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Topic: OT Espresso Machine Spring Cleaning (23 msgs / 654 lines)
1) From: Michael I
After a year of use, I just cleaned my Spaz VII for the first time.
Alarming, huh?  Well, that's not entirely true.  I backflush it almost
daily, and once a week with Cafiza, and I keep the shower screen and gasket
pretty clean, wiping them down or brushing them after each shot.
But I decided it was time to change the gasket, as I was starting to get
some leakage around the top of the portafilter.  So I pulled the screens and
dispersion disk off, pried off the gasket (not too hard), and marveled at
the amount of filth muck that was between the screens and around the disk.
Yuck.  I'm surprised water could get through those screens.
I cleaned the disk thoroughly with Cafiza, and then put the new gasket and
screens on.  I let everything get back up to temp and pulled a shot of India
MNEB, which I just finished.  Delicious -- not an off note in it, and one of
my favorites as an SO shot.  Granted, the one that I pulled before cleaning
tasted great too, and I'd probably have to put them side by side to see if
there was a difference, but I feel better about it now, anyway, and that's
what's important.
In any case, after seeing what builds up between those screens, I'm going to
pull the screens and clean them much more often.  The new gasket is nice,
too...the PF locks in much more securely now.
-AdkMike
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2) From: Alchemist John
Good to hear.  But I have to ask, why is it labeled OT?  It is 
totally coffee related....
At 07:33 4/5/2008, you wrote:
<Snip>
John Nanci
AlChemist at large
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3) From: Michael I
Well, it's not coffee ROASTING related, and with all of the recent drama, I
don't want the list police after me.  Apparently I may have erred the other
way...my apologies.
-AdkMike

4) From: Joseph Robertson
I haven't' studied the rules lately but I think John is right. Coffee
related is the base criteria.
Please let me know it this is not true.
JoeR
On 4/5/08, Michael I  wrote:
<Snip>
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5) From: Sandy Andina
When I had my Livia, I'd do a water backflush daily, a Cafiza  
backflush weekly (and disassemble and soak & scrub the PFs and  
baskets), and once a month I'd remove the shower screen, dispersion  
disk, and screw and soak and scrub them too.  Unfortunately, I've  
never been able to unscrew the Silvia's shower screen to get at it, no  
matter how much torque I apply and no matter how I position the  
machine.  The suggestion to apply a little Cafiza or degreaser on a Q- 
tip to the screw is just short of a joke--it's never worked for me.
Meantime, I decided to do a cold purge of the air from Silvia's boiler  
today. All was well for my first cappa of the day, until I was ready  
to knock out the puck (I waited about a minute to make sure it  
wouldn't be soupy). To my dismay, it stuck to the shower screen and I  
had to blast it loose--very, very messy, and it took several passes  
with a gasket brush and towel before I could get the PF to lock in  
again.  Steaming went okay, but had the same flow problems with the  
next drink, an Americano: though I successfully resisted the urge to  
open the tank and play with the hoses it took over 20 sec. for any  
water to begin dripping through the PF (the grind is not THAT fine)  
and then getting the hot water to stream neatly from the steamwand was  
difficult--there was a lot of spurting and sputtering.  But at least  
the drinks had good crema and tasted terrific. FWIW, the water in the  
tank heats up alarmingly--I put it in not ice cold but at bottle temp.  
Could this be a clue? Meanwhile, it looks like I'm going to have to  
shut it off between sessions and then do the "Cheating Miss Silvia"  
schtick each time I want a drink--which wastes a LOT of relatively  
expensive (not tap) water.
On Apr 5, 2008, at 9:33 AM, Michael I wrote:
<Snip>
Sandy Andina
www.myspace.com/sandyandina
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6) From: Terry Stockdale
On Apr 5, 2008, at 11:49 AM, Sandy Andina  wrote:
<Snip>
It's really easy get confused on rotation of the screw-- it usually  
gets me at first.  Look at it from the bottom and unscrew  
counterclockwise.
<Snip>
<Snip>
It sounds like the overpressure valve is relieving at too low a  
prressure.  That would reroute hot water through the return hose to  
the reservoir.
