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Thread: Water filtration (esp reverse osmosis): Coffee Snobs says. Manufacturer says.

  1. #1
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    Water filtration (esp reverse osmosis): Coffee Snobs says. Manufacturer says.

    After almost 20 years of upgrade-itis, I've just ordered my dream home machine. I will be stepping up from a Vibiemme Domobar Junior to a La Marzocco GS3 MP and want to give myself the best chance of:


    1. producing quality espresso, shot after shot; and
    2. keeping it in good running order for many years to come.


    So, in what might be a world first, I decided to RTFM in advance of the machine arriving next week. My Domobar Junior has churned through thousands of litres of Sydney tap water over the last six years, but the stakes are

    La Marzocco go to great lengths to specify what water the machine will be happy with. And so began a frustrating night on CS and other websites trying to get an understanding of H20 beyond what I learned at school many decades ago.

    In the absence of a water test kit, I checked Sydney Water for the latest water analysis data for my supply source (Potts Hill) and plugged in as many data points as I could into La Marzocco's water calculator thingo.

    The result was a manufacturer recommendation to use water from a reverse osmosis system with bypass. Errrgh....more research now required....and maybe more expense.

    The most relevant search results brought me back to CS and this thread and this thread, in particular. My head starting spinning. Is reverse osmosis actually a waste of money here in Sydney? Is La Marzocco just trying to push paranoid users to their fancy-pants solution? Why do I suddenly feel like I need to get a PhD in chemistry to make coffee?

    Cheers

    DJ
    (Former CS user returning to the fold after a lonnnnng hiatus)
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  2. #2
    Junior Member Hughie's Avatar
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    Only my two cents I would buy a tds and th strip test kit and test the water at the closest tap to where your machine is going to be and go from there.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    The info in the first thread lnked is almost entirely false.

    High purity water does not leach minerals any more than does say rainwater. Proof of this statement in the form of a peer reviewed journal article provided on request.

    The flavour impact is a personal thing: I spend almost half the year on Beechworth rainwater (measured* TDS = 6) and the other half on Melbourne tapwater (measured TDS = 60 - 80), I slightly prefer the former.

    There have been some suggestions that pure water won't conduct well enough for the autofill to work. I haven't seen this and in any case any boiler will concentrate minerals (that's partially why you get scale in the first place) so the probelm would go away very quickly if it existed.

    * Measured with a conductivity meter. FWIW an RO system on Sydney water will produce water with a TDS fairly close to this.
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 11th August 2018 at 09:25 AM.
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  4. #4
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    TDS specifically isn't the real problem, it's TH that is important to manage.

    With LM machines such as the unit you're moving up to (and any other stainless steel boiler machine), it is probably more important to ensure that all chlorine compounds are removed. RO with added suitable salts will certainly achieve this but so will the use of appropriate water filtering, that is regularly monitored (monthly).

    There are a number of excellent systems on the market and once installed, they are both simple to use and require next to no maintenance apart from filter changes. An added benefit of going in this direction, is that both the pH and hardness is managed to ensure that the water is as close to ideal as possible, to enhance the flavour profile of coffee produced from it.

    I would highly recommend that you contact specialist water filtering company Bombora, as an example, and ask for their assistance to come up with the best option to suit your particular circumstances. This may indeed end up being an RO + remineralisation system but most likely not. Bombora do not charge for their advice and recommendations so it's definitely worth doing.

    Mal.
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  5. #5
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    Well Said Mal.
    Your in an ideal position OzDJ to judge your own circumstances.
    Why not just remove the mushroom from your VBM and it should Give you a good reference to how your local water Is working in your current machine.

    Below is a pic of the contents I recovered from my pre-filter after a changeover with 12mth use.

    I'm in the Greater Brisbane Metro Area and much of my Supply was coming from Stradbroke Island ( which since 2012 is now 'blended' after the State Gov created an 'all in' water supply strategy post the last drought ).It says to me that the most relevant issue is the contamination that can occur downstream from the water treatment plant due to water pipe breaks / faults / repairs OR when new developments T into the water supply lines.




    20170603_111856.jpg
    Last edited by EspressoAdventurer; 11th August 2018 at 11:33 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OzDJ View Post
    After almost 20 years of upgrade-itis, I've just ordered my dream home machine.

    La Marzocco go to great lengths to specify what water the machine will be happy with. And so began a frustrating night on CS and other websites trying to get an understanding of H20 beyond what I learned at school many decades ago.

    In the absence of a water test kit, I checked Sydney Water for the latest water analysis data for my supply source (Potts Hill) and plugged in as many data points as I could into La Marzocco's water calculator thingo.

