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Thread: RO water bad for coffee machines?

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    RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Just browsing the Cafetto website and came across an article that says that Reverse Osmosis water is actually bad for coffee machines. We have an RO water filtration system at home and I had been using that for the machine as I would have assumed that filtered water would be better than unfiltered. Should I switch to tap water?

    Reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment is a
    filtration technique that removes practically
    all particulate, chemicals and water scale
    elements from the water. It is, then, almost
    pure water. Four problems exist for using
    this technique to solve the water hardness
    problem.
    1. The equipment is expensive to install.
    2. It is very wasteful using large amounts of
    water in the process of delivering the
    RO water.
    3. Many coffee experts believe it imparts a
    “flat” taste to espresso. Ideally, some
    level of water hardness is desirable for
    taste.
    4. RO water has been found to be
    corrosive to equipment.The pure water
    has a tendency to take up elements and
    this causes corrosion of metals.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by meglim link=1209725970/0#0 date=1209725970
    Just browsing the Cafetto website and came across an article that says that Reverse Osmosis water is actually bad for coffee machines. We have an RO water filtration system at home and I had been putting that into the machine as I would have assumed that filtered water would be better than unfiltered. Should I switch to tap water?

    Reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment is a
    filtration technique that removes practically
    all particulate, chemicals and water scale
    elements from the water. It is, then, almost
    pure water. Four problems exist for using
    this technique to solve the water hardness
    problem.
    1. The equipment is expensive to install.
    2. It is very wasteful using large amounts of
    water in the process of delivering the
    RO water.
    3. Many coffee experts believe it imparts a
    “flat” taste to espresso. Ideally, some
    level of water hardness is desirable for
    taste.
    4. RO water has been found to be
    corrosive to equipment.The pure water
    has a tendency to take up elements and
    this causes corrosion of metals.
    Thats correct. Unless its remineralised, RO water kills espresso machines. Its as simple as that.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Holy moly! Thanks for that, I hadnt realized. Have now emptied the reservoir and replaced with tap water. They dont tell you this in the manual!

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    They dont tell you anything in the manual! They want you to break it so you buy a new one I had a laugh

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by meglim link=1209725970/0#2 date=1209726657
    Holy moly! Thanks for that, I hadnt realized. Have now emptied the reservoir and replaced with tap water. They dont tell you this in the manual!
    I think we have a failure to commun9icate here ::)

    Confusion, is in the term Filtered Vs RO Vs De mineralised.

    They are very different and for very good reasons.

    The problem with water with a high mineral content, is that it produces scale and other crap when subjected to heat.

    Filtered water should be removing most of the dirt and chlorine, but leaving most of the good minerals etc

    Water that is totally PURE, and has all the minerals removed is bad for you and most containers. As its natural state requires minerals etc. Thus if you drink it, it will pull many of your electorates out in an attempt to balance the system, thus you can get very sick. The same is if you place it in a metal container etc. over time it will eat the container away.

    The SM 6910 has its own little filter in the bottom of the water container... However it will clog over time and I use water from my FILTRATION system.

    If your home system has a couple of cartridges, Carbon and cotton type one... Then you are using a filter type system.. I doubt a TRUE RO system.. Even a UV light source does not make it an RO system.

    QUESTION: Why would you have a full RO system at home ? Dialysis treatment and Coffee is an issue.....


    RO waist lots of water... even a good system will struggle to produce a 50% recovery. In essence, water flows over a membrane, and most of it passes on and out to the drain, while some, that make it across the barrier, becomes the useful bit. Usually medical, manufacturing and scientific use...

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    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    If your tap water is highly mineralised (as it is in Adelaide) then a mix of RO water and tap should do fine.
    I used filtered rain water (very pure) in my machine for over 20 years and when it finally died, the boiler looked almost new inside--and had NEVER been cleaned.
    Greg

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    AngerManagement.... I know what I have, it is an RO system. Description here

    Our reasons for using it are our own. We have set up a recycling system so that the waste water doesnt go down the drain. In any case our laundry and toilets run entirely off the rainwater tank so the house more than compensates for this small water usage.

    Thank you everyone else for replies, I will get a charcoal filter jug system for the machine.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Besides possible corrosion issues, Demin tastes like crap !! (its the minerals that make water taste) and seeing your coffee is 99% water it will effect the taste
    Another issue would be for any machine that uses a conductivity probe for measuring boiler level it would simply not work as its the minerals in the water that give water conductivity.. result would probably be a blown boiler element
    :)

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by meglim link=1209725970/0#6 date=1209781927
    AngerManagement.... I know what I have, it is an RO system.

    Our reasons for using it are our own. We have set up a recycling system so that the waste water doesnt go down the drain. In any case our laundry and toilets run entirely off the rainwater tank so the house more than compensates for this small water usage.

    Thank you everyone else for replies, I will get a charcoal filter jug system for the machine.
    OT: As a technical advisor within health, I appreciate that you may have very good reasons to have an RO unit. As others have stated and clearly publicised, if it is truly de mineralised then it will also leach impurities from any plumbing or containment vessels.

    However the bottom line is, it is NOT healthy to drink, if it is a true High purity RO system. But it is your choice.
    EOD:

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by AngerManagement link=1209725970/0#8 date=1209788524
    OT: As a technical advisor within health, I appreciate that you may have very good reasons to have an RO unit. As others have stated and clearly publicised, if it is truly de mineralised then it will also leach impurities from any plumbing or containment vessels.