My Saturdaymorning started off with a Monkey blend Americano, followed  
by a latte of Monkey (have to roast today).  Both made with my Vivaldi  
II using my new Desert Ironwood Thor Tamper.
Terry Stockdale
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7) From: Cameron Forde
Hi Michael,
I've had my Vivaldi S1 for about a year and a half now.  It is a great
machine and having daily cappuccinos and americanos is now routine.
My cleaning regimen is to flush and brush after every shot and
disassemble for a Caffiza scrub about once a month.  I can tell when
it is time for a good cleaning as my shots start to taste off.  In
fact I just did a thorough cleaning this morning as I was noticing the
taste was off a bit.  I haven't changed my gasket yet (no leaking and
it is still soft).  I'm planning on doing the gasket replacement at
the two year mark.  I wonder if the difference between our gasket
lifetimes is related to the detergent back flushing?  I've avoided
doing them both because the manufacturer doesn't recommend it, and
because I didn't get a backflush disk with the machine.  I'm guessing
that you need to disassemble less frequently because you backflush
with detergent.  Did you read up on the screen arrangement options on
Chas Rimpo's site?
Cameron
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 7:33 AM, Michael I  wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
ceforde
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8) From: miKe mcKoffee
Group gasket replacement frequency is primarily a direct relation to time
machine turned on. Heat is the rubber gasket killer turning it hard. Do
yourself a favor and don't wait to replace until the sucker it rock hard and
has to be broken/dug/pried/chiseled out with a pick to get it out! Group
gaskets are cheap and easy to replace. Another factor exacerbating gasket
death is leaving the PF locked in TIGHT rather than loose at idle.
Any espresso machine with a 3-way valve can (and should) be routinely
detergent back flushed. 
Kona Konnaisseur miKe mcKoffeehttp://www.mckoffee.com/Ultimately the quest for Koffee Nirvana is a solitary path. To know I must">http://www.mcKonaKoffee.comURL to Rosto mods, FrankenFormer, some recipes etc:http://www.mckoffee.com/Ultimately the quest for Koffee Nirvana is a solitary path. To know I must
first not know. And in knowing know I know not. Each Personal enlightenment
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9) From: Michael Mccandless
I'll second that.
I'm rebuilding a La Pavoni I picked up as a basket case.
The C-clip that holds the pump shaft gasket was corroded
to the point that the eyes were long & it was rusted in place.
It took generous & frequent of application of acid & penetrating oil to
dissolve - loosen it to the point that I could remove it piece by piece.
Definitely worthwhile, but it was a sad site to start with.
McSparky
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 3:54 PM, miKe mcKoffee  wrote:
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10) From: Cameron Forde
Hi Mike and Michael,
Thanks for the advice.  I've gone back and forth on the back-flushing
issue.  Do I back-flush to reduce the frequency of disassembling the
group head?  Or does it just keep the shots from deteriorating between
disassembly.  My hunch is that I would reduce the frequency of taking
the group head apart if I didn't notice a drop in the quality of the
shot.  Am I better off introducing a detergent back flush once a week
even if it means that that a full cleaning happens less frequently?
Maybe I'll get a blank insert and see which regimen suits (need to
order the replacement gasket anyway).  The machine is only on about 2h
a day during the week and about 6h on weekends.
Cameron
On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 4:40 PM, Michael Mccandless
 wrote:
<Snip>
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ceforde
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11) From: miKe mcKoffee
What's to go back and forth on when it comes to keeping brewing equipment
clean? If you want the best tasting coffee you just do it, period. One
should never notice a drop in shot quality do to dirty equipment, NEVER.
That's being plan lazy, or possibly ignorance. Can't help with the first but
to rectify the second see:http://www.home-barista.com/espresso-machine-cleaning.htmlKona Kurmudgeon miKe mcKoffee
www.mcKonaKoffee.com
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12) From: Bryan Wray
The manufacture suggest not doing a backflush?  That's plain stupid... period.  Do yourself a favor, go ahead and DON'T listen to that advice.  You should be backflushing at least once a week.
-Bry
 
"It is my hope that people realize that coffee is more than just a caffeine delivery service, it can be a culinary art"- Chris Owens of Cafe Grumpy in NYC.
       
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13) From: Michael I
Cameron,
I have read Chas' site, and am aware of the alternate screen arrangement.
