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Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

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  • Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

    Ive been trying to get better shots from my Breville BarVista, and just dont think the water temp is hot enough.

    After wondering if this can be remedied and not finding much - I started to wonder if there is any chance of getting good shots from another machine I have. I bought the other machine new for $40, 7 years ago, and it has been collecting dust ever since (it sprung a leak days after I bought it but I kept it for parts when I couldnt get it replaced, only refunded. Its unpressurised filters happen to fit the BarVista perfectly)

    Anyway, I attacked the leaky tubes some time ago with silicon, but never go around to testing it further.

    Well that is until today when I look at the machine with fresh eyes, after reading about PID mods to boiler machines, and I noticed that the top of heating system of this machine looks quite like some of the Rancilio Silvia pictures Ive seen (though its not near as deep).

    Is it remotely possible that this could it be a boiler machine? It certainly can put out a lot of heat quickly, and has a way longer cooldown from steaming then Im used to.

    If you can tell a thermoblock from a boiler can you look at the attached pic and let me know which it is? Thanks!!!

  • #2
    Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

    what is the brand / model?

    A boiler machine will have a... um... boiler - its hard to miss - usually a copper cylindrical tank.

    are those photos of the top of the group head?

    [edit: another way to tell]
    Does it have a hot water wand? Get it really hot, turn it off, and then open the hot water wand (or steam wand) and see what comes out. If its a boiler, lots of water (or steam) will come out when switched off and hot thanks to the boiler pressure.


    • #3
      Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

      Thanks IainDB,

      I really appreciate the feedback!!

      Yeah thats the top of the group head, its not very big/tall (ie. no obviously sizable tank like Id expect, maybe looks 1/2 the height of what Ive seen in Rancho Silvia pictures) which made me think it couldnt be a true boiler, though it does seem to behave like one and does keep putting out steam for a surprising amount of time when the valve is left open but the unit is switched off / unplugged.

      In doing this test and flushing the tank with a descaling solution, though the leak came back with vengeance so it looks like itll need more work before I can try pouring a shot on it (think Ill have to replace the plastic tubing, connectors and valve with something that can handle the temperature&pressure)

      Its a really a "no brand" machine (Chinese manufacturer called "Wellseek"), mine was sold as by Singer but Maxkon seem to be the main badge its being sold under. Not pretty (in looks nor engineering, but its got a lot of metal & almost no circuitry which some seem to regard as a positive) and I dont know how long any of the parts will last, but Ive decided itll be worth trying to fix and mod as a learning exercise if nothing else.


      • #4
        Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

        Can you tell if cold water runs into the group head? (tank > pump > group?) if so, that looks like a thermoblock over the group with wires coming out.

        You would get a few cups of water or minutes worth of steam, not just seconds.

        Lots of photos as you go please!


        • #5
          Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

          Yeah it is "tank > pump > group" (with a plastic overpressure valve between the pump and the grouphead, which would dump hot water back into the tank).

          Pump didnt turn on when steaming, like it does on my main Breville machine.

          I opened the steam valve and drained the group head into a measuring cup (machine upside down and had the cup directly where the water inlet should connect from the pump). I got 70mL of water out of it (slightly greenish). Possible wasnt completely full due to steam loss when the leak returned but that be 10-20mL at most I figure.

          (no more pics yet sorry)

          Addendum: probably showing my ignorance here but with say a 80mL capacity, does it have a chance of being temperature stable whether boiler or thermoblock? Wondering because in both cases I figure therell be some cold water introduced by the pump during a pour, but alot would come from the preheated water.


          • #6
            Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

            Im 99% certain its a thermoblock

            re: temp stability, it will have the same pros & cons as all other thermoblocks, mainly that the temperature is flow-rate specific. ie. faster flow = colder, slower flow = hotter.

            Also sounds like it needs a good descale & clean And descaling will possibly make your leaks worse, as you found out, since sometimes its only the scale plugging the holes


            • #7
              Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

              Im 99% certain its a thermoblock
              OK, thanks. Sounds like it wont be a contender to replace my main machine.

              From reading up a bit previously, I concur that descaling is always great advice for troubleshooting many issues (recent proof being a slight increase in temp from my other, definitely thermoblock, machine the BarVista, which I think I mentioned runs too cold  ).

              In this case though it was silicon not scale plugging holes (and failing), I never figured that the fix would be permanent but thought it might hold for a bit longer  :-[ (part of the reason I never used it post fix and put it in the shed actually was not trusting the silicon to hold forever and not being a fan of combining water with mains electrics)

              Thanks for all your help mate!!

              NB: could post pictures showing the leaky connections if this is of any interest, but I highly doubt it would be. Lets just say that leaking seems an unsurprising consequence of the use of these parts.


              • #8
                Re: Help me ID: Boiler or Thermoblock (picture attached)

                Thats a boiler I reckin. A very small one, but a boiler nonetheless.