    However the bottom line is, it is NOT healthy to drink, if it is a true High purity RO system. But it is you choice.
    EOD:
    Yep, Id use straight RO water ONLY in my steam iron (maybe my car radiator.... but not sure about that even!!)

    You can buy special bottles of electrolytes which replace the essential minerals in the RO water and which render it good to drink again.... these also replace the magnesium and calcium salts which cause water hardness...... They also improve the taste of coffee which requires a degree of water hardness for the best flavour.

    The other method used in the US is to add a percentage of non treated water back into the RO water.......

    But Id be using a Charcoal filter and water softener..... far less expensive and wasteful of water!

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by AngerManagement link=1209725970/0#4 date=1209729922
    Thus if you drink it, it will pull many of your electorates out in an attempt to balance the system, thus you can get very sick. The same is if you place it in a metal container etc. over time it will eat the container away.
    I think you mean "electrolytes". Unless its election time where you live ... ;)

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by philipmach link=1209725970/0#10 date=1209791924
    Quote Originally Posted by AngerManagement link=1209725970/0#4 date=1209729922
    Thus if you drink it, it will pull many of your electorates out in an attempt to balance the system, thus you can get very sick. The same is if you place it in a metal container etc. over time it will eat the container away.
    I think you mean "electrolytes". Unless its election time where you live ... ;)
    giggled like a schoolgirl.. Either way the result is not so good ;D

    Thanks for that, I needed a laugh today, a long weekend and I have 3 tenders to review and to have ready for Tuesday morning..

    Topped up on Coffee beans and replaced the filters in my system. Oops.. Must remember to check the dates in future, 14months old. Brisbane water not so good with the low dam levels... They have upped to chlorine a fair bit :-) to boot.

    At least this way, I can play with my new Naked PF next weekend...

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Excuse me for asking in my ignorance, but how is rainwater different from RO water, in terms of mineral content? Rainwater is distilled water. It may pick up something as it falls through the atmosphere which changes its ph, but otherwise it should contain nothing in the way of minerals at all - is this right?

    What is the natural mineral balance of water? Why does RO water pull minerals (or electolytes) from a metal container (like a brass boiler) to balance the system? What percentage of what minerals defines a balanced system? Quite aside from taste (which definitely requires some hardness), what will RO water really do to a brass boiler and element over time?

    If one does not use RO in the boiler of an HX machine, what water softener system is best in the home environment?

    This is a very important topic, and I would welcome informed feedback, as I know nothing about this.

    Many thanks,
    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/0#12 date=1209815445
    Excuse me for asking in my ignorance, but how is rainwater different from RO water, in terms of mineral content? Rainwater is distilled water. It may pick up something as it falls through the atmosphere which changes its ph, but otherwise it should contain nothing in the way of minerals at all - is this right?

    What is the natural mineral balance of water? Why does RO water pull minerals (or electolytes) from a metal container (like a brass boiler) to balance the system? What percentage of what minerals defines a balanced system? Quite aside from taste (which definitely requires some hardness), what will RO water really do to a brass boiler and element over time?

    If one does not use RO in the boiler of an HX machine, what water softener system is best in the home environment?

    This is a very important topic, and I would welcome informed feedback, as I know nothing about this.

    Many thanks,
    matt
    Hi Matt,

    For mine, rainwater falls on things, runs over or through things and gets stored in things- which often have a mixture of flora and fauna inhabiting them....Good way to pick up a few ions on the way I reckon ;-)

    Chris

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/0#12 date=1209815445
    Excuse me for asking in my ignorance, but how is rainwater different from RO water, in terms of mineral content? Rainwater is distilled water. It may pick up something as it falls through the atmosphere which changes its ph, but otherwise it should contain nothing in the way of minerals at all - is this right?

    What is the natural mineral balance of water? Why does RO water pull minerals (or electolytes) from a metal container (like a brass boiler) to balance the system? What percentage of what minerals defines a balanced system? Quite aside from taste (which definitely requires some hardness), what will RO water really do to a brass boiler and element over time?

    If one does not use RO in the boiler of an HX machine, what water softener system is best in the home environment?

    This is a very important topic, and I would welcome informed feedback, as I know nothing about this.

    Many thanks,
    matt
    "it should contain nothing in the way of minerals at all - is this right?" - NO

    Define pure water ? Rain is not that distilled.... In principle, may be. Steam rising and then condensing and falling back to mother earth. Even ICE from glaciers thousands of years old contain a mix of all sorts of "stuff", that how they can the age of it. Carbon dating and pollens etc can even define the seasons or if volcanos were active. However , in general it is more pure than the stuff that falls to day.

    However that stuff that falls from the sky is not Pure.. Lots of ions, dust and particles etc all around :-)

    One must remember that the same principles apply to many things, however many of us... Just want to believe in something good. That is why people that sell herbal weight loss tea etc make money. Just look a solariums they good for you and you can manage the dose of D :-(

    Every thing in moderation EXCEPT coffee, lots of anti stuff in COFFEE ;D:-)

    Osmosis for example is the way many things work when products have to cross from one medium to another, including parts within our own bodies.