    The result was a manufacturer recommendation to use water from a reverse osmosis system with bypass. Errrgh....more research now required....and maybe more expense.
    G'day OzDJ

    Congrats on your new toy.

    Welcome to the rabbit hole (water).

    MOST (note caps, not ALL) good quality stainless is really only affected by the presence of the deadly duo - chlorine and fluorine - and ignores virtually everything else. If you are using city tap water both of the deadly duo are a given. So getting rid of both of them is a priority for the machine's longevity. Note: scale buildup is usually not a machine killer unless it is extreme, and cleaning your new toy regularly should be done anyway.

    FYI, leaving water in a vented container for 20 minutes will get rid of most of the chlorine - no filtering needed if time is utilised. See Lyrebird post below. This is not actually correct. TampIt

    Most of the other bad guys - e.g. iron (common on older areas of Sydney in the '60's, possibly sorted by now) and calcium (any water supply sitting on limestone) affect flavour (and can trash some brass boilers...). Considering flavour is why we bother to go to extremes to get a decent cuppa, it is also critically important in my book.

    I suggest you read Jim Schulman's "Insanely long water FAQ" if you really feel the urge as it covers almost all areas in depth. Mind you his mineral content figures (150ish from memory) are highly disputed by some including me - my "dual basically filtered rainwater" measures under 3 consistently - lower than most distilled water you can buy these days.

    FWIW, I reckon as long as you remove the fluorine (or use rainwater without any to begin with - which I have since 1970) and do some basic filtering to remove "flavour killers" you should be OK. I have yet to get a decent flavour out of any reverse osmosis setup - it just tastes flat and dead to me. YMMV. BTW my simple test - taste the water "post machine / after cooling it down to room temp" - if you don't want to drink it like that start sorting it out...

    Hope this helps,


    TampIt
    Last edited by TampIt; 11th August 2018 at 06:36 PM. Reason: Typo... plus factual error.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    TDS specifically isn't the real problem, it's TH that is important to manage.
    In waters east of the dividing range they tend to move together: since the waters are mostly from igneous aquifers, there's very little sulphate so most of the total hardness is temporary. As a rough guide if you assume your total hardness is 40% of your TDS you'll be very close.
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 11th August 2018 at 12:21 PM.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post

    FYI, leaving water in a vented container for 20 minutes will get rid of most of the chlorine - no filtering needed if time is utilised.

    snip

    chlorine and flourine
    That doesn't actually work. In processes which are sensitive to chlorine in water (eg brewing) the chlorine needs to be actively managed. Adding an antioxidant such as ascorbic acid or sulphur dioxide will remove the chlorine but simply standing won't remove it in a reasonable amount of time: as a rough guide it will halve every 24 hours.

    See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art...C4433738/#ref5

    BTW it's fluorine, derived from Latin fluor "flow" (same stem as flux), not flourine.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Hughie View Post
    Only my two cents I would buy a tds and th strip test kit and test the water at the closest tap to where your machine is going to be and go from there.
    Suggestion 50% followed. Went to a nearby-ish water filtration shop here in Sydney and bought a TDS meter (TICK!) and pH test kit (FAIL! pH TH). TDS from nearest tap was 85ppm and pH is somewhere between 7 and 8.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    The info in the first thread lnked is almost entirely false.
    Whaaaat!? I can't trust/believe everything on the interwebs?! ;-)


    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    There have been some suggestions that pure water won't conduct well enough for the autofill to work.
    Aye. That was the comment from one of the local coffee machine places as they tried to sell me an $800 water filtration system.



    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    I haven't seen this and in any case any boiler will concentrate minerals (that's partially why you get scale in the first place) so the probelm would go away very quickly if it existed.
    That's a really good point!

    Thanks for your input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    TDS specifically isn't the real problem, it's TH that is important to manage.
    Which, of course, is what Hughie tried to help me with, above, and I bought the wrong damn test kit ;-)


    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    more important to ensure that all chlorine compounds are removed.
    Which is something most basic water jug and simple under-sink systems can perform, yeah?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    I would highly recommend that you contact specialist water filtering company Bombora
    Thanks, Mal. Have spotted their name around the forums a few times. Will drop them a line and see how I go!

    Appreciate the time you took to write all that up, too.

    DJ
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    Merely standing water will not do much in twenty minutes but it will reduce free Chlorine to about 38% after 24 hours, hence below 15% in 48 hours (see Lyrebird's link). On the other hand, boiling removes virtually all free Chlorine (normal concentrations) which is why I occasionally top up the machine from the jug for tea (after it has cooled).

