Chris' Coffee says: Don't descale! - Page 2

Water analysis, treatment, and mineral recipes for optimum taste and equipment health.
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another_jim
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#11: Post by another_jim »

I use 150 ppm natural water and descale about every two years or so.

In my book, anyone who spends thousands of dollars on espresso equipment, spends years learning how to make shots, owes it to himself to use first rate water and learn to flush descale their machine. It is not difficult, although it does take patience and commonsense.

I can understand people being anxious about it; if you aren't a hands on hobbyist, the newer cartridge systems do offer decent compromises, or consider setting the cartridge to the 150 ppm ideal having the machine descaled every six to seven years (full descale, not flush) by someone who will warrant the work.

I did not consider vendor scare tactics helpful when I wrote the FAQ and still do not today. Vendors typically think all their customers are whining idiots, since whining idiots are who they hear from day in and day out. If you aren't a whining idiot yourself, Chris probably did not have you in mind when he wrote this advice, and flush descaling and using the best water is an option worth considering.
Jim Schulman

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JohnB.
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#12: Post by JohnB. »

My well water is very similar to Dick's & I've been using the two cartridge (softener/carbon) generic set up CCS & others sell for over 7 years with my machines. I have excellent tasting well water that has spoiled me so I quickly added a hard water bypass to my set up as I was not at all fond of fully softened water. I keep the water in the 35-50ppm range & have had no problems with extraction.

I'm in agreement with Chris, Kees & other machine mfgrs. on the need to deal with your water issues so that regular descaling isn't required.

Edit: After reading Jim's post above I'll add that the TDS of my water runs 125-150ppm before & after softening so it's still in the ideal brewing range without the scale issues.
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bluesman

#13: Post by bluesman »

brianl wrote:Since water has come up. Can anyone vouch for the taste of Potassium bicarbonate ? I always thought it tasted like stake alkaseltzer.
Is that good or bad? I've never tasted stale Alka Seltzer. :D

DaveC

#14: Post by DaveC »

brianl wrote:Since water has come up. Can anyone vouch for the taste of Potassium bicarbonate ? I always thought it tasted like stake alkaseltzer.
it depends what the concentration is and presumably you mean sodium bicarbonate if you are considering water treatment?

brianl

#15: Post by brianl » replying to DaveC »

Nope, read the post on the previous page. Potassium bicarbonate raises pH without the sodium. So both do exactly the same thing. Since calcium is usually what raises alkalinity but also causes scale. That's why when I mix tap with distilled water my alkalinity tanks.

I always read that commercial establishments with very hard water usually use it instead of sodium so the information checks out even though I haven't personally tried.

DaveC

#16: Post by DaveC » replying to brianl »

Brian, would doubt your adding any significant amount, that the increased intake of Sodium would be of any specific concern. I did read all the posts, but nowhere do you say how much your adding or the context in which your using it, unless I missed something? If I have missed it, perhaps you could take the time to explain what it is.

I assume it's that link to where someone is adding Potassium bicarbonate to their water, if it is and that's how your using it, then you won't/can't taste it in those concentrations? I use about 0.18g per litre of Sodium Bicarbonate for RO treated water and have for many years as my preferred level...have never been able to taste that.

I don't quite understand the last bit though...e.g. how they are using it and in what context..any links for what you've read would be of interest

"I always read that commercial establishments with very hard water usually use it instead of sodium "

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Peppersass
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#17: Post by Peppersass »

JohnB. wrote:Edit: After reading Jim's post above I'll add that the TDS of my water runs 125-150ppm before & after softening so it's still in the ideal brewing range without the scale issues.
My TDS before and after softening is the same as yours. We must be using the same well! :D

The literature I've read is pretty clear that a certain level of mineral content is necessary for full extraction. But the literature is not clear about exactly which minerals aid in espresso extraction. There have been comparative tests on varying levels of hardness (calcium), but I've not seen any tests on varying levels of alkalinity (calcium carbonate) with no hardness.

My recollection from Jim's water FAQ is that he thought the taste difference between espresso made with water that had been softened with a cation system and espresso that had been made with water in the ideal range was fairly small. That would suggest both kinds of water can produced good extractions. But we don't know whether it's the sodium, the bicarbonate or some other minerals that do the job in the cation case.

Seems to me there are still a lot of unknowns in this area and more rigorous blind testing is needed. It's complicated because water content varies a lot from location to location.

I don't think it's a good idea to skip softening without verifying that there's a compelling difference in taste. I wasn't able to do that with my water, so I chose the safer route.

The flip side to the argument that I owe it to myself to get the best extraction because I spent thousands of dollars on an espresso machine is that I also owe it to myself to protect my investment and keep the machine running so I can enjoy the coffee every day without the stress of constant repairs! This is especially true if I can't detect a significant difference in the cup.