    If one is to accept that RO water will drag minerals from a coffee machine... Thus it has a proven affinity for minerals, what make people think they are stronger. We see more people in Pathology today with systems that have LOW minerals / electrolytes due to over ingestion of water, it is a laugh that some keep pushing 4L a day or RO as drinking water. People even die from this.

    I will drink muddy river water, with dead things in it up stream (The world has for many years)... BUT my coffee has to be spot on ;D To boot, I think I will now go and have a lung lolly ::)


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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee link=1209725970/0#1 date=1209726074
    RO water kills espresso machines[/highlight]. Its as simple as that.
    Is this just something youve heard, or is it actual proven fact? Ive read so many "old wives tales" and myths, about coffee (as well as on many other subjects) that people assume to be true just because its been repeated so often. Is there any hard evidence that this is in fact correct? Im not saying youre wrong, its just that it becomes very difficult to tell fact from fiction when you read so much conflicting info on the internet. I have read websites that state RO water causes corrosion in coffee machines, but I have also read the opposite from a number of sources including the Sweet Marias website:

    "What type of water? For the life of the machine, use RO or distilled water..."

    and

    "Certainly, RO or soft water will make a boiler last longer."


    So who is right?

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill link=1209725970/15#15 date=1209825539
    Is this just something youve heard, or is it actual proven fact?
    1. A long list of dead machines in WA in a couple of coffee companies I am in regular contact with.
    2. A ruined Giotto run on RO water and pretty much beyond repair
    3. Just last week a Makin machine in QLD with upturned toes- fortunately it has survived
    4. A further Giotto with premature controller board failure due to loads imposed by close to zero ion content in the water
    5. A long list of manufacturers who specifically advise against the use of RO water in espresso systems- unless its remineralised?

    Facts enough Id reckon? :-?

    Chris

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee link=1209725970/15#16 date=1209826445
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill link=1209725970/15#15 date=1209825539
    Is this just something youve heard, or is it actual proven fact?
    1. A long list of dead machines in WA in a couple of coffee companies I am in regular contact with.
    2. A ruined Giotto run on RO water and pretty much beyond repair
    3. Just last week a Makin machine in QLD with upturned toes- fortunately it has survived
    4. A further Giotto with premature controller board failure due to loads imposed by close to zero ion content in the water
    5. A long list of manufacturers who specifically advise against the use of RO water in espresso systems- unless its remineralised?

    Facts enough Id reckon? :-?

    Chris
    So what sort of failures did the RO water cause in these machines? Is it issues related to boiler auto-fill sensors, or is it corrosion of the boiler, or something else?


    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee link=1209725970/15#16 date=1209826445
    5. A long list of manufacturers who specifically advise against the use of RO water in espresso systems- unless its remineralised?
    The reasons they give though is usually to do with the RO water not having enough ions for the water to conduct electricity, therefore the auto-fill sensor wont work. Is that the only reason though? That issue is totally irrelevant to the many other machines that dont use auto-fill sensors.


    thanks,
    Bill

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill link=1209725970/15#15 date=1209825539
    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee link=1209725970/0#1 date=1209726074
    RO water kills espresso machines[/highlight]. Its as simple as that.
    Is this just something youve heard, or is it actual proven fact? Ive read so many "old wives tales" and myths, about coffee (as well as on many other subjects) that people assume to be true just because its been repeated so often. Is there any hard evidence that this is in fact correct? Im not saying youre wrong, its just that it becomes very difficult to tell fact from fiction when you read so much conflicting info on the internet. I have read websites that state RO water causes corrosion in coffee machines, but I have also read the opposite from a number of sources including the Sweet Marias website:

    "What type of water? For the life of the machine, use RO or distilled water..."

    and

    "Certainly, RO or soft water will make a boiler last longer."


    So who is right?
    Google can be a friend, it can also lead you up a path, if you let it :-)

    If you want scientific and medical papers there are enough, that talk all about the good the bad and the ugly. However, most of what you will find is cleaver marketing aimed at getting your dollar, with very little interest in your health... just the health of their bank account. Some have good intentions, but are market driven.

    1: Simple facts: When we had rain tanks etc.... We boiled and drank straight from the tank. In most cases, no build up of scale in the pot or jug / kettle. Lots of slime and muck as well as bird shit may have made its way in, but thats what made it taste so good ;) Was it pure NO...

    2: Lots of chlorine, and other gunk added in an effort to kill bugs etc. A week or two of boiling jugs today and you can start top see a scale build up..

    3: Now we have people going to the extreme with out truly understand why. We use water every day and lots of RO in pathology and forensic testing etc. But we would never drink the stuff...

    If you want to confirm for you own eyes... Get a base line done on your electrolytes. Then go and drink RO water ( No added powders / tabs etc) and then after a week, have another test....

    You should see what it does to our dialysis patients when some one gets it wrong... We depend on the RO water to be a good as we can get it, so that it draws the crap via a membrane (Osmosis) from the body... Just like a kidney ::) But what would Medical and Biomed Engineers know.... We help to save lives, NOT MAKE MONEY.

    Look at some of the new health drinks, RO and De Mineralised water.. PLUS all these added electrolytes... Doh.. Plus some sugar so that you feel good.

