Posted Fri Sep 29, 2006, 1:08pm Subject: La San Marco Practical 95E Questions/Observations...
Ok, once again another "too good a deal to pass up" fell into my lap on Tuesday evening... I bought a used LSM Practical 95E single group for $300... The person selling it said it "Had only been used for a couple of parties and then it sat in a corner, unused for several years..." (Uh huh, the old 'Grandma only made latte's for her grandchildren every 6 months' type of story :) ) I figured that it couldn't possibly be in that good a condition for the money but, also figured for $300 I could address any problems that they weren't telling me about... Imagine my surprise when it was as described... It was being sold by a local Hotel chain and since it was a single group in an area that had a multi group of the same model, no one used it... It only came with one portafilter with a single basket. Though I did have to unwrap the portafilter from the original plastic!!! So, risking back injury and multiple hernia I carried it out of thier 'junk disposal area', loaded it into my trunk and drove away. (After paying my $300, of course... ;) )
I hooked it up to my Faema's water connection, turned the water on, connected up the drain and plugged it in. It lives! I drained the boiler and refilled several times. Its got a rotary pump - all my machines have had vibe pumps in them, so I've got some questions below - that works fine to fill the boiler and put water through the group head.
The next day I picked up a couple of 14 gram double baskets, a p/f gasket, a blind insert and a tamper (the baskets are 55mm instead of the 58s I'm used to.). I pulled the shower head (what's with the 8mm bolt for this?!?) and found - almost no old coffee in the screen. I looked up at the underside and found that not only was the original p/f gasket still pliable, it looks un-abraded. While I was looking at the gasket I noticed that there are no signs of wear in the chrome of the head where the mating surfaces of the p/f ear's go... All good signs. I verified that the brew pressure was at the 9 bar indicated on the built in gauge via a pressure gauge screwed on in place of the p/f spout. I back-flushed it with Purocaf and noticed that the 3 way valve works well and that the stuff coming out seemed clean... I succesfully pulled 10 or so doubles. Steaming and water production seem good as well. Under the body panels is spotless. No: corosion, stains, coffee grounds, leaks, etc. (A light coating of dust and not even much of that.)
Questions: - I've never used a rotary pump machine. Its quieter than all of my prior vibe machines but not as quiet as I figured. How quiet should it be? (Bear in mind that the pump is in the body of the machine and not under the counter.) - When a blank is in (but not when I'm pulling a shot) I see a small amount of needle fluctuation at around 9bar (like about 0.1 bar) - is this normal or a sign of something that I should investigate? - Does anyone have any manuals or other documentation for this machine? I found a bit of information at: http://www.michaelo.com/ but not much more out there. I was hoping for an 'owners manual' and a service manual. - Are rotary pumps more sensative to line pressure than vibe pumps? I'm not regulating the incoming water pressure and it is at about 57psi. - What else should I look at before breathing easy?
I plan on doing a descale in the next week or so. Nothing nasty seems to be coming out of the boiler drain and the water from the boiler and group head taste good. (not to mention the espresso... ;)
Observations: - The 55mm baskets are going to take some time to get used to... They are noticably deeper than the e61's and Gaggia's that I'm used to. I'm going to have to change my current multi-pull routine of taking the spring out of the p/f and just grabbing the basket itself to discard the used puck. Those used pucks are noticeably harder to knock out than on the 58s... I'll probably pull out my knock box and use it now. - That silly 8mm bolt (which does appear in the meager documentation that I've found) holding in the shower head has to go! Apparently, I've been cramming 15 or 16 grams of coffee into the standard e61 baskets and these 55's won't put up with that. If I'm the slightest bit over the 14gms, that bolt digs into my finely tamped and polished coffee. :( Fortunately salvation is on the ups truck right now. (2 16gm baskets will arrive next week.) I am going to substitute a tapered head stainless screw for that bolt though... - The lever-type steam valve is going to take some practice with in order to get decent microfoam... I'm used to adjustable valves where you can turn down the steam volume a bit. With this it seems to be either on or off... (maybe there's a way to adjust the output?) I guess, in reality I could just hold it so that it partially engages rather than goes to the 'locked' open position.
I guess that's about it, for now, though I've only owned it for about 30 hours so I'm sure more questions will come!
Any advice or things to watch for would be welcome.
Posted Mon Oct 2, 2006, 9:19am Subject: Re: La San Marco Practical 95E Questions/Observations...
This weekend I descaled, removed the stickers from the backsplash and mounted a PID. I mounted the PID in such a way that I used the small black panel on the side to hold the home-made L-brackets and existing holes in the main side panel and frame to run the wires. I attached the wires to unused connection on the terminal block and a type J, surface mount thermocouple under a large hose-clamp that is used to secure the boiler to the frame. I am working out the best place to mount the ssr so currently its just functioning as a digital thermometer. Surprisingly the type j, surface mount is a bit quicker detecting than I expected it to be. At the current pressurestat setting (about 1.1 to 1.2 bars, according to the gauge) the temp ranges from 232 F ('stat engages element) to 236 F ('stat disengages at 235 with an over-shoot of 1 degree.). I am installing the PID to gain slightly tighter control over the temps and an easy way to play with boiler temps. (Yes, I know I will still have to do a cooling flush.) I will leave the pressure-stat in place, and run it in parallel to the PID, set to about .9 bars so that if boiler pressure drops due to steaming, before the temp drops, the heater will engage. This also allows redundancy in the system so that if either side fails I can still drink my coffee in the morning. Additionally, I should be able to 'un-PID' it completely in about 10 minutes leaving, at most, 2 holes drilled for the ssr.
My old Faema was on 1/4" water line so I converted to 3/8" water line on Sunday. I noticed that the pressure fluctuations have diminished now to a barely perceptible flutter on the gauge.
Replaced the bolt with a standard m5x20 stainless beveled-shoulder screw and gained a mm or so of head room on my puck.
That's about it for now but more updates to follow.
Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 11:56am Subject: Re: La San Marco Practical 95E Questions/Observations...
I added a regulator to the new 3/8" line and set pressure at about 2 bar. The small pressure fluctuations are now gone while pulling a shot. I guess that answers the last question that I had - rotary pumps are more sensitive to incoming pressure than vibe pumps (or at least mine is...).
PID updates - I've messed with the settings a bit and it seems to be working fine. Maintains the selected temp perfectly and only overshoots by 2 degrees after a lot of water is added to the boiler. I think that this may be due to the pressurestat stepping on the pid's logic a bit. I may lower the setting on the pressurestat. (Currently its set to about .9 bar for actuation.)
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