    Regarding using ascorbic acid, buy a bottle of 100 x 500 mg tablets, chop each tablet into ten pieces (!) and each fragment will remove both free Chlorine and Chloramines from 2 litres of water in a minute or two. Cost, about 0.5c/L. Reference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Congrats on your new toy.
    Thanks. MrsOzDJ doesn't know how much it cost yet, so if you see a homeless guy in the park with a fancy new machine, please drop over and say hello. ;-)

    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Welcome to the rabbit hole (water).
    Yep - that's EXACTLY where I feel like I've landed in the last 24hrs. From excitement to concern to utter confusion. But there's light at the end of the tunnel....and I don't think it's a train.


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    good quality stainless is really only affected by the presence of the deadly duo - chlorine and flourine - and ignores virtually everything else.
    I'm starting to get the message: if it's good for your teeth and nuking bacteria in the water then your machine probably won't like it ;-)


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    FYI, leaving water in a vented container for 20 minutes will get rid of most of the chlorine - no filtering needed if time is utilised.
    Well that almost seems absurdly simple! But the flourine would remain?


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Most of the other bad guys - e.g. iron (common on older areas of Sydney in the '60's, possibly sorted by now) and calcium (any water supply sitting on limestone) affect flavour (and can trash some brass boilers...). Considering flavour is why we bother to go to extremes to get a decent cuppa, it is also critically important in my book.
    I couldn't agree more. I've done OK (I think) to date with my espresso, but I want to do better.


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    I suggest you read Jim Schulman's "Insanely long water FAQ" if you really feel the urge
    Urge felt. Found it here (link shared in case it helps someone else). Looks like some delightful bedtime reading.


    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    FWIW, I reckon as long as you remove the flourine (or use rainwater without any to begin with - which I have since 1970) and do some basic filtering to remove "flavour killers" you should be OK.....Hope this helps
    Makes so much sense and helps me a lot. THANKS! :-)

    DJ
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by EspressoAdventurer View Post
    Why not just remove the mushroom from your VBM and it should Give you a good reference to how your local water Is working in your current machine.
    It's in top-notch condition....but, then, it was professionally serviced less than six months ago.


    Quote Originally Posted by EspressoAdventurer View Post
    Below is a pic of the contents I recovered from my pre-filter after a changeover with 12mth use.
    Ye Gods! That looks horrid. :-o


    Quote Originally Posted by EspressoAdventurer View Post
    the most relevant issue is the contamination that can occur downstream from the water treatment plant due to water pipe breaks / faults / repairs OR when new developments T into the water supply lines.
    Good point. I live in an old (circa 1895) house in a very old suburb that's going from a census population of 890 in 2001 to 50,000 by 2021. Development everywhere around us. God only knows what's ending up in the water between the reservoir and my kitchen tap :-)

    Thanks for the advice. really appreciate it.

    DJ

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    Quote Originally Posted by beensean View Post
    Merely standing water will not do much in twenty minutes but it will reduce free Chlorine to about 38% after 24 hours, hence below 15% in 48 hours (see Lyrebird's link). On the other hand, boiling removes virtually all free Chlorine (normal concentrations) which is why I occasionally top up the machine from the jug for tea (after it has cooled).
    Gotchya. Thank you.

    DJ

  16. #16
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beensean View Post
    Regarding using ascorbic acid, buy a bottle of 100 x 500 mg tablets, chop each tablet into ten pieces (!) and each fragment will remove both free Chlorine and Chloramines from 2 litres of water in a minute or two. Cost, about 0.5c/L. Reference.
    Good suggestion but not practical with a plumbed in machine...

    Mal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Good suggestion but not practical with a plumbed in machine...
    Upside: Mine won't be plumbed-in (at least in the short term )

    DJ

  18. #18
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    BTW those methods will get rid of chlorine by reducing it to chloride. Chloride ions will still damage stainless steels, austenitic SS (eg the common food grades in the 300 series) are prone to chloride induced stress corrosion.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    That doesn't actually work. In processes which are sensitive to chlorine in water (eg brewing) the chlorine needs to be actively managed. Adding an antioxidant such as ascorbic acid or sulphur dioxide will remove the chlorine but simply standing won't remove it in a reasonable amount of time: as a rough guide it will halve every 24 hours.

    See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art...C4433738/#ref5

    BTW it's fluorine, derived from Latin fluor "flow" (same stem as flux), not flourine.


    G'day Lyrebird

    Thx - misspelt fluorine - that one is my fault - if my proofreading was firing I would have picked it up. Now fixed - oops.

