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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Purity in coffee  
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foamingatthenozzle
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Feb 2014
Posts: 4
Location: uk
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Tue Feb 25, 2014, 4:13pm
Subject: Purity in coffee
 

I'm new to the forum and the world of Espresso although I do of course love the smell and taste of fresh brewed coffee :) Question at the end....

So I was looking online salivating at all that lovely coffee and all those wonderful machines to make it with and decided to purchase one. Specifically a Panasonic NC-ZA1 (based on the WIK 9757).

I received the machine on Sunday and was very excited to finally have my own machine with the prospect of fresh brewed coffee tantalisingly close I went through the manual again (yes I really do look at the user guide and if possible I always check the user manual before buying a product too). It said wash all the detachable parts inside, oh what a drag I thought.... I want my coffee! The machine had a strange new machine smell, like plastic, solvent, VOCs etc. Not especially pleasant, so even though the machine looked clean I took out the brewing unit, milk frother, water tank etc. cleaned and rinsed them thoroughly and let them dry overnight while the machine aired out a bit.

The next day the smell hadn't gone from the machine but the parts I washed smelt better and now I really wanted my coffee! So I ran the various cleaning/rinsing programmes on the machine repeatedly and made myself a few coffees. To be honest I though the coffee tasted good and I did like the milk foam a lot. The problem came a bit latter on, after way too much coffee I decided it was time for some tea ...hope I'm not going to get in trouble for drinking tea :) Anyway I made the tea using the hot water from the machine and I thought the tea tastes a little off. I prepared several cups of hot water using the machine and they all tasted off. The machine is definitely adding a little something of it's own to my drinks! If I hadn't made myself a tea I'm not sure I would of noticed either, but I really don't think I want to be drinking extract of plastic or whatever it is with every drink!

My water is filtered and it usually has a clean taste, I boiled up some hot water with the kettle just to check it wasn't my imagination too. It's also worth mentioning although I'm not entirely happy with my Dulce Gusto the odd quirk of the machine was despite the fact the hot water doesn't seem hot enough to make tea it actually seems to work better with my English Breakfast tea than fresh boiled water. Certainly no taint to the water that I can taste and given that's a cheapo Krups machine I thought if anything would have a problem it would be that.

I dropped a question to Panasonic and the retailer about this. Now whilst I don't expect to hear back any time soon from Panasonic the retailer has been very good and offered either replacement, refund or exchange without fuss and suggested I take some time to think about what I would prefer. I'm really disappointed with the machine which although relatively cheap for a super auto still cost a lot and would definitely not expect any issues with anything leaching into the water.  Now it could be faulty or it could even be that a lot of these machines have issues like this.

So finally my questions... I'm really trying to figure out if it's worth replacing the machine, getting a semi-auto machine or exchanging it for another super automatic. I mean there's a lot of talk about the process and different types of machines etc. but almost nothing (maybe I missed it) about the purity of the machine internals and fittings etc. with respect to the final coffee that comes out. I did see some comments about lead leaching out of some machines but it just seemed a bit unlikely this particular machine would have lead in it.  

So has anyone noticed any taint to water coming from their machine?
Has anyone ever sampled water through their machine without brewing a coffee i.e. out from the group head or brewing unit without coffee?
Has anyone ever seen an endorsement, test certificate etc. for a machine with respect to the water quality of the prepared drink?
Has anyone ever noticed a new smell with their machine or do they generally tend to be quite neutral?
Also if they did how long before it wore off and did they notice it in their drinks?

It seems that given the detail with which people compare different coffee making techniques and machines in search of the ultimate coffee that this may be an area that needs more attention.
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Ryebread119
Senior Member
Ryebread119
Joined: 30 Jul 2013
Posts: 21
Location: Maine
Expertise: Pro Barista

Espresso: Elektra Sixties
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Drip: Chemex
Posted Tue Feb 25, 2014, 9:01pm
Subject: Re: Purity in coffee
 

Are you pulling your water through any kind of filter (separate or within the machine)? I had a very metallic taste added to my water after installing a new filter. A second filter (carbon) got rid of the taste.

 
Listen to the steam, the sign of a good drink is in it's acoustics.
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,734
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Wed Feb 26, 2014, 10:28am
Subject: Re: Purity in coffee
 

Well, should you return it and go Semiauto or with another SA. The answer is really what do you expect? A SA will never do an outstanding job, they excel at ease of use though. So if being able to push a button and get a drink is more important than chasing the perfect shot, then buy another SA if you are not happy with this one.

