scanfield Senior Member Joined: 21 Nov 2011 Posts: 181 Location: Texas Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: La Nuovo Era Cuadra Grinder: Baratza Vario
Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 9:51am Subject: Descaling Question
I recently received my reminder from 1st Line that it's time for some maintenance. I decided to do the descaling today and when I pulled up the instructions from 1st-Line, I noticed a change.
Step 7 is "Open water wand knob to full open position." In a previous version of the instructions, it also said "Dispense no more than 4 ounces of water at a time maximum."
Step 9 says to continue until hot water stops exiting (or until my container is full).
Does that mean it's safe to completely empty the boiler? I was always under the impression that emptying the boiler was bad.
I remember last time I descaled, I flushed the descaling solution from my hot water want until the pump kicked in, then shut it off and waited. I did this for an entire reservoir of water. It sounds like the current instructions say I can just dump water from the hot water wand until the boiler is empty.
Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 10:14am Subject: Re: Descaling Question
You should never let the heater element be on if it isn't emersed in water- like your hot water heater. So either your supposed to disconnect the heating element, or it means until the water comming out is no longer hot maybe,or both, assuming the pump can keep up with the water comming out otherwise you should let it cycle. Not sure what the rest of the instructions said obviously but I hope this helps.
Jmanespresso Senior Member Joined: 18 Jan 2009 Posts: 2,122 Location: Westchester NY Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Alex Duetto II Grinder: Compak K10 - Vario Vac Pot: Yama-SY5/SY8/TCA5 Drip: V60, Beehouse, CCD Roaster: Hottop B
Posted Sun Mar 3, 2013, 11:10am Subject: Re: Descaling Question
Honestly, if your machine doesn't have a two position power switch, one way for full power, one way for pump only(no heater), then the ideal way is to disconnect the heating element. And the autofill probe, so you can overfill the boiler with solution, AND fully drain the water before adding the descale solution. This is more involved, requires some knowledge of the internal workings of your machine, and does require confidence with a wrench. If you've never worked on your machine before, it might not be the way to go. There is much discussion of the procedure over on HB, if you do a quick search on "Descaling an HX:" In that case...
-HEat up machine to full pressure.
-Drain water from the wand slowly, but constantly. You want to be slow with the draining so you dont get ahead of the pump and drop the water level too far and expose the element, which is bad. So, go nice and slow, but constant. Don't let the pump run for more than 30seconds without a 30second break. This assumes a vibe pump. If rotary, you really couldn't get ahead of it by draining, and you can run it as long as you like.
-As your draining, the autofill will kick in. there should be descale solution in your reservoir. It will mix with the remaining water in the boiler, and some will also be drained out as the it mixes completely. The fix, is to make the solution stronger then suggested. What are you using to descale? Citric acid or dezcal I hope? If you're using Cleancaf, Id suggest against it. Thats really more for coffee brewers, not ideal for espresso machines. It does contain detergents, which can be harder to rinse. Dezcal is good, pure citric acid crystals are best. By making the solution stronger, it will dilute down as it mixes with the water still in the boiler.
Once you are satisfied you have added enough solution that the boiler content is more solution than plain water, tip the machine on its side 45 degrees and let the boiler slightly overfill. A few seconds of pump running will do it. This will get the descaler above the normal water line, which is where the scale is formed. Let the boiler heat up for an hour or two.
Repeat this whole process once.
Then flush the crap out of it. The flushed solution, is using Citric Acid or Dezcal, should be blue/green if you mixed it strongly enough. You have flushed enough when it no longer tastes like lemonade. Now, citric acid is food safe, so even if you dont get that last bit out, it wont affect your steaming or hurt anything, but definitely flush thoroughly. At least two reservoirs full.
Follow Your Bliss
Coffee makes your constantly overcome your prejudices and re-evaluate your own "received wisdoms" when it comes to judging cup flavors. -Tom Owen, SweetMarias
It isn't easy to expose the element for long in a Cuadra if the pump is working. The hot-water valve draws from a pipe hanging vertically into the boiler from the top. The bottom of this pipe barely reaches the level of the top of the element. If you do over-draw the boiler water, you'll end up getting steam out of the hot-water dispensor while all but the top three millimeters of the element are still submerged in the liquid water below the reach of the pipe. I coulda sworn I had pictures on my phone showing these measurements, but I must be wrong. I might have taken them with someone's camera or someone else's phone at the time. You'll have to take my word for it.
If you really want to drain the boiler fully for descaling purposes, I'd suggest removing the breather valve and leveller probe for filling it with a funnel and draining it with a flexible siphoning hose. Then it can all be done without the element ever heating air. Extraneous information note... Be careful with boiler end fittings like the heat-exchanger-injector-T and the element on Cuadras. The boilers are easy to crush when you apply enough torque to get the element out, and the t-injector-brazing job is great when not tampered with, but will fall apart when dismantled and reassembled too many times. Treat the boiler-ends with delicate persuasion.
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