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Thread: The Importance of STICKING to regular maintenance...

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    The Importance of STICKING to regular maintenance...

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Machine: Sunbeam EM6910
    Grinder: Sunbeam EM0480

    I've been pretty good with my machine, cleaning regularly with a solution from the local Coffee Roasters. The showerscreen and washer are removed regularly and cleaned, I wash my PF each time i use it, run a little water through the group head after each use, use the brush most end-of-day times when I turn the machine off...

    Where I lapsed was in running the cleaner through my steam wand. I use only Reverse Osmosis water in my machine so it seemed unlikely I'd have problems with blockages or descaling issues etc. so the steam side got let go. Not only let go, but pretty much forgotten - and there hangs the tale...

    My steam was, over several months, taking longer each day to start steaming. The pump would start instantly with it's brrrp, brrrp noise, although very soft, but the steam was taking longer, almost by the day, to come through. I've been browsing gumtree and ebay looking for a 6910 for spare parts, thinking my steam pump was on its way out, so I wanted a spare machine to strip for parts.

    Then this morning it was time for a clean and I actually read the back of the cleaner bottle where it said to run the stuff through the steam wand. So I did, giving it about 15 minutes of constant cleaner-steam, then 2 x RO water when the rest of the machine was complete as well. I got lots of brrrp, brrrp, shflttt... noises and actually got contaminants clouding the water from the steam in the container.

    And now my steamer is not only almost instant steam again, it is back up to full strength - I hadn't even noticed the gradual change to my steaming technique as I adjusted to the changing pressure...

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    Perhaps youve got corrosion products building up (are you re-mineralising at all)? Some of there are likely to be soluble in the acidic cleaning solution. I forget what the thermoblock in these machines is like. Stainless coil or aluminium?

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    Just a tip for you guy's who are interested .. unscrew the steam-wand tip and run a thin pipe cleaner brush up the steam-wand, this should clean any build up inside the metal pipe of the steam-wand .. PS you can get the pipe cleaner brush from Coffee Parts for around $12. Hope that helps for future maintenance

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    @MrJack - Not positive but I would have triggered on an aluminium coil - not a fan of it since I read of what it can do to the body... and yes I know there are people who claim it has been debunked but it hasn't. Alcoa and the like are powerful lobbies - just look to the fluoride compulsion. 'nuff said on a coffee forum.

    You might be right about the remineralising - this time around my RO system is a 4-filter version and I added a remineraliser to try it out - the vendor claimed it improved the water so I figured hey, WTH! It could also be added to by the condition the machine was in when I got it - certainly the flow of steam is much better now and given the froth, maybe better than when I first cleaned it all.

    @inconspicuous - I have a Sunbeam poker thingy for the steam hole (other side does blocked showerscreen holes) but the tip for making sure the wand itself is clean is good. Thanks.

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    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Both thermoblocks are alu but lined with stainless steel tubing IIRC.

    Journeyman, what cleaner are you using in the steam thermoblock? I use caffetto to backflush, and descale the brew thermoblock using Sunbeam descaler, but from memory the instructions advise against running descaler through the steam system so I haven't regularly done this... I think someone speculated that this was because of the risk of pieces of dislodged scale blocking a valve or something.

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    I'm using Cino Cleano... seems to do the job well, vis-a-vis the clean out yesterday where the steam kept getting better for 10 minutes or so. It's not specifically a descale option, it says 'coffee oils, milk deposits and scale removal. It's been through the steam wand 3 times now, (twice in the first month and once Sunday) and the steam is better now than when I got the machine.

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    Just wondering, how are you guys actually getting liquid through the em6910's steam arm? Wouldn't it dry and come out as steam, hence clearing scale and redepositing it somewhere else? I did read a post here once re: heat the machine up, turn off, disconect a wire to bypass the heating cycle and run the descaler through.

    Also don't take my word for it, but I doubt the most abundant metal in the earth's crust is particularly harmful. The chemical nature (oxidation state, solubility...) may play a role however, so try not to consume too much aluminium citrate!

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    Not sure about others, I just put the liquid cleaner in the water container (50ml in a litre or so) and turn on the steam - the water in the container under the wand came out murky for a few minutes so I figured something was working, then over time it sounded like blockages were being cleared and eventually I got 5 minutes of just pure steam sound and clear water in the container. When I ran the pure water through (twice) to make sure it was fully rinsed, it came through without the blockage noise and was pure steam for 10 minutes each time.

    Process was:

    1. run cleaner through steamer for 15 minutes (roughly)
    2. Run the cleaning cycle on the group head with the rubber puck in the pf.
    3. Run about a cup or so of cleaner left in the tank through the water arm.
    4. Rinse tank with pure water a couple of times then add in about 1.5L
    5. Run water through the steamer for 10 minutes
    6. Run the cleaning cycle with puck in again.
    7. Run a cup or so through water arm.
    Repeat 4 - 7

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbr View Post
    ... but from memory the instructions advise against running descaler through the steam system so I haven't regularly done this... I think someone speculated that this was because of the risk of pieces of dislodged scale blocking a valve or something.
    I can't see how scale would ever get in the steam arm. Does it actually happen?

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonko View Post
    I can't see how scale would ever get in the steam arm. Does it actually happen?
    Was wondering about this myself, more likely to be milk.