Further, I don't see the manufacturer/dealer warnings as scare tactics. My guess is that most of the machines they get back for repair are either caked with scale or corroded by acid.

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brianl

#18: Post by brianl »

DaveC wrote:Brian, would doubt your adding any significant amount, that the increased intake of Sodium would be of any specific concern. I did read all the posts, but nowhere do you say how much your adding or the context in which your using it, unless I missed something? If I have missed it, perhaps you could take the time to explain what it is.

I assume it's that link to where someone is adding Potassium bicarbonate to their water, if it is and that's how your using it, then you won't/can't taste it in those concentrations? I use about 0.18g per litre of Sodium Bicarbonate for RO treated water and have for many years as my preferred level...have never been able to taste that.

I don't quite understand the last bit though...e.g. how they are using it and in what context..any links for what you've read would be of interest

"I always read that commercial establishments with very hard water usually use it instead of sodium "
Actually, the question about taste that I had regarded the espresso extraction as I'm sure that the water itself is fine with such trace amounts. Jim's faq stated that he could not taste a noticeable difference between the Strong acid cation water softener (sodium) and regular calcium hardened water around 90 ppm. I was wondering if the same was true with potassium bicarbonate water. I don't have the consistency in technique to get a definite answer doing a week or two long test for each or a way to do blind tests (just have 1 machine).

I would love to use either sodium or potassium bicarbonate infused water but I do not want to use a filter hooked up to my intake hose (I use the reservoir). Therefore, I would take my distilled water (ZeroWater filter) and mix it with one of these bicarbonates (potassium or sodium). However, the amounts or so small that its hard to make a solution but i'll follow the instructions below.

Yea sorry. I have a decent memory so most is recollection and I couldn't find the information with a quick Google search. As for the commercial entities using potassium...I read a topic here about a coffee shop in Arizona or New Mexico that used potassium bicarbonate to increase the alkalinity without adding scaling ingredients and reported rave success. It is also mentioned in the other topic on page one
rpavlis wrote:Potassium bicarbonate is used in brewing because brewers do not want to add sodium ions to the final product. Coffee, like all plant products, has amazingly high concentrations of potassium. (Roughly 2%!) I like using potassium bicarbonate rather than sodium bicarbonate (or using hard water) for four reasons: (1) Potassium bicarbonate does not add ions that are not already present in coffee in high concentration. (2) Potassium bicarbonate does not decompose when heated creating solid deposits and creating constantly changing concentrations of bicarbonate. (3) I can start with water that is pure so I know what I have! I do not want the entire periodic table in my espresso. With the MCAL I am esprecially concerned with chlorides. (4) Potassium bicarbonate is very soluble in water. I make a 10% solution of it by taking 10 grams of potassium bicarbonate and adding water to make 100 mL. This solution is stable so I can keep a bottle of it ready to use as required. One can do this is many modern measuring cups that have multiple types of graduations. I have a 1 mL pipet, and simply add 1.0 mL of the 10% solution for each litre of water that I am compounding. The "good" component of hard water is bicarbonate. Unlike hard water contaminated by contact with limestone and similar minerals, that are Ca and Mg carbonates, this is added in a controlled amount so there are no fluctuations.

Because you never develop scale with the counterion of bicarbonate being potassium, you do not have to add descaling solutions that tend to remove the protective copper oxides. The oxide coatings that protect the metallic surface are most stable around pH 7.5. This weak bicarbonate solution tends to bring the pH to very near this level. One must remember that when descaling produces green or blue descale water that blue or green colour is due to the walls of the boiler going into solution!!!!!
I'll add this at the bottom to avoid cluttering. I currently mix my tap water (150ppm hardness CA and MG mostly) with distilled water in a 1.5:2 ratio. Only add the tap to increase my alkalinity and TDS. The mixed result is a TDS of 75 with hardness of around 53-71 and alkalinity of 35-53. The ranges are due to the API drop test. The alkalinity is dangerously low to being too low of an equilibrium pH to erode my copper boilers so i'd love to get this over 100 without having to increase my hardness or use a cation.

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JohnB.
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#19: Post by JohnB. »

brianl wrote:Jim's faq stated that he could not taste a noticeable difference between the Strong acid cation water softener (sodium) and regular calcium hardened water around 90 ppm.
There are sodium softeners & acid softeners (Claris, ect) but I don't know of any that combine both. One nice thing about the sodium based softeners is that they do not effect the ph levels of the water like the acid based softeners seem to.
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brianl

#20: Post by brianl » replying to JohnB. »

They are both acid based I believe. The strong acid uses sodium and the weak acid does something with the hydrogen. The weak acid lowers ph like you say.

I ordered some potassium bicarbonate and will run some water tests before I consider using it