Minor Steam Wand issue...

Did your new VII work fine initially but have an in warranty (year one) problem later. Post here for advice. Later report on your fix. Posted photos documenting repairs are encouraged.
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Niko

Minor Steam Wand issue...

Post by Niko » Fri Apr 27, 2007 10:45 pm

I shut the machine down and a few minutes later I nearly burned my hand on the steam wand. I noticed it was still steaming on its own by watching the ever so slight steam coming out of it, there was a small puddle of water on the counter directly below and I thought "uh oh...metal shaving lodged somewhere".
Damn.
Well, it wasn't that at all.
I fired up the machine again to check out the problem and when it reached full pressure I cranked open the valve, out came a ferocious whistling sound that was painful to my ears. I immediately checked the steam tip and there was my problem, there was something blocking 2 of the holes partially. I carefully removed what seemed to be paper...? At first I thought it was a piece of old flaky skin of milk or perhaps worse, a chunk of hard water (NO!) but I quickly remembered that my water is soft out here and besides, I have a softener cartridge installed anyway. I looked at the piece of debris closer and it really looks like a shredded strip of paper that might have come off a seal somewhere...?
This sure is strange.
The machine seems to be in fine working order and I hope it stays that way.
Has anyone else experience any UFO's in their steaming arsenal?

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Post by RGoldman » Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:20 pm

Geez... all of these strange things lately have me worried! I have only experienced the weird lights so far and haven't had a single problem with every day use on a timer that cycles on and off twice a day. My fan comes on. I can hear it when it's fairly quiet in the kitchen. My boiler makes some noise, especially when it's first heating up, but nothing that seems alarming. I am so spoiled by the great espresso, I don't know what I would do if I ever have a problem that requires me to go without for a few days!

Niko

Post by Niko » Sat Apr 28, 2007 7:43 pm

These are minor glitches I'm pointing out for the record. None of these non-issues have prevented me from using the machine in any way. You might have experienced that weird light phenomenom without knowing it, simply turning ON the machine clears it up - kinda' like restarting Windows after a crash and then you're back in business.
After all, your timer might have cleared the error for you without you seeing it. I wouldn't have seen mine unless I went home for lunch that day because normally the timer would've fired up the machine before I got home that evening, therefore, clearing it up.
I'm reporting every single glitch, no matter how small so we can all see if we experience the same things down the road.

I just wish our machines ran Mac OSX for a crash-free coffee experience.

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ScottW
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Post by ScottW » Sat Apr 28, 2007 9:05 pm

Niko wrote:After all, your timer might have cleared the error for you without you seeing it. I wouldn't have seen mine unless I went home for lunch that day because normally the timer would've fired up the machine before I got home that evening, therefore, clearing it up.
That's exactly what I was trying to point out (not as clearly as Niko just did here) in another thread. I just noticed the "strange lights" for the first time a couple days ago, but I don't normally walk by the machine after the timer has turned it off in the evening. And since turning on clears the strange lights and it turns itself on before I get up in the morning, this could have happened several times and I would never have even known it.

I consider the light thing to be a "non-problem". Just a visual anomaly that sometimes happens when the timer turns off the machine. It doesn't cause any problem for me and fixes itself the next time the machine powers up.
Niko wrote:I'm reporting every single glitch, no matter how small so we can all see if we experience the same things down the road.
Same here. I think its good to report the "non-problems", so that when someone else experiences the same thing they know that it has happened before and isn't (apparently) anything to worry about.

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Post by Weska » Sun Apr 29, 2007 2:33 am

Also, recording all these unexpected oddities will provide a real-world baseline for how these machines perform. The LaSpaz staff may find it useful in making modifications, and the rest of us will know better what to worry about and what to tolerate.

Niko

Post by Niko » Sun May 13, 2007 2:16 pm

Now the steam wand turned into an issue.
It won't stop steaming (ever so slightly) just like before, only this time there was no weird chunk of anything that came out.
Lately, after this whole hoopla with the wand, my microfoam has been total crap. I was blaming it on myself at first, thinking I was having a bad day but this has been going on too long, I then blamed the milk but I haven't changed brands.
How can I go from "Niko got game" to really bad microfoaming? The finger pointing goes to the Spaz now and I don't mean the index finger...

