Keeping steam pressure up (Profitec Pro 500 PID)

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Bluenoser
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#1: Post by Bluenoser »

With my PID set to 255F, I find that when I steam milk, my pressure drops from 1.35 to somewhere between .5 and .7bar over the course of steaming 5oz of milk. (I use a 4 hole profitec tip)

This seems to make it very challenging to get great micro-foam.

Wonder if any people out there have any tips.. and if any Pro 500 users are able to find a way to keep their steam pressure up over 1 bar (yes I could turn down the steam, but gotta think that will lower the strength significantly and also hamper the creation of good microfoam).

I've tried a 20-30 second purge and waited until the temp/pressure ramped back up and then steamed, but still dropped to about .75 bar. (but I did get better micro-foam with this technique)

The Pro500 has a 2L steam boiler.. I also have to think that the Pro600 that can do 2 bar steam, might only be able to do 2bar for a few seconds which, to me, seems pretty useless. (Pro600 only has a 1L boiler). So do users think the 2L of the 500 might steam better than the 1L (2bar) 600?

These questions continue to make me ask myself .. "does no manufacture actually do performance testing on their equipment???"

Nunas
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#2: Post by Nunas »

Dave, I think the problem, and the solution, is the tip. Since your machine is an HX, you can't do much about increasing the boiler steam without messing up the brew temperature. You'd end up with really long flushes and probably would also need to mess with restrictors. Try hammering pieces of round toothpicks into one or more of the holes to temporarily block them off. I did this with my Magister when I first got it, as I was not used to having so much steam. You may find with your boiler pressure that you can only support a 2-hole or 3-hole tip. Alternatively, you might give idrinkcoffee a call and see if they have tips available with smaller holes. As a reference point, with 2-bar steam and a 4-hole tip, my Synchronika will drop to about 1.5-bar during foaming.

Bluenoser
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#3: Post by Bluenoser » replying to Nunas »

Hi Maurice.. thanks for sharing your experience with the Synchronika.. yeah.. I think some of the issue is the 4 hole tip. Here's what I've determined.. my 2 hole tip is a bit inconsistent in creating the vortex because the orientation of the 2 holes seems to affect the roll. When I went to a 4 hole, that disappeared, but I found that sometimes I got great foam and sometimes it was just meh.. I think I've found a better workflow from some suggestions by "untoldex" here at HB. I was only purging about 5 seconds. Just enough to clear some of the condensation. But if I purge for about 30 seconds and let the PID temp drop from 255F to about 243 and then heat back up.. when I steam milk it only drops to about .7-.8 bar.. Without the long purge, it drops to almost .5 bar.

The holes on my 4 hole are about 1mm where my 2 holes are about 1.5mm.

Likely I could steam at 1 bar with same technique with the 2 hole, but I find that .75 bar on the 4 hole gives me much better and more consistent foam than I was getting on the 2 bar. But the long purge seems really necessary. Must have something to do with reheating the steam boiler.

I haven't tried the long purge with my old 2 hole.. I'll put that back on to play.

And you are right about setting the PID higher.. I upped it from 252 to 255 and steam was better.. untoldex on HB said he had a barista come in and he showed me a video of great latte art, but the barista set the PID to 262 and did the long purge.. However, I'd be going through a ton of water flushing at that temp.

The Pro500 has pretty good steam with its 2L boiler. I wonder how users make out with the 600 as it only has a 1L boiler .. seems like a 1L boiler would really bottom out quickly .. and I am guessing that it cannot sustain that 2 bar pressure for many (any?) seconds. As it is now, my pressure drops almost immediately when I steam. So you read the literature and I see it says "new Pro 500 PID with 1.4 bar steam".. But as soon as you open that steam valve, it drops to at least 1 bar.. (lies, damn lies, and marketing :) ) I can see why LMLM went with a 3.5L boiler and its users claim great steam. I wonder if there is anyway to get great steam without going to a boiler this large (for steaming up to 10oz milk).

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slipchuck

#4: Post by slipchuck »

Don't forget you have a 2l for steam but the heat exchanger takes some of the volume away



Randy
“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”

untoldex

#5: Post by untoldex »

Seems like Pro 500 PID heating element cannot catch up with 4 holes steam tip during steaming.

I've tried different temperatures with 2 holes and 4 holes steam tips. My obervations as below.

Before steaming, I'm doing "purge procedure" as @Bluenoser mentioned in previous post.
I'm doing 20-30 secs purge, waiting for pressure recovery, then short purge for 2-4 secs. Then wait for recovery and start steaming.
This gives bit higher pressure during steaming as opposed to typical single short 1-3 secs purge.