    Chlorine - it appears that another myth bites the dust - is anything I learnt growing up actually correct? A Wollongong water board engineer (or whatever title they had back then) told me that it fixed excess chlorine in their "water". It was more like a putrid liquid, hard to call it water back in the Pt Kembla steelworks days. Obviously wrong. Thanks for that as well.

    Enjoy your cuppa - you deserve it.

    TampIt

  20. #20
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    Yeah I know what you mean.

    I used to live in Heathcote, Vic (I ran a winery there) and the local water smelt like chlorinated filtered mud because, well, that's basically what it was.

  21. #21
    Junior Member Hughie's Avatar
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    If your tds is only 85 ppm you th is going to be a lot lower than that.
    As others have said Bombora are the guys to talk to about recommendations.
    With tds that low I don’t see why something like the brita c150 w/ bypass or c150 finest wouldn’t work unless la marzocco require some really special parameters I’m not aware of.
    I don’t know anything about Bombora filters but I’ve read that guys that use them love them.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lyrebird View Post
    BTW those methods will get rid of chlorine by reducing it to chloride. Chloride ions will still damage stainless steels, austenitic SS (eg the common food grades in the 300 series) are prone to chloride induced stress corrosion.
    Until this thread (and valuable insights like yours), I hadn't even pondered the additional considerations of the stainless steel guts of the GS3, let alone how quickly I could trash my new machne.

    in <48hrs, I've gone from "water whatevs" to "ZOMFG! TDS! TH! Chloride! Flouride!" ;-)

    DJ
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hughie View Post
    With tds that low I don’t see why something like the brita c150 w/ bypass or c150 finest wouldn’t work unless la marzocco require some really special parameters I’m not aware of.
    Cheers. Makes sense!

    With a view to helping someone else in the future, I thought I'd share La Marzocco's water specs, straight from the GS/3 MP manual, so everything's here in the one thread:

    "...To guarantee a correct and safe functioning of the machine and to maintain anadequate performance level and a high quality of the beverages being brewed it is important that the incoming water...

    - hardness greater than 7f (70ppm,4d) and less than 10f (100ppm, 6d);
    - pH between 6.5 and 8.5; and
    - chlorides less than50mg/l..."

    And then there's this table a little further on...

    waterspecs.JPG

    One of the big things I've learned in the last day - it's all well and good to get the latest water quality report for your supply from the local water authority, but what comes out of your tap could be materially different. Get test kits and be sure!

    DJ
    Last edited by OzDJ; 12th August 2018 at 08:19 AM. Reason: Typos and missing table

  24. #24
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    That's an incredibly tight hardness spec, you'd have to add salts to your raw water to achieve it (based on the analysis you posted). This may be the origin of their RO plus treatment recommendation: the RO gets the hardness down to near zero so you don't have to do analysis to work out the correct addition.

    BTW although feedwater additives are de rigeur for industrial scale boilers, I've never seen a domestic machine require it.
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    Chlorides in the water will ultimately cause corrosion of steel and temperature advances stress cracking. There are questions of concentration and time frame though. I am not expecting to need to replace my machine any time in its useful life, any more than I formerly needed to descale the Silvia remotely as often as is at times suggested. The water where I am appears to meet all criteria for maxima, and otherwise to be in balance (which helps explain why descaling was not needed often). I am not running industrial plants and processes, just looking for coffee that tastes OK.

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    Quick update: Thanks to the mutiple referrals to Bombora. Further to some email discussion with Cameron regarding the local supply here and what La Marzocco expects my machine to be "fed", I've sent a sample up to Newcastle for them to test.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OzDJ View Post
    Quick update: Thanks to the mutiple referrals to Bombora. Further to some email discussion with Cameron regarding the local supply here and what La Marzocco expects my machine to be "fed", I've sent a sample up to Newcastle for them to test.
    Well....with thanks to Cameron and Paul at Bombora, I have the water test results and a solution path!

    TDS – 98ppm
    PH – 7.6
    TH – 80ppm
    CH – 34ppm (x0.6 is 20.4)

    The recommended approach is a system with a 3M HF15 cartridge. No (expensive) reverse osmosis shenanigans!
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  28. #28
    Junior Member Hughie's Avatar
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    Very good thanks for keeping us informed

  29. #29
    Junior Member Blacktownbrew's Avatar
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    i also have a gs3 mp and i love it..
    now with water i just use this filter then from there fill up a 20L container thats under the coffee machine


    IMG_2468.jpg

  30. #30
    Senior Member noonar's Avatar
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    A certain fleebay pet shop is having a %25 off storewide promo, including all water testing kit. Just sharing.
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Holy....... I didn't know there was so much tech going into the water! Quite a bit to digest for me here

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