But as far as I can tell, it's primarily to allow more headroom in the PF so
you can updose a bit.  My V II has the thinner dispersion disk already, so I
stayed with the regular configuration.
I know that La Spaziale doesn't recommend the detergent backflush, and that
the double-screen arrangement is designed to trap grounds so it doesn't have
to be backflushed.  But, I know that there's a bunch of coffee oil muck that
gets caught up there anyway, and the detergent backflush definitely helps
with that.  That's probably why I could go so long without cleaning the
screens and still have acceptable results.
I have the timer, so my machine is on and off during the day, but it spends
the majority of the time from 6am to midnight on, which definitely will
shorten the gasket life.  I also leave the PF locked in, which won't help.
So I figured it was better to change it now, while I know I can get it off.
Since I did it yesterday, I've been pulling some very nice shots, so I'm
happy with the results.  I will definitely be cleaning the screens once a
month, now, and changing the gasket again in 9 months or a year.
-AdkMike

14) From: Cameron Forde
I'm convinced by all the arguments in favour of regular back-flushing.
 I should be doing weekly detergent back-flushes on top of monthly
disassembly.  I'm sure the shot quality will benefit from this
regimen.  I'm jealous of your timer.
Cameron
On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 8:52 AM, Michael I  wrote:
<Snip>
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ceforde
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15) From: Michael I
Yeah, I wasn't convinced that I really needed the timer when I originally
ordered the machine, as it's not cheap, but I decided to anyway.  After
having it for a year, it's definitely been worth it -- if it were cheaper it
would be a no-brainer.
If I didn't have it, the machine would probably just be on all day.
-AdkMike

16) From: Michael Dhabolt
I guess I have to weigh in on this one.
Many folks have the wrong idea about what the backflush actually accomplishes.
Yes it does clean the shower screen, dispersion block and everything
else that is inside of and above the portafilter sealing location
against the group gasket.
And Yes this is important and if backflushing or a disassembly of
screen etc. and cleaning is not accomplished fairly regularly the
contamination of shots from the built up gunk and oils will provide a
considerably less than pleasant addition of the shots taste.
The one thing that the backflush accomplishes, that has not been
mentioned, is cleaning the passageways from the location at which the
brew water is injected above the shower screen  backward thru the
three way valve and to the drain tray.  This flow path can be from
several inches to almost a foot depending upon what particular
machine.  If not backflushed this passageway will slowly fill with
solidified oils and crud until flow is completely stopped.  At this
point things can become expensive.
Machines built prior to the advent of the three way valve had a
disconcerting habit of spraying hot water/coffee all over the operator
if the pressure was not allowed to relieve itself prior to portafilter
removal after pulling a shot. Before the advent of the three way valve
the norm for cleaning the group head was physical disassembly, brushes
soap etc. and it worked perfectly well.  IMHO - ALL machines with
three way valves should be backflushed regularly.
An example:  I recently did some work on a nice commercial single
group Brazilia that has seen regular use in a local Bed & Breakfast
for a number of years.  No amount of 2000 psi air and / or acid
flushes etc. would clean the drilled passageways in the group head.
The passageways were drilled and welded closed at the casting
boundary, so phyically re-drilling the holes was not in the cards.
The options included drilling the welds etc. etc. ----- the cheapest
solution ended up being a three week wait for a new group casting.
Reasonably regular detergent backflushing would have saved these folks
about $450 all told (extra labor and price of parts), as well as not
having to do without a machine for three weeks.
When pulling a shot from a group with a three way valve, you should
hear a slight swoosh immediatly after the pump stops.  This is the
three way valve venting the area above the coffee puck in the
portafilter thru the valve and to the drain.  If you don't hear it, it
is time to get serious about doing some detergent backflushing until
things are cleaned up.
Mike (just plain)
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17) From: Cameron Forde
Hi Mike,
Thanks for your input.  What you've said makes really good sense.  I'm
at a loss to understand why La Spaziale recommends against
back-flushing.  I'll have to take a look at the waste line coming out
of the three way valve and see if it is getting clogged with goo.
