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Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
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Discussions > Espresso > Espresso Mods > Saeco rapid...  
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Tomcody
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Tomcody
Joined: 4 Apr 2011
Posts: 45
Location: Georgia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: La San Marco Practical 95E
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Timer
Drip: Arçelik 3200 Turkish Coffee...
Roaster: Air Popcorn Popper
Posted Sat Mar 30, 2013, 3:52am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

ddubick Said:

Do you think that the boiler is stable around 124 deg?  Do you get lots of steam?  

It doesn't make sense that the brew water is so cool considering this thing was obviously designed to work, it couldn't have gone to market without brewing at a reasonable temp.

Posted March 29, 2013 link

I agree with this.  Back to my question. Does it steam ok?

 
"Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love."
"A cup of coffee commits one to fourty years of friendship."
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jannus
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Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Sat Mar 30, 2013, 5:43am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Tomcody Said:

I agree with this.  Back to my question. Does it steam ok?

Posted March 30, 2013 link

ddubick Said:

Do you think that the boiler is stable around 124 deg?  Do you get lots of steam?  

It doesn't make sense that the brew water is so cool considering this thing was obviously designed to work, it couldn't have gone to market without brewing at a reasonable temp.

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Indeed it does steam.

I have measured the boiler temperature when at temperature, and that sits between 110 and 120 degrees C.  


D4F Said:

I still am trying to understand the mechanics.  If the tube sealed at the top, then it would act as Hx, but there would be no steam exit.  Sound correct?

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Agreed.  

D4F Said:

For the boiler to be filled/primed, water goes in until the boiler is full.  Wand is open.  If you close the wand with the pump running, then the water has to fill to the top of the tube and out the tube.  It could be the highest point it it goes up into the nut and partially into the steam outlet.  That might make sense with the concept that when water enters from the top, into the steam fixture with the valve closed it must then go down the tube.  It would mix, since no seal, and give a blend of cool and stat temperature water.  Actually water may enter at both places and blend the output by aiming cool water at the opening and flooding in cool water to the boiler from the side pushing out some hot water with the cool.  Hope that my description makes sense, but the concept does not as there is no obvious control of the blend unless the valve splitter somehot does that, or the correct fit of the tube at the top.  It seems that a plug of the top/steam entering tube would stop the cool water being aimed at the tube and force more boiler water out.  

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Wow, now that's what I like about forums like this.... :)  Agreed, again, and something that has not jumped into my thought process.  Ok, so in a nutshell it could be that it  mixes hot water from the boiler with cold water directly from the tank.  It does explain a lot...  It also means that the slightest scale inside any of the tubes (or any other dirt) will affect the mix ratio, and screw things up.

D4F Said:

What do you know about the splitter valve in the line?  Any adjustment?

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Not that I've seen...yet...

D4F Said:

If you lower or cut the tube it may do the same, less cool and more hot through the tube.  Is the tube height adjustable from below?  Will it seat down further?

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Possibly...there is a nut there, I might be able to adjust it.

D4F Said:

Is there any steam control for temperature?  It seems that you turn on the machine and it goes to a set temperature that is too low for steam and too hot for brew unless you are getting Hx or a water blend as described.  Unlike SBDU, no steam switch, just open the wand?  If so, look for different stats.  135C - 140C would greatly improve steaming pressure and raise the blend temperature, perhaps too hot.

Posted March 29, 2013 link

Agreed...there is no steam temperature control.  Only one stat and the wand open/close control...  As you suggest as well, PID might be the easiest way to trick this into something usable.  The switch-on switch-off gap on the current thermostat is about 10 degrees.  Any PID will improve that vastly, and help compensate for an blockage or gradual buildup by simply being easily adjustable.

Well, how about this:
I will get the unit up to temp, measure external boiler temp.  Then I will let it steam, and measure steam temperature, and see what happens to the boiler temp.  Then I will pump hot water through the wand, and measure the wand water temp, as well as see what effect that has on the boiler temp.  Lastly, I will pump water through the head, and see what effect that has on the boiler temp.  

Hopefully that can give us some answers.  I will also check for adjustment in that splitter.  Lastly, if I blank off the tube feeding the cold water into the tube, I should see a marked difference that might prove a few things.

Let me do all the above, and post my findings.

Cheers, and thanks everyone!  This is most awesome.  :)

Jan
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jannus
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Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Mon Apr 8, 2013, 4:46am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Hello Everyone,

Apologies for extended silence.  We've had a number of public holidays over the last week or three, and this created havoc with my time to play with the machine.  Either way, some interesting findings!

Firstly, steam seems to come at about 114 degrees C max, but hovers closer to 100-110.

To clear any confusion as to how the system is connected, see below pic.  Wires unplugged for clarity.

Long story, but I happen to have access to an oldish flir thermal cam at the office.  I hooked it up and watched the unit from the side as I pumped water, steam, etc.  Whenever I pumped water, I would have expected the steam wand (rhs of picture) to become cooler as fresh water enters, however also the connector on the lhs.  As it turns out, the steam wand area got cold quickly (recovered quickly too), but the left hand side entry into the boiler showed almost no change.  I proceeded to take apart the splitter (lhs of pic, with the two tubes).  See next post...

jannus: IMG_8016-640.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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jannus
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Mon Apr 8, 2013, 4:57am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Continued from my previous post..

