Simple scale prevention water filter for espresso machine

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

#1: Post by PhilH »

I know this question has been asked before but wanted to see what people currently recommend. I have a black soreento in a fifth wheel that I I'm going to plumb in. I travel a lot to different areas of the south volunteering for disaster relief and so am looking for a general filter system that is very small and will help reduce or prevent scale build up. If necessary, The only water ran through it can be for the espresso machine alone. We only drink about 2-4 milk lattes a day. My drinking water comes from a Burkey. I'm in different areas so the PPM will change constantly that's why looking for a general system. Or any other suggestions you may have. Thanks,

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homeburrero
Team HB

#2: Post by homeburrero »

In an RV connected to a water source, you have the pressure you want, but the effect of the unknown and variable water quality is huge. It's not just scale but also potential for harmful corrosion (like high chloride ion) that will need to be dealt with. The only solution that would work for just about any water would be a RO system with a remineralizer. I suspect you might not have space for that.

Plan B would be to use a carboy to feed the machine. It could be done with a conventional flojet-like arrangement that constantly provides a pressurized line to your machine. In your case you have a lever/dipper that only needs water line pressure during boiler fills, and I think you also have a sightglass and manual fill valve, so you have the option of rigging a small pump that you turn on only when you need to fill the machine. (It also may need a regulator and check valve between pump and machine.) Then you could fill that carboy with mineral-spiked purified water, spiking it with simple bicarbonate, or TWW, or GCWater, or some other home recipe. I would start with a simple 'R Pavlis" recipe: about 0.3 - 0.4 grams of potassium bicarbonate per gallon of pure water. You can buy a lifetime supply of the potassium bicarb online, and buy distilled or de-ionized pure water at the grocery.
Pat
nínádiishʼnahgo gohwééh náshdlį́į́h

PhilH

#3: Post by PhilH »

That is a good suggestion, the problem is finding a space for the car boy will be difficult also. Running such a small amount of water through the boiler, would an option be to descale in a regular basis?

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homeburrero
Team HB

#4: Post by homeburrero »

Yes, limescale accumulation is reversible, just a matter of doing a timely and proper descaling. It also is relatively easily reduced by conventional softening. Other forms of 'scale' that bad water might deposit in your machine, especially silica, are not so easily dealt with. And of course corrosion damage, as might be caused by low alkalinity high chloride water is not reversible.

If you don't mind a little risk and uncertainty, odds are that you could use a conventional softening system with charcoal filtration. You would have little or no limescale to worry about and as you say you can deal with that by descaling. This filter would not avoid silica scale or chloride related corrosion but you can trust fate that you won't see much of that in your travels.

So a plan C approach might be a compact cartridge that combines a conventional* softener with a carbon block or activated charcoal stage. There are a few out there, including the 3M Cuno ESP114 / ESP124, the Homeland HCWS (Clive coffee), The BWT BestProtect, and some Brita/Mavea Purity/Finest.

*By conventional I mean a strong acid cation (SAC ) resin softener. Sometimes referred to as a sodium exhange softener. It reduces calcium and magnesium ions, but does not reduce alkalinity. Chemically they are the same as the common whole house softening systems used for years in homes, and the rechargeable softeners that have been used for years in commercial espresso machines. Traditionally they were large (and rechargeable) but you can get them nowadays in cartridge form combined with a particulates and charcoal filter.

The alternative (that you don't want here) is a weak acid cation (WAC) resin softener, also called a decarbonizing filter, sometimes called a hydrogen exchange softener. They are popular nowadays for home espresso cartridge systems (BWT betsmax, Everpure Claris, Mavis/Brita C/Quell are all WAC systems.) They can be great but are not appropriate for some potentially corrosive water.

(For more geeky info on conventional vs WAC see Water filter cartridge advice sodium vs. hydrogen ion exchange)
Pat
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PhilH

#5: Post by PhilH »

Thank you for all the helpful information Pat. It looks like I need to first and foremost test the water as I move around. I'm going to see if I can find a feasible place to set up a car boy to begin with. If not I will work through the secondary plans you suggested. I really appreciate the help!