ECM Synchronika Complete Rebuild

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

#1: Post by snjsanders »

Synchronika Brew Boiler Rust issues

In November, my Ring water detector alerted me that there was a leak on my Synchronika. I opened it up and found a very small leak from some rusted areas around the seams of the brew boiler. This is the second time I have had a Brew Boiler rust out on me. The first time was in Oct 2020, the machine was about 2 years old and I replaced the rusting Brew Boiler and the motor. Whole Latte Love (WLL) provided the help and parts because it was still under the 3 year warrantee. Here are pictures from inside the brew boiler showing the rust and the damage to the motor.

2020:




Another two year later, and I am once again replacing the brew boiler due to rust. Here is the pictures of the Brew Boiler this time.

2022




I know that the most likely cause of the Brew Boiler rusting is water quality. I am using a BWT Bestmax M water filter with the following results from the La Marzocco water test kit. While all the numbers are not within the ideal range, I don't see anything that would cause multiple brew boiler to rust out every 2 years.
Total Hardness - 40ppm
Total Iron - 0
Free Chlorine - 0
Total Chlorine - 0
Ph - 6.0
Total Alkalinity - 80
Chloride - 112 ppm

I tried ordering the brew boiler from WLL, but they were out of stock, so I ordered from Clive's Coffee. As a side note, WLL is now very busy and they now want you to email Technical support for parts and any help. Unfortunately, its has been my experience that getting ahold of a live person at WLL is very time consuming, difficult and frustrating. However once you do, they are very helpful.

Here is the brand new Brew Boiler I got from Clives and you can already see rust developing on the Stainless Steel surface. I am now coating the metal of the Brew Boiler with Corrosion Block oil to help prevent rust in the future.



Making the decision for a full rebuild and cost analysis

While waiting for the parts, I left the panels off and operated the machine with the small leak. During this time I noticed that the steam pressure was not regulating normally. The pressure would build higher than normal and a few times had to turned the power off to keep the pressure from going critical. Finally, one morning, while making my flat white and still half asleep, the steam pressure safety relief valve blew. It was a significant and memorable event.

Another part that was starting to fail was the Anti vacuum valve. It was sticking and as I was playing with it, the plastic silicon T-fitting cracked into. Because of these additional issue, I decided to do a complete descale and rebuild of the machine. The project would be to completely disassemble both boilers, all pipes, both wands and the E61 group head.

For the rebuild I determined I would need the the following additional parts:
- Brew and steam boiler heating elements and gaskets
- Temperature Sensors
- Anti Vacuum valve
- Silicon Tubing and T- fitting
- Steam Static Relay (Steam over pressure problem)
- Steam filling level control plate
- Steam Safety relief valve
- Motor / Motor feet
- Capillary pressure coil
- Brew Boiler drain plug
- Wand springs
- Wand QS-valves
- Wand Socket Teflon
- E61 springs
- E61 all valves with seals
- E61 Axis brew group
- Pipe return group (explained later)
- Group gaskets 8.5mm
- Various additional gaskets and seals

Before I made the final decision on how extensive my rebuild would be, I had to figure how much it would cost. Shopping the typical US retail vendors the prices for the additional parts was about $1500. After searching for other cheaper alternatives, I stumbled on the Barista E-Shop. It's a Espresso machine shop located in Greece and has an extensive list of machines and spare parts. Bill the owner, is a great guy and will help you with orders and some technical advise. After giving Bill, the same parts list, his price was $500 which included 4 day shipping DHL from Greece. That is 1/3 the price of the same parts from US vendors! Because some of the parts were special ordered, it took almost a month to get the parts from Bill. Other items I ordered from Bill took about 5-7 days. For most parts the shipping rate from Greece on DHL is 30 Euros.

Here is the website and contact info:
https://www.barista.gr/el/
WhatsApp barista.gr #30 694 575 5025


Package from Greece






Here are the additional Tools/ Materials needed for the job.
- Pipe bender tool (I broke a pipe)
- Corrosion Block oil.
- Loctite 567 thread Sealent
- 1/4 inch PTFE high density, high temperature thread tape
- Correct wrenches sizes in mm
- Molykote DOW 111
- Vice


The Rebuild

The ECM Synchronika is a fairly easy machine to work on. I am not a mechanic or someone who is using a wrench very often. Anyone with reasonable mechanical and organisational skills can take this machine apart and put it back together. You will need the ECM parts PDF located here:
https://support.wholelattelove.com/hc/e ... ts-Diagram

Make sure you take pictures of what your doing and mark wires and where they go. I used masking tape to identify what pipes went where and the tape survived the descaling bath. A really great aid for working on the Synchronika are the videos on the WLL website:
https://support.wholelattelove.com/hc/e ... ynchronika

Having a vice was a great tool to have for working on different parts.



The first step was to completely disassemble both wands and E61 to determine which parts needed to be replaced. Anything with a rubber seal or worn was put on the parts list.



Next was the disassembly to the main parts. All parts were then soaked in a descaling solution. I used Millards Citric Acid and it worked great. Depending on the build up I soaked most parts for 12-24 hours.




Once I got all the parts, I started the reassembly process. I used either thread tape and or the 567 Thread sealant on all connections. Use the Molykote on any seals, parts that moves and on the compression fittings. The biggest issue I had was that somehow I bent the Brew Boiler return pipe. This pipe is hard to bend so I have no ideal how I did it.



I was in a hurry to get the machine back together so I used the vice and vice grips to reshape. It worked great till I realised that I cracked the ferrel compression fitting.