Time to rip open the rib cage and check the patients organs.

UPDATE:
No ripping panels off necessary, yet.
Patient is stablized, vitals look good again after it passed more kidney stones. The wand started to whistle again, leading to more UFO's stuck in the wand, yet AGAIN. This time it was the MotherLoad, several pieces came out!! Could this have been my microfoam hell? I think so. Is it over? I'm crossing my fingers. What is this stuff? I think it's Wax Paper, it appears to be some type of waxed paper wrapping of some sort that is coming apart somewhere in the machine and exiting the steam wand. I'll post some pics soon, they're very small pieces.

Niko

Post by Niko » Sun May 13, 2007 3:10 pm

OK.
They're not so small pieces!
This is starting to deserve a whole new thread called "Major Steam Wand Issue" instead of Minor...
Image

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Post by ScottW » Sun May 13, 2007 3:18 pm

Niko wrote:OK.
They're not so small pieces!
This is starting to deserve a whole new thread called "Major Steam Wand Issue" instead of Minor...
My guess - teflon thread tape used during assembly. Someone probably wrapped past the threads, and the extra has now torn loose and gotten into the system. Could be from just about anywhere in the machine, or perhaps even upstream of the machine (filters, etc).

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Post by Weska » Sun May 13, 2007 3:54 pm

Niko, I think ScottW is on to something with his guess. Those fibrous strands coming off certain of those pieces do look more like the way Teflon behaves than waxed paper.

I site my Glide dental floss, which is sort of Teflon-like and can make long strands when I shred it between my snaggly teeth. (Was that too much in the confessional style? Sorry.)

Where it came from is puzzling, however. Teflon tape is pretty sturdy judging again by my flossing experience.

Niko

Post by Niko » Sun May 13, 2007 4:12 pm

Teflon Tape was my first guess.
I'm now back to that theory because that's probably what Teflon Tape looks like after going through 212 degree water! I remember that it certainly does lookl like that when I used some on one of my portafilters to tighten the spout a long time ago.
Where in the hell is it coming from? That's my question, my biggest fear is that I haven't seen the end of it yet. Who knows how many more pieces reside in that boiler now (or the wand). Everything seems fine again, for now.


I'm wondering if teflon tape is used to connect the steam wand assembly...


UPDATE:
I just thought of something, I wonder if this has anything to do with the pressure regulator problems I've been experiencing lately. I started another thread on this the other night. Anything is possible at this point.

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Post by ScottW » Sun May 13, 2007 5:01 pm

Niko wrote:I wonder if this has anything to do with the pressure regulator problems I've been experiencing lately.
Niko - Entirely possible. Did you use teflon tape when assembling? It's a pretty common problem to wrap the tape such that some of it goes beyond the threads. Like this (pretend the w's are threads on one of the couplers screwed into your regulator, and the hyphens are teflon tape):

------------ <note extra tape beyond threads
wwwww
------------

When you screw that coupling in, the extra tape can get cut (fully or partially), break loose and end up in the supply line.

Hopefully it has all flushed through and you've seen the last of it! Worst case, it could get stuck in a valve and you'd have to disassemble and clean it out.

....Scott

Niko

Post by Niko » Sun May 13, 2007 5:15 pm

ScottW wrote:Did you use teflon tape when assembling? It's a pretty common problem to wrap the tape such that some of it goes beyond the threads.....Scott
It's very likely. Only thing is, I didn't do the wrapping...it showed up pre-assembled from Chris'. Another thing, it's my old regulator from my old S1 which never had this sort of problem. The only thing different is that I never had a gauge on this one, I installed it with very little teflon tape (I'm very frugal with tape, believe me). The older Vivaldi got all the newer plumbing connected to it, no problems there. Again, I'm very cheap with the tape.
I'm wondering, is there any other internal parts assembled using Teflon Tape, such as valves and other internal connectors that LaSpaz would put together?

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Post by ScottW » Sun May 13, 2007 6:45 pm

Niko wrote:I'm wondering, is there any other internal parts assembled using Teflon Tape, such as valves and other internal connectors that LaSpaz would put together?
Just guessing -- but most of the fittings in the Spaz are probably put together with some teflon tape. It is pretty standard technique for pipe thread connections. I know some connections (like the water supply connection) are flare connects and don't use tape -- but most of the valve and pipe connections probably use tape, as do the items like pressure relief and vacuum breaker valves screwed into boilers.

