium balances, rather than using sodium or potassium recipes. If you are worried about scaling, dilute the water with distilled, or use a softener.

Simple instructions: 1) use a water softener. or 2) Mix your filtered tap water and distilled water to get between 50 to 75 ppm TDS. This will prevent scaling, allow the machines electronics to operate normally, and make very good coffee. TDS meters cost about $10 on Amazon; they are absolutely worth the money. For fancy instructions: go to the water forum and read the FAQs.
Taylor with Third Wave Water here. I would love to drill down on this some more, maybe you can PM me Jim's information.

As far as film goes, it can be from dirty RO system or storage tanks. Biofilm is naturally in the water and RO systems need routinely sanitized to cut down on biofilm growth. I have seen biofilm growth sluff off and clog up pump per-filters and valves.

If there is component in a machine that is corroding, oxidizing or scaling it would be good to track it down and determine the cause. Then we can determine if its a problem with either (or a combination) the water chemistry, machine materials, user error or some unknown unknown.

Auctor

#14: Post by Auctor »

At the risk of coming across as dense, I'm not sure how a TDS monitor would help you with Third Wave if the ultimate issue is the uniform mixture and solubility of the additives put into distilled water. For example, I own a pool - if I put Calcium or acid into the pool on one end, or even dose it evenly across the entirely of the pool, the reading I take is only accurate after the pool pump actually mixes the pool for xx amount of time (an hour, for instance).

Bringing us back to coffee, unless Third Wave tells us exactly what the PPM, or MG/liter of TDS is the goal of their cocktail, it's not possible to know whether your TDS read tells you if your particular water sample is ready for consumption since you aren't targeting a specific measure given to you by Third Wave. And then let's leave aside the fact that TDS alone is not a valid measure, since the things that create scale (e.g. Calcium) may not even be in the TDS espresso mix.

I think I've poked the bear a bit here, so I'll stand down. I'm a longtime lurker here and just wanted to shed some light on an experience I thought was relevant to this thread.

On preview, Taylor, I'd be happy to share my experience with you if that's helpful.

bigdaub

#15: Post by bigdaub » replying to Auctor »

In short our target TDS is 150 mg/l or ppm when measured with a basic salinity TDS meter. I'll PM you for your details.

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another_jim (original poster)
Team HB

#16: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

Here is a blog posted recipe for making SCA water. It is accurate; but crazy-sloppy. I am not linking but quoting in full to protect the guilty:
So how do you make water? Well if you know chemistry, you combine hydrogen and oxygen and you get the H2O. But for making coffee, that's only part of the equation. What I'll show you how to do today is remineralize pure distilled or reverse osmosis water to create a brew water that falls within the SCA standard acceptable ranges.

Again, this is a simplified method that does not require scales, exotic or expensive chemicals or specialized equipment. In fact everything you need you may already have or it's all available at low cost in most any grocery stores. Now I want to reiterate this is basic-level water quality manipulation. It will get you water that falls within the SCA spec. But believe me, it can get much more complex with more specialized equipment and additional additives.

What You Need!
So what do you need? Pretty simple stuff: 2 gallons of distilled water, baking soda, epsom salt, 2 empty 1 liter containers, a teaspoon and half teaspoon measure, a funnel and something to measure milliliters - I'm using a Rattleware shot pitcher for that. At my grocery store, the distilled water is 89 cents a gallon, Baking soda was 99 cents and the epsom salt was two 99. Down the road, beyond the distilled water the epsom salt and baking soda cost is less than 1 cent per gallon of water made. So for me, going forward I can make a gallon of water for less than ninety cents.

The Process
So here we go! To start, fill each 1 liter container with a liter of distilled water. You can eye it, measure or if you have a scale weigh it with 1 liter equal to one thousand grams.

Label one bottle magnesium/hardness and label the other alkalinity/buffer. These bottles will contain concentrates we'll use to dose our gallon of water. Now I know I'm mixing metric and imperial measurements. But don't worry, if your distilled water comes in metric containers, in a minute I'll have a chart with dosing measurements for those as well.

To the alkalinity/buffer bottle add a half teaspoon of baking soda. Put the cap on and shake to mix. The baking soda is actually sodium bicarbonate and will dissolve very easily. Be sure you're using baking soda and not baking powder.