    Look at the Senior service staff and those with experience in the industry... While scale was a problem, it was able to be cleaned... RO water does the opposite, and that is why they are seeing more systems fail.

    Back on topic: RO water is NOT, repeat NOT, good for Coffee machines.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?


    The reasons they give though is usually to do with the RO water not having enough ions for the water to conduct electricity, therefore the auto-fill sensor wont work. Is that the only reason though? That issue is totally irrelevant to the many other machines that dont use auto-fill sensors.

    thanks,
    Bill
    Again, you are only looking at one symptom... but that in its self explains much, if you know the physics and chemistry behind it all.

    You might be thinking that it would be good to remove both the chemicals and the minerals and metals, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, these substances occur naturally not only in all the water of the earth but also in the make-up of our own bodies. There is no such thing as de-mineralized water, except in the cases where humans have removed them. If all the water of the earth contains minerals and our bodies are 70 percent of human bodies are made of this same water, then it makes absolutely no sense at all to employ the reverse osmosis water filter, which removes the very substances that need to be there.

    The best water filters remove chlorine, lead, cysts and VOCs but leave natural trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium, however RO systems remove the good stuff as well; if you want to drink it.

    You see, our bodys need the naturally occurring minerals found in water. Manganese helps regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and proteins, while iron is needed for healthy blood cells. Both calcium and manganese are essential for healthy bones. Minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium if eliminated by RO water for eg, force the body to draw from that which is stored in teeth and bones.

    The same for boilers and other equipment, the RO water will draw the minerals in an attempt to reach its natural state. Thus weakens the make up of the material etc, causing any number of problems.

    Enough said.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Very interesting reading AM,

    Always new there was a good reason to avoid this stuff, quite apart from it tasting pretty awful and making terrible coffee..... :P

    Thanks mate :),
    Mal.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Some of those statements make very little sense for non-biological situations, so Ill try a more chemical explanation.

    Oxidation is an electrochemical reaction. For metal to be corroded it needs to be oxidised, which means that something needs to be reduced. Metals can reduce water to make hydrogen and a hydroxide. How effective this reaction is depends on the reduction potential of the metal. This is the reaction that takes place with aluminium and water to produce hydrogen (in the presence of NaOH, which dissolves the native oxide). So in the context of a coffee machine, if the machine is new with clean fresh surfaces and RO water is continually cycled through the machine, native surface oxides will be dissolved and the bare metal may be oxidised by reducing the water. This then a cycle that could cause corrosion. Of course there is dissolved oxygen, which usually helps things along.

    Simplified, this means the lack of dissolved ions in water causes protective oxides to dissolve from metal surfaces, which will then corrode according to chemical reactions between water, dissolved oxygen and the metal. Continued use of RO water will keep this process active until something gives...


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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by AngerManagement link=1209725970/15#19 date=1209832624
    You see, our bodys need the naturally occurring minerals found in water.
    Yes, of course, however water is not the only source of these minerals in our diets. We get many of these minerals from our foods as well. Sodium, for example, is one that we generally are very high in, as we add it to all our foods. We get calcium from dairy, iron from red meat, etc, etc. Im certainly not suggesting anyone drink exclusively large quantities of RO water, therefore leaving them deficient in electrolytes. That indeed would be dangerous.


    regards,
    Bill

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky link=1209725970/15#21 date=1209855799
    This is the reaction that takes place with aluminium and water to produce hydrogen (in the presence of NaOH, which dissolves the native oxide). So in the context of a coffee machine, if the machine is new with clean fresh surfaces and RO water is continually cycled through the machine, native surface oxides will be dissolved and the bare metal may be oxidised by reducing the water.
    But there is no NaOH present in RO water, so therefore the native oxide wont dissolve??? (Im not saying it wont, Im just asking the question)

    And brass and stainless steel (the materials that most espresso machines are made from) are much less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum.

    Im still interested to hear from Chris to see if he has actually seen corrosion of brass components due to RO water. The machine failures he mentioned above sound like issues related to auto-fill sensors. But what about machines that dont have auto-fill sensors, like a Silvia for example?



    Bill

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Bill,

    Its been MANY years since Ive done any chemistry but....

    Pure water (especially ultra pure water) has a high affinity for carbon dioxide and absorbs this from the air.... forming carbonic acid. This is the stuff in cola which cleans pennies by dissolving off the oxide....... and the dissolved carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the water.

    Also I seem to remember that metallic carbonates (sodium, magnesium, calcium etc) have a buffering effect on the water and returns its pH to 7.0 or even higher (no longer acid and wont attack metals)...... so hardness in water will prevent (maybe just reduce) the corrosion....

    It is also interesting that ultra pure water cant even be stored in glass containers as the water leaches material from the glass...... and I thought Hydrofluoric Acid was the only material which attacked glass..... however all acids attack metals :(

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Drinking/coffee water:
    If you have rainwater available, then I would recommend a carbon block water filter to get rid of the solids. If you go as low as a 1/2 micron filter it will take out most of the bacteria as well. Running some chlorinated water through the filter periodically (or even some chlorine in the rain water) may be advisable if bacteria levels are high.
    I doubt whether any carbon filter will take out dissolved minerals, so whatever level is in the rainwater should help protect your machine, and your health.
    I have a small sink-top unit that plugs into the kitchen tap that Ive been using for many years with great success.
    Greg

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaB link=1209725970/15#24 date=1209868252
    Bill,

    Its been MANY years since Ive done any chemistry but....