On the other hand, if you want to "geek" out and chase the god shot, a SA will not do it.

A Semi auto and a grinder can do it but as you spend more and more money the easier it will be to be consistent, consistency is key to espresso. Lower priced equipment In the (Single Boiler Dual Use ...... SBDU) class, keep the price down at the expense of consistency. A lot of people upgrade them with PID controllers but that is an extra expense and as the money mounts, the question of should I have just started with something else higher up the "food chain" will rear it's head.

When deciding on a setup, make a list of features you want and set a price for your budget. Remember, you need an espresso able grinder too so in the starter range, spend as much on the grinder as you do for the machine. Example, if your machine is $350 then also plan on a $350 grinder to go along with it. The truth is that this is about the bottom of the price range where you can buy a new grinder with a motor on it that is able to properly grind for espresso. Used equipment will give you more quality for the money and used commercial grinders are very large, too large for a lot of homes but they are built rock solid and nearly always, the only thing you need do to them is to change the burrs.

So, to recap, where do you want to go in the hobby?

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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foamingatthenozzle
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Feb 2014
Posts: 4
Location: uk
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed Feb 26, 2014, 5:20pm
Subject: Re: Purity in coffee
 

Panasonic did get back to me and state that the machine shouldn’t have any taint to the water it produces. To me that should be a no brainer but my point was there is no emphasis or testing on whether something like this is an issue or not. In real terms I had already decided on a Super Auto based on my own set of parameters part of which was just the size of the unit (200mm wide). Now even if the coffee was first rate I wouldn't want to drink it knowing there was some containment present.

So I would have been happy with that machine bar one parameter I have no data on. The manufacturers never state what testing was done, and even assuming they meet all EU legislation what would that even mean in terms of coffee machines. Probably just that they don't catch fire or electrocute you (hopefully). I've seen a few comments about plasticy tastes with cheap machines and also one comment from someone who sent a water sample off and found lead present in the water from their machine. It does seem that just like any appliance there could be some unforeseen issues with the product over and above the more obvious ones.

Now afaik most super autos have a lot of plastic components so maybe this will be a problem with all super autos or maybe this really was an isolated incident but that's what I'm trying to determine. In an ideal world I'd just send off a sample of water and have it analysed for VOC content and heavy metals etc. It's just that's not a very practical approach and I'd have to keep changing machines if I found issues. I do think if you want the best coffee you'd want to make sure it was free of contaminants (although personally speaking the coffee quality wasn't my highest concern when I purchased my machine). So maybe I need to alter my approach here and choose a different type of machine or maybe just a different brand would suffice, as stated manufacturers don't really give any useful information on this and I have no easy way to find it out. My only real avenue is to see if anyone on the forums can provide some feedback on the type of machine they have and perhaps encourage that more information / testing is needed on this, otherwise manufacturers will continue to treat it as a non entity.

So just to recap from my perspective maybe some owners of Espresso machines could try and run some water through them and just see what the result is compared to water heated via the kettle.

e.g. What make / model of machine and are there any metallic or plastic tastes present in the water (i.e. without coffee) and via which outlet as that can be different too?
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,734
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Feb 27, 2014, 8:14am
Subject: Re: Purity in coffee
 

There are VERY few here that use a SA so it may be a while for an answer. No machine should have a plastic or off taste but then most machines require several tanks of water through them to clear out anything that may be remaining from the manufacturing process.

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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foamingatthenozzle
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Feb 2014
Posts: 4
Location: uk
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sat Mar 15, 2014, 5:30pm
Subject: Re: Purity in coffee
 

I changed the machine in the end for a Breville (Sage in the UK) Barista Express. There is a strong plastic smell coming from this too and to a lesser extent i can smell/taste it in the water at the group head even after flushing with 4-5 tanks of water and making 20+ coffees. From what I can tell this is a very common problem with coffee machines of all types, hopefully as there is a lot less plastic than in my previous SA it will clear up in a reasonable time. In retrospect this is probably due to both machines being relatively new to the UK and therefore both machines were probably not long off the line and didn't have the time to air out much. Anyway looks like this is a not uncommon problem in these sorts of machines....

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/436362
Click Here (www.home-barista.com)
Click Here (www.coffeedetective.com)

I'm going to try some sodium bicarbonate in the water tank as it definitely smells of plastic. I'll buy some white vinegar too and try that if the sodium bicarb doesn't work.
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