To the magnesium/hardness bottle add two and a quarter teaspoons of the epsom salt. I don't have a quarter teaspoon measure so I'm estimating a bit using the half teaspoon. When it's all in cap and shake. It may take a little shaking and mixing to get it all to dissolve. Epsom salt is Magnesium sulfate and is providing the minerals for our water in the form of magnesium.

The one liter concentrate of magnesium is enough to dose about 15 gallons of brew water and the alkalinity/buffer concentrate will dose about 5 gallons.

Next step is to open the gallon of distilled water and pour off 1 cup or 250 milliliters. That is about how much of the 2 part concentrates I'll adding back in.

Now to the distilled water add 63 milliliters of the magnesium/hardness concentrate.

Then add 185 milliliters of the alkalinity/buffer concentrate. Using my Rattleware shot glass I'm filling 3 times to the 60ml line and then another 15ml's to get to 185.

With those in, put the cap on, give it a shake to mix, and you're done.

Conclusion
Just remember to pour off an amount of distilled water equal to the amount of concentrates you will be adding back in. And, don't worry if you are off by a milliliter or two with the concentrates you will still be well within the SCA acceptable ranges. Now if you want to be super accurate and you have a gram scale, you can weigh the concentrates. The metric system makes that easy with 1 milliliter equal to 1 gram for our purposes.


If you really want to use the SCA recipe (see below), weigh and measure with a TDS meter, don't just casually eyeball ingredients. If you have ever baked, you know that a finely ground powder can be twice as dense when hard packed as when loosely packed.

Now my beef with the SCA recipe; it half sucks and is half unnecessary. The suck part: Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and sulfates are classified by the EPA as secondary contaminants in drinking water. They are permissible up to 250 ppm, but personally, I would prefer water without any sulfates in them. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate; which is what is produced by ion exchange salt softeners from the calcium and magnesium carbonate in regular water with a lot less trouble. In short, the SCA recipe is 50% snake oil, and 50% selling ice to Eskimos.
Jim Schulman

Bluenoser

#17: Post by Bluenoser »

No.. the cheap TDS meter is not intended, nor can it determine if your 75ppm is parts that will cause scale.. But it can be used to tell if your RO water has been properly filtered.. Good RO water shouldn't have anything in it, so your TDS should measure near zero. Zero anything.. so this makes sure you don't have stuff in there you don't know..

Now if you assume TWW uses non-scaling chemicals, then measuring the post mixture TDS of 75 will ensure you've mixed properly and have the correct concentration..

For me, using TWW, is a bit of a no-brain thing.. To truly ensure you are using good water, you'd start with distilled have all your own chemicals and go at it.. Which many do.. I just find the TWW thing 'good enough' for me. Buying distilled in my rural area isn't as cheap as some places.. and I don't want the hassle of putting in my own water system.

But the TDS does have a very useful purpose.. even though it can't tell what is in the water.

As mentioned above.. I have noticed biofilm in my machine from time to time.. In particular, in the water tank.. and in the teflon steam tube. The water tank is easy to fix.. just empty and sanitize/clean every few months.. I recently removed my teflon steam tube and noticed it was basically brown/black.. I likely could have cleaned it, but didn't have the right thin implement and ended up destroying it.. But I was removing it anyway for better steam. A burn type steam wand is not really a detriment to me.. I mostly push it in one positions and then don't touch it much.. just clean it thoroughly directly after steaming.

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ira
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#18: Post by ira »

Not to be a naysayer, but how does the hardness of water affect a PID, unless the boiler is so scaled the PID pickup is insulated from the water. It makes no sense to me and I guess it reinforces my belief that one should always have a pressurestat inline with a PID.

Ira

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another_jim (original poster)
Team HB

#19: Post by another_jim (original poster) »

It's not scale that's the problem; these recipes do not scale. The problem is likely some oddball kind of corrosion or chemical reaction that affects the sheathing on the thermocouples. If this is the case, my bet is that the culprit is likely to be the Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) that is used in the SCA recipe.

Calcium and magnesium carbonate are found in all natural water. Sodium is added by ion exchange softeners that have been used for decades. Sulfate, on the other hand, is both a new idea, and has never been present in regular water, since it is classed as a contaminant. Moreover, it's not a regular kitchen ingredient either; its traditional household use is as a bath salt and constipation remedy. I was astonished to see it used in a coffee water recipe.
Jim Schulman

ira
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#20: Post by ira »

But don't the sensors sit in stainless steel sheaths or thermowells?

Ira