    Pure water (especially ultra pure water) has a high affinity for carbon dioxide and absorbs this from the air.... forming carbonic acid. This is the stuff in cola which cleans pennies by dissolving off the oxide....... and the dissolved carbon dioxide lowers the pH of the water.

    Also I seem to remember that metallic carbonates (sodium, magnesium, calcium etc) have a buffering effect on the water and returns its pH to 7.0 or even higher (no longer acid and wont attack metals)...... so hardness in water will prevent (maybe just reduce) the corrosion....

    It is also interesting that ultra pure water cant even be stored in glass containers as the water leaches material from the glass...... and I thought Hydrofluoric Acid was the only material which attacked glass..... however all acids attack metals :(

    Thanks Robin. Thats the most reasonable explanation Ive seen on the topic thus far. Ive tended to see pure water as being fairly inert, however if CO2 has dissolved in it that makes the situation somewhat different. I admit I hadnt thought of that aspect.


    regards,
    Bill

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    As usual in these discussions, I guess, it can get more confusing rather than less. I appreciate the many replies, but it would be nice to be able to be very specific about what were really talking about.

    In my case, Im not drinking RO water, as the tap water in inner western Sydney (from Prospect Reservoir) has a nice level of minerals and tastes fine at this time of year. However, I have been using RO water in the boiler of my HX machine to stop scale. This discussion of corrosion really worries me, and I need to know what the risk really is to BRASS boilers and feed lines, and SS HX. I do not have any sensors, not does the water touch the brew path.

    If this is really a problem, then should I be using tap water, softened water, filtered water, something mixed with RO? I dont want corrosion, but I dont want scale, either. It is difficult to descale this type of boiler, so I want to avoid it in the first place. There must be many in a similar situation to me.

    Thanks again.
    matt

  29. #29
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    matt,

    Perth water also (generally) tastes fine and is clear.... but VERY high in water hardness - the hardest in Australia!!

    So I dont filter my water as such (but an under sink twin element filter - fibre for the solids and carbon for the heavy metals etc could be used if that is an issue......)

    I pass the scheme water through a water softener and use that for the supply to the coffee machine.... boiler and groups. These significantly reduce water hardness.... but dont eliminate it entirely and are used by most if not all cafes here in Perth.

    The boiler water is also turned over at a reasonable rate.... used for making teas, long blacks - even filling saucepans as I have 17L of boiling water "on tap"..... and if you dont "turn over" the water in the boiler it can develop off aromas which will exit via the steam wand into the milk you are texturing....

    You can either use an ion exchange unit like mine (recharged every couple of months with salt) or a cartridge filter designed for water softening (thrown out when exhausted) or even a Brita jug if only small volumes of soft water are required.....

    Some hardness in the water improves the taste of coffee and tea, protects the boiler and is good for your health.... so that, to me at least, is the way to go.

    I personally wouldnt use distilled, demineralised or RO water in any part of my coffee machine......

    One reason (which has been proved) for the massive increase in asthma is the desire to over purify everything.... believing that pure is best..... but we have an immune system for a reason and it needs to be exposed to nasties at an early age so that we can build up natural immunity whilst young..... so I dont remove these "nasties" from the drinking water.... preferring just to reduce the hardness.... and the scale build up.

  30. #30
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/15#27 date=1209871079
    As usual in these discussions, I guess, it can get more confusing rather than less. I appreciate the many replies, but it would be nice to be able to be very specific about what were really talking about.

    In my case, Im not drinking RO water, as the tap water in inner western Sydney (from Prospect Reservoir) has a nice level of minerals and tastes fine at this time of year. However, I have been using RO water in the boiler of my HX machine to stop scale. This discussion of corrosion really worries me, and I need to know what the risk really is to BRASS boilers and feed lines, and SS HX. I do not have any sensors, not does the water touch the brew path.

    If this is really a problem, then should I be using tap water, softened water, filtered water, something mixed with RO? I dont want corrosion, but I dont want scale, either. It is difficult to descale this type of boiler, so I want to avoid it in the first place. There must be many in a similar situation to me.

    Thanks again.
    matt
    If you want to read a very comprehensive article regarding water for espresso machines, regarding optimum water hardness and alkalinity for best taste vs low scale build-up, etc, then have a read of "Jim Schulmans Insanely Long Water FAQ" at http://www.big-rick.com/coffee/waterfaq.html
    That article is by far the most detailed that Ive ever seen on the subject. It doesnt mention much about corrosion though, except in regards to Gaggia boilers, which are made of aluminum. The article does have some discussion of RO water though:


    The simplest and most common approach is to reintroduce proportion of charcoal filtered tap water downstream of the RO unit to raise hardness and alkalinity to a 30 mg/l range. This is still boiler safe, but greatly improves coffee taste over straight RO water.
    There is no mention of RO water being bad for brass boilers though, only in regard to ensuring you add enough filtered tap water to it for the auto-fill sensor to work.


    regards,
    Bill

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill link=1209725970/15#23 date=1209866233
    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky link=1209725970/15#21 date=1209855799
    This is the reaction that takes place with aluminium and water to produce hydrogen (in the presence of NaOH, which dissolves the native oxide). So in the context of a coffee machine, if the machine is new with clean fresh surfaces and RO water is continually cycled through the machine, native surface oxides will be dissolved and the bare metal may be oxidised by reducing the water.
    But there is no NaOH present in RO water, so therefore the native oxide wont dissolve??? (Im not saying it wont, Im just asking the question)

    And brass and stainless steel (the materials that most espresso machines are made from) are much less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum.