Cameron
On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 3:54 PM, Michael Dhabolt
 wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
ceforde
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18) From: Michael Dhabolt
Cameron,
I'll agree with your statement;
<Snip>
I recently picked up a LM Linea basket case at the Seattle La Spaz
operation and talked them out of a set of manuals.  I don't see any
recommendation for or against.  Unusual. All other commercial machines
(in my humble and limited experience) recommend for frequent
backflushing ..... usually in bold, large and underlined text.  I
don't have any experience with the La Spaz group so I must defer to
more experienced folk.  The exploded parts diagram shows a group that
may have an extremely short backflow path from the portafilter to the
three way valve that may not be prone to becoming clogged.  I notice
from their parts lists/diagrams that they do sell a blank basket for
the portafilter ?...?  What I see of the machines configuration does
not lead me to believe that backflushing would cause any problems,
....  a personal observation only ....there may be more going on there
than I am aware of.
Mike (just plain)
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19) From: Cameron Forde
Hi Michael,
I appreciate your sharing what you found in the manuals.  Before I
bought this machine I did a lot of reading about it (I was deciding
between it and the Brewtus).  When I called the company that sells the
S1 here, I specifically asked about what I thought were the odd things
about the machine: it uses a 51 mm PF and the company doesn't
recommend back-flushing.  The salesman said that the 51 mm PF makes
good espresso and La Spaziale aren't the only ones who use a 51 mm (I
thought he said that La San Marco did too, but when I was at the Blue
Bottle in San Francisco I noticed that their dual group La San Marco
lever has PFs that looked to be 58 mm).  He told me that the company
doesn't recommend back-flushing because it can actually drive grounds
up into the 3-way valve.  This made some sense to me then and I've not
yet back-flushed my machine (though this is going to change).
Cameron
On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 8:38 PM, Michael Dhabolt
 wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
ceforde
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20) From: Michael Dhabolt
Cameron,
I know several people who are wildly happy with their S1s.  Seems to
be a well built and dependable machine capable of high end pulls if
the equipment on the handle end of the portafilter is functioning
well.  They make several multi group commercial machines that
certainly look impressive.  I'm looking forward to getting into the
'guts' of one some day.
I would hope it goes without saying that flushing the grounds out of
the screen etc. prior to backflushing on any machine is pro forma.
The LSM machines that I have worked with and on have used a 53 mm PF.
I believe that Les (the authority on these things) recommends a
slightly larger THOR tamper for the La Spaz ... 53.2mm IRRC.
Mike (just plain)
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21) From: Cameron Forde
Hi Michael,
Of course I meant 53 mm, and you are right about Les' Thor tamper.  I
have one and it fits much better than the stainless one that I bought
with the machine.
I'm confused now about the La San Marco PFs that I saw at the Blue
Bottle.  I remember being a little surprised that they looked like 58
mm.
I wouldn't have any reservations recommending the La Spaziale machines
for someone who is serious about their espresso (it sounds like the S2
is a nice improvement over the S1, too).  I'm definitely the weak link
in the espresso preparation chain.  Thanks to all of the good advice
from this list I'm improving.
Cameron
On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 9:38 PM, Michael Dhabolt
 wrote:
<Snip>
-- 
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22) From: Terry Stockdale
Just received my Thor Tamper from Les -- it's getting extensive use  
worth my S1-V2, including my El Salvador Yellow Bourbon Cultivar  
americano this morning.
--
Terry Stockdale
Sent from my iPhone
On Apr 6, 2008, at 11:38 PM, "Michael Dhabolt"  wrote:
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23) From: Sandy Andina
I may bite the bullet and "pull the trigger" on a new machine myself.  
A local vendor/service facility in the near west suburbs (which  
services Metropolis) has a nice machine I was considering buying  
before I saw Trishops' irresistible price on the Livia 90A, and they  
deliver for free.  (I won't tell the shop name nor the brand of  
machine and price because SM's sells its own version of the same  
machine and I don't want to be an ungracious "list-guest").  But when  
my husband's bonus or our tax refund comes in, if my Magister or Livia  
is not repaired to my satisfaction, I think I just may go for it,  
especially since Silvia is destined for her own trip to the shop.
On Apr 7, 2008, at 12:30 AM, Cameron Forde wrote:
<Snip>
Sandy Andina
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