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    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    I'm using Cino Cleano... seems to do the job well, vis-a-vis the clean out yesterday where the steam kept getting better for 10 minutes or so. It's not specifically a descale option, it says 'coffee oils, milk deposits and scale removal. It's been through the steam wand 3 times now, (twice in the first month and once Sunday) and the steam is better now than when I got the machine.
    Thanks, I might give it a go. Not unhappy with the steam performance — in fact given I normally deal with about 100ml of milk if anything it's a bit too strong — but I do get the feeling it takes longer to get to full throttle than when new and can be a bit inconsistent.

    Quote Originally Posted by simonko View Post
    I can't see how scale would ever get in the steam arm. Does it actually happen?
    I reckon you're right, but I'm not so sure about the thermoblock and pump - which is more of an issue as it's less accessible and there's more to go wrong. From memory AM posted about this, but I don't have the search-fu to find the post, if it exists...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Was wondering about this myself, more likely to be milk.
    Even milk surprises me because the wand is getting a low-power steam clean every time it is used.

    Only if the boiler didn't have an anti-vac and/or the steam knob didn't seal perfectly can I imagine remnant milk sitting inside the tip being drawn up the wand as the machine cools.

    But I've heard service guys talk about how disgusting steam wands can get if the machine isn't serviced--not sure if they were referring to boiler machines or thermoblocks though.

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    I don't think that the steam arm alone is anything to worry about. It has quite a large diameter compared to most and I can't imagine it would get clogged within a domestic setting (very easy to remove with a wrench too). I think the issue here is scale blocking up the thermoblock which will not only impede water flow but also reduce the thermal conductance.

    The situation might be slightly different compared to the main thermoblock. Imagine the ion exchange resin in the water tank replacing *most* of the calcium with sodium. This sodium will pass through a brewhead thermo no problem, if anything its solubility will increase with temperature. Calcium solubility decreases however, as in its calcium carbonate form, CO2 degasses at high temps resulting in insoluble Ca. The steam thermo presumably evaporates water completely resulting in sodium and calcium build up? I think the only permanent fix is to have it properly serviced, unless you want to risk zapping yourself playing around with wires!

    Also, I would NOT recommend running anything other than descaler through the machine, period. Backflushing cleaners contain detergents which aren't designed to run through the water tank. The reason they contain descalers is to remove scale on the brew head, solenoid etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by simonko View Post
    Even milk surprises me because the wand is getting a low-power steam clean every time it is used.
    Problem is that any milk that draws back into the wand bakes onto the internal surface of the wand (which is still pretty hot after the steam is turned off) and if you don't do your purges and such you're liable to have a very manky wand after a while...

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    I wonder if the scum skins that came out of my BES860 steam wand after the descale soak was from milk or other things?

    This is just a little bit of scums that came out. There were more of these from where it came from
    ImageUploadedByCoffeeSnobs1375282708.267421.jpg

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    My impression was the clean was lifting stuff further back in the machine than the wand. I'm going to give it a few more goes with the cleaner and see how it improves. This morning it took maybe 5 seconds before steam came through, and I let it run a bit and got no strange hiccups, but yesterday it too maybe 2 or 3 seconds to produce.

    I always give the wand a shot of steam after I clean the outside to make sure nothing is stuck up in there - I doubt anyone actually takes the jug from the steam while it is running or they would be doing major cleanups every time they use it, so there is definitely opportunity for milk to enter the steam head. And as above, it is a hot metal part at that point so it's part of my routine to give the knob a twist after I'm done.

    When it was blocking, the pump starts straight off but it is very quiet - any noise around and you wouldn't notice it. It was doing that for maybe 20 seconds before I cleaned it, then it got louder and after maybe 4 pumps I'd get water dribble and shortly after, steam.

    I'm not too worried about scale build up (or wasn't until MrJack mentioned re-mineralising ) as there will never be tap water through the system, but I figure maybe I'm getting the older stuff causing issues. I'll have to see if I can find out what the mineraliser adds back into the RO water.

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    Actually, I was thinking of insoluble corrosion byproducts as a result of low TDS. But you never know.

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    I always give the wand a shot of steam after I clean the outside to make sure nothing is stuck up in there - I doubt anyone actually takes the jug from the steam while it is running or they would be doing major cleanups every time they use it, so there is definitely opportunity for milk to enter the steam head. And as above, it is a hot metal part at that point so it's part of my routine to give the knob a twist after I'm done.
    My routine after steaming milk,

    Close the steam valve,
    Remove nozzle from milk/jug,
    Immediately, blow out steam wand, by turning the tap on full, into heavily folded damp dish cloth and wipe the exterior of the wand clean, any delay in doing this will see the milk bake to a dried crust within a couple of minutes.
    Leaving the wand in milk or dirty water after steaming will cause it to be drawn up into the wand, where of course it will dry, doing this as a habit will eventually see the wand block with gunk.

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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Similar Yelta - although I haven't turned on the steam while my cloth-covered hand is cleaning the outside. I use a microfibre cloth - will have to see whether the steam comes through - I think I have about 8 layers of it so it should work OK.

    I did some barista work in a local pub to get some experience - the wand was caked and I had to remove it to clean it. I left it soak overnight in water with some descaler liquid (from the local roaster where I got the Cino one) they had and in the AM the water was dirty brown - ever since then I've always immediately 'cleared the throat' after using.



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