    Bill
    The lack of ions in pure water will cause the native oxide to dissolve even with a vanishing (but not zero) solubility. Dissolved oxygen and CO2 may help both the removal of native oxide and the oxidation process. In a boiler there should be much less dissolved gas, but the high temperature will increase solubilities and speed up chemical reactions.

    In short the chemistry of water is very complex. Take away the ions and many things that are virtually insoluble will dissolve. There is a lot of zinc in brass, which is a very electro-active metal, so expect brass to be more strongly affected.

    The aluminium example was meant just to point out that metal can react with water. The aluminium reaction is vigorous, but zinc will behave similarly and copper less so. The only thing protecting the metal surface is a native oxide. Once this is removed (by dissolving in water with low ion content) the metal can corrode. Continual use of ion-less water will continue this process by replacing the water and preventing ion biuld-up.

    That said, Im not sure just how ion-less commonly available RO water is. At work we can achieve a resistivity of 18.2 MOhm-cm. I doubt that home systems or RO drinking water is close to that grade. Ive been using Pureau RO water in my machine with no problems so far. However I often use filtered water as well and the residual ions in the boiler should keep things fine. Certainly there is no metallic smell to the steam, so I doubt there is any adverse water chemistry occurring. This water may only be from a single pass RO system, not the ultrapure water that a high end Millipore laboratory system produces.

    The bottom line is that the manufacturers dont recommend it and no cafe uses it. Therefore youre not gaining anything by using it, but may in fact be losing something, be it taste or a slowly dissolving machine.

    At least this thread has raised some awareness.

    Cheers,

    Mark.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky link=1209725970/30#30 date=1209878465
    That said, Im not sure just how ion-less commonly available RO water is.
    Yes, thats another point. Quote from "Jim Schulmans Insanely Long Water FAQ"


    RO should produce virtually pure water (below 1 mg/l total solids); however, mineral removal is compromised when the amount of waste water is reduced. For instance, supermarket RO vendomats in very hard water areas may put out as much as 50 mg/l hardness and alkalinity levels.

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Well, its certainly interesting, and it might be best for me to use an ion exchange system as JavaB mentions, but Im still not sure of the optimal mineral level to both avoid corrosion AND scale.

    To reiterate, I dont drink the stuff, as its an HX machine, as many other CSs will also have. The water I drink is tap water, and is already fairly soft, according to the published figures. So health is not the issue (although I agree completely with the comments about absurd over-purification of everything). All Im worried about is the life of the boiler. Thanks for the link to Jim Schulmans page. Ironically, it was Jim who first suggested using RO water in the boiler (same Elektra as mine).

    Mark,
    Since you also seem to use Pureau, youve actually made me wonder if just using tap water to refill the boiler every now and then in place of the RO (i.e. alternating tap and RO) might introduce enough ions to prevent corrosion, while still avoiding scale. Its hard to say how often the total volume of 1.8 litres is turned over, but probably once every three weeks or so. To be honest, I would really rather not be bothered with the Pureau if I thought the boiler would be o.k.

    matt

  34. #34
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Very interesting reading AM,

    Always new there was a good reason to avoid this stuff, quite apart from it tasting pretty awful and making terrible coffee..... *

    Thanks mate ,
    Mal.


    Unless one is drinking black coffee I do not agree that RO or Distilled water would affect the taste. Milk coffee drinkers would not be able to discern whether the 30mil shot in their cuppachino etc was made from whichever water.

    I think there is more important things distorting the taste of coffee, mainly that yucky plasticky taste from using milk in plastic bottles. For that reason I refuse to use anything but cartons. Most times you can get a whiff the plastic odour by placing your nose near bottle mouth.


  35. #35
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by cremakid link=1209725970/30#33 date=1209899109
    Very interesting reading AM,

    Always new there was a good reason to avoid this stuff, quite apart from it tasting pretty awful and making terrible coffee..... *

    Thanks mate ,
    Mal.


    Unless one is drinking black coffee I do not agree that RO or Distilled water would affect the taste. Milk coffee drinkers would not be able to discern whether the 30mil shot in their cuppachino etc was made from whichever water.

    I think there is more important things distorting the taste of coffee, mainly that yucky plasticky taste from using milk in plastic bottles. For that reason I refuse to use anything but cartons. Most times you can get a whiff the plastic odour by placing your nose near bottle mouth.
    Yes and no I suspect. SOme may have a more discriminatory palate, some might not.

    With training, many people can pick up things they had never noticed.

    Nevertheless, the is no need whatsoever for RO in espresso machines unless its remineralised...

    Chris

  36. #36
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    ck dont make generalisations by assuming all milk coffee drinkers cant taste any difference.
    There are people out there with vastly superior palates to mine; its more than likely they can tell the difference.

    This whiff of plastic odour of which you speak; is it there when you open the bottle for the first time?