I disconnected both tubes from the boiler, and switched on the pump.  The one running to the steam wand had lots of water pumping, the other one, nothing.  I tried a few things, and eventually got desperate and dumped it in Caustic soda with boiling water.  That cleaned out all the gunk, and I started getting some measurable flow from the other hole.  See pic below (after cleaning).  Note the orifice restricting flow.

Therefore, before my cleaning, lots of water was flowing in at the steam wand side, and directly out the brew head.  Nothing was coming in on the left, into the actual boiler.  As explained by D4F, it probably mixes some boiler water with fresh water, but what was happening was that it was filling up the boiler from the steamer side, and not getting any boiler water into the group head tube.

After reassembling, I tested again, and found a good difference.  The previously blocked opening was now squiring water as well, probably about 30% or so of what the other tube was giving.  The nett effect on my brew group temperature was however not much better.  

So, after some more testing, I eventually decided to swop the two tubes, therefore have the "high flow" tube running into the boiler, and the "slow flow" tube running into the steam wand side.  On none of the manuals or diagrams I have am I able to determine which tube should go where, so this is a feasible point.  The unit has been serviced at some stage, it could be incorrectly assembled.  This would obviously force more boiler water into the group exit, and just add some cold water to cool it down a bit.

It has the effect that the unit now requires a "cooling flush", and after that the temp is vastly better.  Unfortunately I only had time for a quick measurement, and then had to pack up again, but it came out around 90 degrees.  I will proceed (hopefully this evening) to test further, and disassemble the boiler as I have discovered another leak by the steam wand exit.  I will post more results as I get them.  :)  Chances are that it will now require a fairly definite flush amount before use, but this I should be able to determine.  It will also require some waiting after a shot or two has been pulled.  

Thanks again for everyone's input!

Cheers,
Jan

jannus: IMG_8022-640.jpg
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D4F
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Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,979
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Mon Apr 8, 2013, 9:45am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Congrats on the solution.  Looks like the splitter is adjustable, even if not made to be :)

The temperature seems low, though I am not sure how you are measuring.  The steam stat is 124C on the diagram.  It should oscillate around that, but there could be some variation just in method to determine; water out, external boiler temperature.  The Stat may not be up to OEM temperature and could be replaced with hotter and then play with incoming tubes to accommodate.

Have fun and keep posting.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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jannus
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Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 7:13am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Hi D4F,

Thanks for the reply!  Yes, it's been quite a journey, all in the name of fun, learning, and good coffee..  :)

I've stripped the boiler again to finally replace the leaking o-ring by the steam wand exit.  It needed to be a viton o-ring, so the local shops didn't have.  Finally located one, and installed earlier today.  The leak is indeed now gone.   :)

I've taken some measurements again, now that nothing leaks, and the tubing is the other way around from when I received it.  My routine is now as follows:
switch on, start prepping cups etc.  When the unit reaches temperature, install portafiler and start pump,  let about 50cc of water run out of filter, switch off pump.  I use that to warm the cups as well.  
Take out portafilter (which is now nice and hot), clean cups, and grind coffee.  Get it into the portafilter, and then just before putting the portafilter in, I run another 4 or 5 second cooling flush (no portafilter).  Fit portafilter, position hot cups under hot portafilter, and start the pump.  

End result is that what exits the portafiler is just about 90 degrees C, and the drink in the cup measured in the 80s.  This is VAST amounts better than it was.

All in all it tastes quite good.  Obviously not a pro setup, but streets ahead from where it was.

Thanks to all for the input.  The thought of the boiler doing a mix was not something I would have come up with on my own.  :)

See attached pic for the boiler assembly disassembled.

Cheers,
Jan
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jannus
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Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 7:15am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

so...about that pic... :)

the black nut (between the fingers of the V on the boiler, towards the top as the pic is oriented) is the one that the "hx tube" fits into.

jannus: magic 006r.jpg
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D4F
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Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,979
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Baratza Forte-AP
Posted Sun Apr 14, 2013, 12:55pm
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Great job!  The boiler looks very clean and everything works.  I see what appears as a baffle in front of the incoming water so that it cannot flow across the top of the boiler and cool the brew water.  A picture is worth 1000 words.  I also see the bevel on top of the Hx tube, so it cannot go up and seal.  That said, I agree that I would put the high flow into the tank side and low flow to the top so that you do not flood cool water into the Hx.  Great that you had fun and learning, and that it all works.

Thanks for the follow up.

Sounds like you are ready for a PID :)  You could do a DIY PID and then move the PID to your next machine or sell with that one when you move up.  A few PID ideas

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machinemods/571792

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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jannus
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Joined: 19 Mar 2013
Posts: 66
Location: South Africa, Cape Town
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: NS ElliMatic & OLD Via...
Grinder: mazzer sj
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: yup
Roaster: nope
Posted Mon Apr 15, 2013, 7:41am
Subject: Re: Saeco rapid steam - mini HX or what?
 

Thanks!  Yup, I agree with your observations on the baffle and the bevel.  :)  A picture indeed....

If I learn anything further, I'll post it again, but at least for now I think this is concluded.  I just hope this thread pops up if someone else searches for details on the machine..    Once again, thanks for the input.  This machine might very well have gone straight to trash if not for the feedback received.  :)

I'll look into the PID, thanks!  :)  Maybe I'm lucky and I can find something cheapish secondhand, and work with that.  The search shall continue......  

Cheers,
Jan
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