This is where I spent about 2 hours on the phone with WLL to order the part. I figured it would be way cheaper and quicker than spending $20 for a pipe and $30 for shipping if I ordered from Greece. In retrospect, the cost difference plus 2 hours of my life, I should have just called Bill. Once I got the pipe from WLL I was perplexed. It was shaped like a square S and not at all fitted for the Synchronika. After playing with it I realised that I needed a better tool. After searching I found a pipe bending tool at Home Depot. Here is the final shape required for the fit. Also, the elbow on the bottom of the brew boiler could not be completely tightened and be in the proper position for the fit. I wrapped it with 10 or more turns of tape and was generous with the thread sealant and its working great.




The next problem I encountered was when I pressures the machine from the plumb line the 3 way ball valve that switches for tank to plumb line was leaking. The reason for the leak was I could not resist playing with it, even though it had not been moved in 4 years and was frozen. To fix it, I ordered a 1/4 BSP brass pipe plug connector from Amazon, and it worked great.




After pressurising the machine, I had two leaking connectors that required tightening and I needed to replace a cracked capillary tubing to the steam pressure gauge. Once the Machine was water tight, I removed all components for the E61 and flushed the machine multiple times, just in case there was any residual debris in the pipes or boilers. I left the panelling off the machine for a week rechecking for any leaks.




That completed my project.






First cup after rebuild




Lessoned Learned:

- The Synchronika is extremely well laid out and easy to work on machine that I absolutely love, but if your not willing to tear it apart now and then, you have a good chance of having a 85lb paper weight on your kitchen counter.

- Being addicted to caffeine and good coffee is expensive. I was out of service for 66 days and my Starbucks bill for two Flat Whites and two Soy Lattes at $23/day was $1518. For this project I spent approximately $800 and got a machine that is basically brand new. Bottom line is that the relative cost of the Synchronika is cheap, and if your willing to work on it, she will last a lifetime.

- I don't know if its the exchange rate or if US suppliers feel they have a corner on the market, but ordering parts from Bill is a no brainer solution for parts.

- Get spare parts and keep them around for when things break... and they will. A lot of items I replaced were still in working order. I've cleaned them, put some Molykote on them and stored them for future repairs.

- Open up your Machine every 3 or 4 months and look around. Fix issues before they become real issues. I plan on removing the Brew Boiler every year or so and descaling it and putting a light coat of oil on it.

Bottom line is that when I bought the Synchronika, it was because it was a beautiful well made machine that I thought would never break. I now know that all quality Espresso Machines require lots of attention and a good deal of maintenance. The real beauty of the Synchronika is it is a relatively easy machine to work on with parts that you can source form all over the world.

User avatar
mrgnomer

#2: Post by mrgnomer »

Your 'rust' source my be corrosion caused by dissimilar metals coming into contact and being exposed to water. Water quality doesn't prevent it unless maybe you use distilled water which you really can't use with espresso machines. Metal contact needs to be shielded by something like a dialectric grease.
Kirk
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love

snjsanders (original poster)

#3: Post by snjsanders (original poster) »

The dissimilar metal theory could be spot on. The rust seams to be located around the area where the Brew Boiler attaches to the frame of the machine.

JRising
Team HB

#4: Post by JRising »

I agree that you've got galvanic corrosion occurring at the contact points of the dissimilar metals. It could take years for it to actually become a leak, but this may shed light on Neutro's leaking stud issue.

User avatar
BaristaBoy E61

#5: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

snjsanders wrote:I now know that all quality Espresso Machines require lots of attention and a good deal of maintenance.
I get that and know that from having lived that - but I would not own such a machine! I would have cashed out and sold it for parts or would immediately have it up for sale after the rebuild.

I would not own a machine that did not have a SS frame or a motor/pump assembly that sits under a boiler - that's not a good plan or layout.
Motor/pump assembly should be mounted vertically - not under a boiler and pump motor should be on top of pump so pump cannot leak into motor.

I think I even prefer copper boilers.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

User avatar
mrgnomer

#6: Post by mrgnomer »

Semi automatic e61 machines are a fairly old design that works for espresso. Not overly complicated, solid build and use a lot of common parts.

Part of the ownership is maintenance. You can have it done by a capable service vendor or do it yourself. Backflushing, descaling, lubing, parts replacement...it's not overly difficult. There's a lot of information on sites like HB that help.

Design oversights or maintenance mistakes could put metals together that corrode over time. If you do your own maintenance you can take precautions and correct potentially damaging conditions.
Kirk
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love

Deephaven

#7: Post by Deephaven »

Can't say this gives me lots of warm and fuzzies on the ECM...

Currently have an 18 year old Vetrano HX that "needs" updating, but outside of normal seal maintenance and wear items it has been golden.

User avatar
mrgnomer

#8: Post by mrgnomer »

Copper is a corrosive resistant naturally antibacterial flexible metal. Personally think it's the best choice for plumbing. It's cost is high, though.
Kirk
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love

Blernsball

#9: Post by Blernsball »

For a machine of that price, having the boiler rust out twice in two years is outrageous.

Plinyyounger

#10: Post by Plinyyounger »

Something isn't right here. Water most likely. ECM/Profitec are well established high quality machines, I don't think it is fair to say otherwise at this point. I know this is the first time I have seen this happen on this brand or any other popular brand we buy nowadays.
Big 98mm flat grinder, been there done that, sold it. I’m happy now.