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/30#32 date=1209895446

    Mark,
    Since you also seem to use Pureau, youve actually made me wonder if just using tap water to refill the boiler every now and then in place of the RO (i.e. alternating tap and RO) might introduce enough ions to prevent corrosion, while still avoiding scale. Its hard to say how often the total volume of 1.8 litres is turned over, but probably once every three weeks or so. To be honest, I would really rather not be bothered with the Pureau if I thought the boiler would be o.k.

    matt
    Why not just use a Brita jug. Thats what Im currently using. It has an ion exchange resin that will remove some of the calcium and magnesium ions and replace them with soluble sodium ions. After say a month of filter water, Ill go back to RO water for a few weeks to descale the innards a bit and so on... Ive never gotten to the point where my level sensor didnt work, so theres plenty of ions about, even after a month or so of RO water. Another option is say a 50/50 fill of Brita filtered with RO. At least for peace of mind, its probably best to steer clear of a diet of pure RO.

    Cheers,

    Mark.


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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Thanks Mark, I guess thats the easiest way. I just thought it would be even easier if I mixed it with tap water, but had no idea what level of ions I would end up with. I wish there was a way of easily testing closed HX boiler water - but I wish there was also a way of knowing just what the optimal level of mineralisation was for avoiding corrosion and scaling.

    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    matt,

    My machine had done 18 years of "hard labour" in the Cafe here in Perth before I bought it..... fed through the same water softener I am now using..... off the local Perth ultra hard water.

    The softener was religiously recharged every month..... and was subject to very high usage.... (I recharge every 2 months which is probably more often than required!)

    When I got the machine I did a strip and descale...... and whilst there was some scale on the boiler walls it was pretty good for 18 years of heavy usage. The element was pretty clean as well. IMHO it could have done many more years service and the scale still wouldnt have been a problem.

  40. #40
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Actually, something Ive just thought of. In a HX boiler, the only way the water level decreases is through steam evacuation. Therefore, any mineral ions dissolving in the water would become more concentrated over time, would they not? Would this mean that they will get to a certain concentration and then stop taking more from the boiler surfaces, or does something keep the process going? Even if I top up with RO water, will those ions still be present in solution? Moreover, if I add some mineralised tap water, will those ions also remain in the boiler?

    Is this what will happen, do you think? Remember, this is a closed HX boiler, with no liquid water drawn from it.

    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Thanks JavaB, Im convinced that what you and Mark say is correct. Still, pretty interesting problem that certainly had not occurred to me.

    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/30#39 date=1209903589

    Is this what will happen, do you think? Remember, this is a closed HX boiler, with no liquid water drawn from it.

    matt
    matt,

    So you use the boiler for texturing milk? If so the autofill will suck whatever water is in the reservoir into the boiler to replace that which has left as steam...... so if you have "normal" water in the reservoir that will get sucked into the boiler.

    Yes, in theory only steam (pure water) leaves but in practise a small amount of salts etc can also escape. The ion levels would remain substantially constant if you topped up with RO water...... but I honestly cant see the need to chop and change between the type of water you use..... just use softened water for the machine - and all will be fine. Id also draw water off every so often..... just so the water in the boiler is relatively fresh.

  43. #43
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Hi JavaB,

    There is no autofill. When I want to add water to the boiler I press a button to manually fill it. It does come from the reservoir, but I simply drain this (and the line to the pump) and replace it with the RO to fill the boiler (a small amount of water every few days). The water level drops solely from using the steam. If I dont texture any milk, the boiler will keep its level. However, since my partner and I drink one or two cafe latte each for breakfast, the boiler water does eventually get replaced.

    I will change to softened water from now on.

    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/30#42 date=1209905332
    Hi JavaB,

    There is no autofill. When I want to add water to the boiler I press a button to manually fill it. It does come from the reservoir, but I simply drain this (and the line to the pump) and replace it with the RO to fill the boiler (a small amount of water every few days). The water level drops solely from using the steam. If I dont texture any milk, the boiler will keep its level. However, since my partner and I drink one or two cafe latte each for breakfast, the boiler water does eventually get replaced.

    I will change to softened water from now on.

    matt
    With an HX boiler, if you keep filling up with mineralised water (and with essentially only distilled water leaving through the steam arm), the minerals will naturally increase in concentration over time which will eventually cause scaling no mater how little minerals were present to start with. This is one of the reasons why you need to periodically flush some water from the boiler (via the hot water tap for example) and top up with low mineral water (or fresh, softened tap water), thereby lowering the concentrated minerals back down to a non-scaling level.

    Im in the same situation as you. My machine is also an HX with manual boiler fill. What Ive been doing is top up the boiler through the week with the reservoir water (which is filtered tap water running through the softener cartridge in the reservoir) and periodically (once every week or two) empty a portion of the boiler water out the hot water tap, and top back up with Pureau to prevent the mineral content getting too high.

    Water hardness can be measured with testing strips, or you can use a TDS meter to measure mineral content. (note that these 2 testing procedures dont measure exactly the same thing)


    regards,
    Bill

  45. #45
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Thanks Bill. If I had a hot water tap it would be very simple indeed. However, I dont, so the only way to empty the boiler is to open the steam arm and physically tip the whole unit on its side to let the water run out. Not actually as hard as it sounds, since its not really that heavy. However, also not something Id like to do every week - or even two. Thats why I was thinking of just sometimes using tap water from the reservoir to mix with the Pureau. Maybe I could then get away with emptying it once a month, or something. I wish I knew just how much mineralisation it could sustain without problems, then I would test it to see how the concentration changed over time, which would then give me an idea of the best procedure. Whod have thought it would be so complicated?