# 2 holes tip Ø 1.5 mm, PID 124c (255f), ~ 1.3 bar pressure in boiler
- pressure during steaming: 1.0 -> 1.1 bar
- pressure grows slowly during steaming, heating element is working
- froth quality quite good, able to do latte art, but paintings are bit blurry

# 2 holes tip, PID 128c (262f), ~ 1.5 bar pressure in boiler
- pressure during steaming: 1.2 -> 1.25 bar
- pressure grows very slowly during steaming, heating element is working
- froth quality is great, shining after puring, can do more detailed latte art (almost like on LM Strada in local cafe :) )
- easy to get flat white style froth

# 4 holes tip Ø 1.0 mm, PID 124c (255f)
- pressure during steaming: 1,0 -> 0,9
- pressure drops slowly during steaming even though heating element is working
- froth with visible bubbles

# 4 holes tip, PID 128c (262f)
- pressure during steaming: 1,2 -> 1,1
- pressure also drops slowly during steaming
- froth quite good, with smaller bubbles

So the best froth I get is with 2 holes steam tip and PID 128c. But having such temperature on HX means I need to flush quite a lot when brewing coffee.
Therefore I've finally settled with 2 holes steam tip and PID 124c, which seems to be good balance between temperature for brewing and good enough steaming performance.

I guess that ideal would be 3 holes steam tip Ø 1.0 mm, which would allow to get vortex easier, but unfortunately there is no such for Profitec.

Bluenoser
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#6: Post by Bluenoser »

Great data.. I think people underestimate the difficulty in getting the same quality of micro-foam that they see in videos and in cafes. Although tulips are easy to do, the Rosetta detail requires a higher quality of micro-foam that is really difficult to make consistently when the steam is under 1.3 bar. Not that it can't be done, but seems to be pretty elusive.

I might put my 2-hole back on and practice again. However, I seem to find that the 4-hole is giving me better results.. but not sure if it is because I have more experience now. I have found that the orientation of those 2 holes does impact the vortex. Maybe I'll screw in tight in a few orientations to test. Yes.. a 3-hole @1mm might be ideal.

I might also do the toothpick thingy that Maurice suggested to turn my 4-hole into a 3-hole.

One other thing that I might try is to remove the teflon tube in the steam wand. There are reports that this tube impedes the steam a bit and so it will be stronger without. Am a little Leary of taking out in case I want to re-insert it at a later date. If I remove, I'll try to take some pressure readings with the 2-hole and 4-hole before and after so that we can have some objective data to look at.

It *is* clear though, that the amount of pressure stated in a machine's specs has only a loose correlation with the quality and strength one may experience in actually using any machine; as it is tied together with the volume of steam boiler, its temperature, and strength of the heating element, presence of a teflon tube and tips used. LMLM seems to have gotten this right from user comments.

cgibsong002

#7: Post by cgibsong002 »

Didn't WLL do a video on the steaming power of the 500? For like 5 straight minutes without pressure loss? But now i can't remember if they showed the actual pressure.

I will say the 600 was crazy impressive when i saw it demonstrated at Clive. They were using the 4 hole and perfect microfoam in under 10 seconds. Honestly the sales rep there was new and not even that good at it, but it was probably some of the best steamed oat milk I've seen including at the shops around. I can't say i specifically paid attention to the pressure though.

Nunas
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#8: Post by Nunas »

I will say the 600 was crazy impressive when i saw it demonstrated at Clive. They were using the 4 hole and perfect microfoam in under 10 seconds.
Yup! and the point many folks miss when talking steam tips is the necessity of coupling the right boiler pressure to the right steam tip. The 600 is a 2-bar machine, like my Synchronika. With a stock 2-hole tip it's somewhat better than okay. With a 4-hole tip, it's a holey terror, providing great foam (in skilled hands) in mere seconds. Likewise the idea of removing the Teflon tube to get more steam. Yes, the steam volume will increase, but unless the boiler can cope, the pressure will drop off. It's a multi-variable puzzle that we home users can only hope to perfect through trial and error. A big boiler gives a good head of steam, but if it's coupled with a smallish heater the recovery will suffer. The steam path, including the Teflon tube (if fitted), and the nozzle (both # of holes and diameter) all come into play.

As for the toothpick tip, I can't claim originality. Although I took a course using Rancilio commercial machines, I had a string of Breville's lesser machines with thermocoils. Then, when I got my Magister, I was blown away with all the steam. Someone over on CG suggested I block off one of the holes until I got used to it. Sure enough, it worked. Funny thing, though, one day I decided to drill out the toothpick, my skill having been sufficiently honed :wink: Lo & behold, it had fallen out at some point on its own and I'd been using the full steam power for an unknown amount of time. A good craftsman never blames his tools :lol:

Bluenoser
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#9: Post by Bluenoser »

cgibsong002 wrote:Didn't WLL do a video on the steaming power of the 500? For like 5 straight minutes without pressure loss? But now i can't remember if they showed the actual pressure. .
k

Marc at WLL actually did it based on a question I had asked.. Now you see good steam.. but the steam pressure is only above .5 bar... So there's definitely a bunch of pressure loss.. It starts at 1 bar, but almost instantly goes down to 0.5 bar and stays there. But this is with the PID down to 244. It looks like a lot, visually, but I'd venture it would be challenging to make great Microfoam with 0.5 bar.

So it could be that I could improve my technique.. I think that 0.7 bar with 4 hole should be able to create really good Microfoam. Think I need more practice. I think 0.5 bar is low to make great Microfoam.

untoldex

#10: Post by untoldex »

Small update.

I've removed the teflon tube as Nunas advised and it improved steaming quite much!
Just unscrew the tip and pull out the tube (in my case pliers weren't needed).

Still using 2 hole tip and 124c (255f) on PID, but it seems to have now more steaming power, and microfoam is more silky.
Also, the steaming is a bit quieter :)