Plumbing in espresso machine in Portland, OR?

Water analysis, treatment, and mineral recipes for optimum taste and equipment health.
cgibsong002

#1: Post by cgibsong002 »

Generally it seems Portland has the opposite of many cities in that the water is actually much too soft at 3-8ppm according to the latest water quality reports. Complicating things is that during the drought season, they switch to backup ground water supply which they list at 80ppm.

Info found here: https://www.portland.gov/water/water-qu ... ity-report

On that page is the standard water quality report as well as the more detailed technical water quality data. I really only understand it enough that i was able to plug in some numbers to Gagne's diy spreadsheet and have been adding minerals to my filtered water currently (using a reservoir).

I am hoping to keep this as simple as possible with a simple filter system running to my machine. Seems something like the BWT bestmin may work, maybe needing to adjust bypass throughout the year when switching water supply?

Even still, i wonder if that is a bit overkill for what is already decent drinking water. Maybe i can just get away with a cheap carbon filter? Or is the 3-8ppm just truly too low for good results? Struggling to find good info on getting decent and consistent water for a plumbed in situation.

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homeburrero
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#2: Post by homeburrero »

cgibsong002 wrote:Generally it seems Portland has the opposite of many cities in that the water is actually much too soft at 3-8ppm according to the latest water quality reports. Complicating things is that during the drought season, they switch to backup ground water supply which they list at 80ppm.
That is correct. I understand that they blend groundwater about 1 month per year during the dry season and may switch over entirely to groundwater in emergencies. (per https://www.portland.gov/water/about-po ... roundwater .)

Below are some recent example numbers (snipped from https://www.portland.gov/water/water-qu ... st-results )



A pdf with much more complete analyses over the past 3 years can be found here: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/ ... _final.pdf . You can find numbers in that report for chloride, silica, sulfate, etc. (You can multiply the calcium ion numbers in there by 2.5 to get calcium hardness in CaCO3 equivalents.)

This water is 'too soft' per some conventional wisdom for coffee brewing but I don't think you should let that bother you. Lots of people here on HB use a water recipe with zero hardness and find that it tastes fine. The alkalinity is low, but the pH is good and the water is relatively free of potentially corrosive chloride and sulfate, so I see no corrosivity concern here.
cgibsong002 wrote:Maybe i can just get away with a cheap carbon filter?
I think many people and shops in that area would simply use a carbon plus particulates filter for that water. During periods of pure groundwater use it might possibly deposit a little limescale in a hot steam boiler but then that scale would be dissolved away during the rest of the year when the water is very soft. Your water utility uses chloramine rather than chlorine for treatment, so that might argue for a good quality carbon filter.

You can keep an eye out for periods when you are getting harder water by checking your tapwater with an inexpensive TDS meter. About 15 ppm would indicate you are on the very soft water, 50-60 ppm would indicate you are on half groundwater, which is still not scale prone, and if you are getting pure groundwater it would indicate about 100 ppm on an inexpensive TDS meter. Even with pure groundwater your calcium hardness level is only 35 - 48 ppm CaCO3 equivalent, which is not hard enough to give you serious scale even over a few months.


If you really want to be assuredly non-scaling with this water you could go with a conventional softening system. It would not lower the alkalinity (that's a good thing -- you want to keep that alkalinity with this water) but if your water occasionally comes in a little hard it would remove the hardness minerals down to non-scaling levels. Examples of conventional softening along with carbon filtration would be, for examples, the CCS filter set shown here or a combined kit like the Cuno/3M or the Homeland HWCS cartridge.

I don't think that a remineralization cartridge, like the BWT Bestmin, would be of much help here. They add very little mineral unless the pH is low (as with typical RO treated water) and your tapwater pH here is fairly high. I'd be curious if anyone in the Portland area has tried that with any success.

If your experiments with minerals added to the reservoir convinces you that you really do need added minerals for taste, but you want to plumb the machine in, then your best option may be to add minerals to a carboy and plumb it in with a flojet-like system: Espresso Cart - Goodbye Plumbed In

P.S.
Even though the water is very soft, that will not relieve you from the need to address concentration of water inside the steam boiler. if you routinely use the steam wand you need to also routinely remove water from the hot water tap, or else periodically drain and refill the steam boiler. Discussion of that can be found here: Using hot water tap to manage steam boiler water concentration
Pat
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cgibsong002 (original poster)

#3: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

homeburrero wrote:If you really want to be assuredly non-scaling with this water you could go with a conventional softening system. It would not lower the alkalinity (that's a good thing -- you want to keep that alkalinity with this water) but if your water occasionally comes in a little hard it would remove the hardness minerals down to non-scaling levels. Examples of conventional softening along with carbon filtration would be, for examples, the CCS filter set shown here or a combined kit like the Cuno/3M or the Homeland HWCS cartridge.
Thank you!! Clive also recommended that HCHS filter kit, but i was a bit confused because they say it's good for hard water, and their rep couldn't answer my questions about TDS. Someone else on here in PDX was also using that kit with good results. I have experimented with using my own water recipe with good results, but that was also on my old Breville where i was already struggling to get sufficient extraction.