    BTW, where would I procure some testing strips? And would that suffice, do you think?

    Thanks,
    matt

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    For what its worth, there is an RO system available in AU that has been designed for coffee machines and uses 5 filtration stages - sediment, carbon, RO membrane, remineralisation and coconut carbon.

    I dont purport to know how good, or bad, it is!

  47. #47
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by cuppacoffee link=1209725970/45#45 date=1209941506
    For what its worth, there is an RO system available in AU that has been designed for coffee machines and uses 5 filtration stages - sediment, carbon, RO membrane, remineralisation and coconut carbon.

    I dont purport to know how good, or bad, it is!
    Correct you are Dennis.

    Veneziano have a heap of them in operation and the water tastes great. In terms of looking after espresso machines, its the remineralisation phase thats important.

    Chris

  48. #48
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by cuppacoffee link=1209725970/45#45 date=1209941506
    For what its worth, there is an RO system available in AU that has been designed for coffee machines and uses 5 filtration stages - sediment, carbon, RO membrane, remineralisation and coconut carbon.

    I dont purport to know how good, or bad, it is!
    The question one has to ask is WHY have the RO?

    In this case you pay for it and then have to re-mineralise... not withstanding the wast involved or extra steps / processes to manage the waste! Cost cost-effectiveness Vs efficiencies ?

    A good filtration system 3 or 4 stages with a softener (Salt in other words - is that is to you liking, need) is all you need!

    Now if you were pulling water from the waste of a Hospital, where there are all sorts of extra contaminates, then I could support the use of an RO.

    People need to consider the first problem and then work through the logical steps.. It is a true root cause investigation, and not focusing on symptoms or side issues.

    1: Why do you want cleaned water for you Coffee machines ?

    A: To improve taste ? - Subjective : How will the water affect taste - will the clients notice ? Or will the different grinds, beans and barristers have a bigger impact ?

    B: Reduce maintenance: Objective: Pros - Proven that filtered water will assist - cheep and effective. Cons. Some upkeep and cost. Never done a life cycle cost as to the expense of Filtration Vs Cleaning Scale?

    C: Reduce and manage viruses and other bugs etc: Subjective: How many people are getting sick and dying from the tap water NOW ? Taste - see point A: Pros: ??? All very dependant on perceptions? Cons: Expensive, Wast full of water, re-mineralisation and extra maintenance.


    Now while some will state the cons can be addressed, it can not be done without $$ and time.

    Thus a reminder:


    WHY are we doing this in the first place ?

    Reality: Oh thats right we sell snake oil to the public and if they see a sign that says RO / Pure water, and see lots of pipes and filters then the coffee has to be better at this place... :-X

    Outcome: Common sense is lost in the $$$ ::) and marketing.


    A simple filter system, if needed and spend the $$ on better staff training and provide a better product!


  49. #49
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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Quote Originally Posted by AngerManagement link=1209725970/45#47 date=1209946928
    The question one has to ask is WHY *have the RO? *

    In this case you pay for it and then have to re-mineralise... not withstanding the wast involved or extra steps / processes to manage the waste! *Cost cost-effectiveness Vs efficiencies ?

    A good filtration system 3 or 4 stages with a softener (Salt in other words - is that is to you liking, need) is all you need! * ....
    Yes and no... 3-4 stage is too much for machines which sense water by conductivity.

    I have a client who had triple filtration and that was enough to have a Giotto turn its toes up as it couldnt get a water signal.

    Chris

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    Re: RO water bad for coffee machines?

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/30#44 date=1209913168
    I wish I knew just how much mineralisation it could sustain without problems
    I believe "Jim Schulmans Insanely Long Water FAQ" (link above) answers that question, does it not?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dolcimelo link=1209725970/30#44 date=1209913168
    BTW, where would I procure some testing strips? And would that suffice, do you think?
    I think aquarium shops would probably have them. Anyway, a Google search for "water hardness test strips" comes up with heaps of matches so thatd be where Id start looking. However, the drawback with the test strips is that if you are testing the water often, youll need to keep buying test strips all the time. Also, they are not very accurate as they only measure in fairly large steps (ie. 0, 50, 120, 180, etc). Some seem to have slightly smaller steps than that (ie. 0, 40, 80, 120, 180, etc) but its still pretty rough.

    Ive been considering getting a TDS meter instead. Its an electronic device, so you dont need to keep buying testing materials. You can get some relatively cheaply, like $30 or so (do a Google search). It measures the "total dissolved solids" though, which is not exactly the same thing as Water Hardness. eg. if you use an ion exchange softener, that "softens" the water without reducing the "total dissolved solids" - it just replaces scaling ions with non-scaling ones, so will still register the same reading on the TDS meter. Thats not really a problem though. To avoid the mineral concentration getting too high you could just periodically take a TDS reading of the boiler water and top it up with enough Pureau water to keep the TDS below a certain level. Thats what Ive been thinking of doing, but just havent got around to ordering a TDS meter yet.

    regards,
    Bill



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