Mark08859 Senior Member Joined: 18 Feb 2005 Posts: 219 Location: New Jersey Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Quickmill Alexia PID Grinder: Ditting KE640 Vario
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2007, 10:15am Subject: Distilled Water - How Safe for an Espresso Machine
I've been seeing two different schools of thought regarding distilled water.
Some say that the low mineral content is bad as it is harder for most machines to measure water level. This, of course, could lead to damage by having the machine run with no water in the boiler (presuming no shut-off).
Others claim that the low mineral content can add a lot to a machine's lifespan. Also, descaling isn't needed as often.
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2007, 10:25am Subject: Re: Distilled Water - How Safe for an Espresso Machine
"Pure" distilled water, has zero mineral content, and does not conduct electricity. No mineral content...no scale (also tastes lousy).
The autofill boilers in most machines use a probe that touches the water in the boiler to ground out, and this requires electrical conductivity to work. But with non-conductive water, this will not lead to the boiler being empty, rather this will lead the boiler autofill not turning off...also a bad thing.
JonathanSwan Senior Member Joined: 22 Oct 2007 Posts: 54 Location: Rochester, New York Expertise: Professional
Espresso: Nuova Simonelli Program V,... Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolley
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2007, 10:49am Subject: Re: Distilled Water - How Safe for an Espresso Machine
In fact, machines with a water level probe are not able to detect the amount of water in the boiler filled with mineral free (pure distilled or Reverse Osmosis) water. The affect is that the machine's pump will continue to pump water into the boiler which can cause damage. However, lower mineral-content water is good for your machine because it lacks the minerals that cause scale build up (ie calcium.) Scale build up in machines is one of the biggest culprits in the reduced lifespan of a machine. It is recommended that distilled water be used in machines with thermo-block boilers because they typically lack auto-fill probes. HX (heat exchanger) machines typically feater an auto-fill probe, these machines work best in cooperation with a softening filter. check out CUNO Filters like these, reduce the mineral content to a specific acceptable level for espresso machines and coffee machines. Many machines also come with their own version of a water softener and often times they are rechargeable.
Grant's right, both thoughts are correct for the most part.
calmaniac Senior Member Joined: 25 May 2007 Posts: 25 Location: Rockville, MD Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Rancilio Rialto Grinder: Rancilio Rocky
Posted Wed Nov 21, 2007, 11:19am Subject: Re: Distilled Water - How Safe for an Espresso Machine
Thanks for your informed responses. Your points about DI water not conducting sufficiently to allow sensors to detect the water level makes good sense. Often this question gets answered with some questionable advice about distilled water being "hungry" and attacking metals.
I have been using deionized water for the past 10 years in my Rancilio Rialto (I like the taste!) and have had no problems with any detector or with corrosion, but as you mention there is no autofill probe in this unit.
Question: I am considering a La Spaziale Vivaldi II. Does that machine have any such sensors that will require some ions in the water to function?
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