I would much rather have a simple setup where all i need to do is replace a filter once a year vs constantly making my own water. And i also know for sure the espresso I've had at Clive has been amazing, and they're just using filtered tap water. So i think maybe i will just go with their Homeland system, i just don't understand enough to know if there was a better option or not, and if i would have to adjust anything or do partial bypass throughout the year depending on water source. It sounds like my water, even with the filter, may probably fluctuate in TDS, but less dramatically with that HCHS filter in place?

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homeburrero
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#4: Post by homeburrero »

cgibsong002 wrote:I would much rather have a simple setup where all i need to do is replace a filter once a year vs constantly making my own water. And i also know for sure the espresso I've had at Clive has been amazing, and they're just using filtered tap water. So i think maybe i will just go with their Homeland system, i just don't understand enough to know if there was a better option or not, and if i would have to adjust anything or do partial bypass throughout the year depending on water source. It sounds like my water, even with the filter, may probably fluctuate in TDS, but less dramatically with that HCHS filter in place?
The Homeland HCWS is a combination charcoal filter and conventional strong acid cation (SAC) resin softener. It traps calcium and magnesium ions and releases two sodium ions in their place. The actual TDS goes up very slightly because two sodium ions weigh more than one calcium or one magnesium ion, and the TDS as measured by a conductivity also increases very slightly. After SAC softening, the total hardness decreases, and the alkalinity and the pH stay the same.

With the very soft surface water this filter won't do anything significant beyond what a simple charcoal filter would do. During periods where they are using groundwater it will soften (remove calcium and magnesium) from the water, making it similar with respect to limescale risk to the usual Portland surface water. The fluctuations in TDS and alkalinity as they are switching to groundwater will not change as a result of using the Homeland filter.

If plumbed in with this system you would just use it as is - nothing you can or should do to the system as the water source changes. But if you are using a carboy or reservoir, and wanted to obsess over always using a similar water, I suppose you could use this filter system and add a sodium bicarbonate spike when your water is coming through with low TDS, and use less or skip it when it's coming through at high TDS, with the idea of keeping a constant alkalinity in the 80 ppm neighborhood. That would be a ton of completely unnecessary work in my opinion.
Pat
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cgibsong002 (original poster)

#5: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

homeburrero wrote:The Homeland HCWS is a combination charcoal filter and conventional strong acid cation (SAC) resin softener. It traps calcium and magnesium ions and releases two sodium ions in their place. The actual TDS goes up very slightly because two sodium ions weigh more than one calcium or one magnesium ion, and the TDS as measured by a conductivity also increases very slightly. After SAC softening, the total hardness decreases, and the alkalinity and the pH stay the same.
Thanks so much again! I agree, although i have already gone down the rabbit hole of making my own water, i definitely don't enjoy it. And i definitely don't enjoy sitting in front of the refrigerator and filling a gallon of water for 5 minutes. So i have no interest in a flojet or whatever. If i can get good enough with a filter that i have to replace once a year, then that is fantastic.

Out of curiosity, how different is that Homeland filter vs a standard built in refrigerator filter? Is that going to offer more lime scale protection or any other advantage in taste? Just wondering how that will compare to my current setup of filtered water in my reservoir.

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homeburrero
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#6: Post by homeburrero »

cgibsong002 wrote:Out of curiosity, how different is that Homeland filter vs a standard built in refrigerator filter? Is that going to offer more lime scale protection or any other advantage in taste? Just wondering how that will compare to my current setup of filtered water in my reservoir.
It's way different because in addition to carbon it is a softening filter (has a resin that traps calcium and magnesium and releases sodium). Where you have some limescale risk this softener will dramatically reduce that. Standard refrigerator filters are just carbon filters. They adsorb chlorine, off-tastes, and odors but do no softening at all and therefore offer no limescale protection.
Pat
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cgibsong002 (original poster)

#7: Post by cgibsong002 (original poster) »

Well, i ended up picking up the kit. Just need to get a few things for the final install. Anyone have suggestions on how to dress the holes through the drywall/cabinet, so I'm not just leaving a rough/open hole? It's not a huge deal since it'll be hidden anyway.

Also suggestions on dressing the lines inside the cabinet? We use the cabinet for storage so I'd like to keep them pinned to the rear wall. I know there's those screw on clamps if there's no better suggestions.