Could have happened in assembly, or could have happened when the JG fittings were screwed into the regulator by the techs at Chris'. It could have come from anywhere "upstream" of the steam wand... Another place you might want to check for blockage would be the "screen" on the hot water spigot. If the tape was in the boiler at some point, there is likely some hung up on that screen (assuming you use the hot water dispenser). Unfortunately, I don't see any obvious way to get the screen out!

...Scott

Niko

Post by Niko » Sun May 13, 2007 11:35 pm

ScottW wrote:Another place you might want to check for blockage would be the "screen" on the hot water spigot. If the tape was in the boiler at some point, there is likely some hung up on that screen (assuming you use the hot water dispenser). Unfortunately, I don't see any obvious way to get the screen out!

...Scott
I already popped out the screen out on the water dispenser, it's pretty easy to remove. You can unscrew it just like a faucet head and pop it right out for cleaning. Interesting that I found 1 tiny brass shaving and a 2 really tiny pieces of teflon tape, none of these were life threatening to the machine. I have a funny feeling that I haven't seen the last of this...

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Post by ScottW » Mon May 14, 2007 7:44 am

Niko wrote:I already popped out the screen out on the water dispenser, it's pretty easy to remove. You can unscrew it just like a faucet head and pop it right out for cleaning.
Good to know... I had tried to unscrew mine, but was not sure if that's how it came apart so was afraid to give it too much torque. I'll have to give it another try and see if anything is hiding in there on my machine!

Niko

Post by Niko » Mon May 14, 2007 12:41 pm

I spoke with the service department at Chris' this morning. He told me that there's no way teflon tape would be able to travel through the whole system like that and end up out of the steam wand. They never heard of such a thing, then he continued on by saying that pieces of milk look just like that. I've never had this thing happen on my other S1 but they are two different machines. I'm going to be mailing the pieces of this debris to them, I hope they can reach to a conclusion as to what this junk is, maybe they can send it to CSI NY and get some answers.
Steam power seems ferocious but I'm still getting crappy milk steaming. I threw away the first pitcher this morning, it was way too sea-foamy. I have a theory on this, it could be that the wand was getting restricted with these objects lodged in there and now that it's cleared out, my steaming is not what I'm used to.

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Post by Weska » Mon May 14, 2007 3:58 pm

This is getting pretty mysterious, Niko.

If it's pieces of milk, they should dissolve, or at least get quite fluffy, if you leave them in water at room temperature for a while. You could try that for yourself with some leftover scraps.

I would expect that in water beyond boiling they would completely disappear. So I can't easily credit that you have milk debris in your boiler.

However, I can easily believe that the path to the steam wand is too complex to let the Teflon scraps, or whatever they are, reach the wand from very far upstream.

Have you tried detaching your steam arm to see whether Teflon is dangling from the threads close at hand?

Niko

Post by Niko » Mon May 14, 2007 4:58 pm

I was told that no teflon is used on that part, in fact there's no teflon used on the machine's entire assembly of parts.
So it could only be from the plumbing end but even then it's not possible for teflon to travel that far through the machine I was told, there's too many restrictive things to go through, solenoid valves and among many things too complicated to pass through is one example that was used.

I'm now learning how to steam all over again since the flow changed on me. I got some nice microfoam just now and poured some really nice milk, looked and tasted great (sweet) but the espresso was to die for...LITERALLY. It was the worse double shot of coffee I've pulled in about 2 years! They'd normally go down the sink but I was out of roasted beans and I had to force myself to drink. It was so bad I cannot describe it, at least the latte art looked good.

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Post by chas » Tue May 15, 2007 8:16 pm

Niko wrote:I was told that no teflon is used on that part, in fact there's no teflon used on the machine's entire assembly of parts.
While I may agree that LaSpaziale doesn't use Teflon tape during manufacture, Chris Coffee certainly used it on mine before shipment.

They drain the group boiler by removing a large hex bolt from the top of the boiler and then siphoning out the water. On my VII that bolt was definitely taped up with teflon prior to replacement. Of course, Teflon can't get from there over to the steam boiler.

I also discovered when a mineral deposit clogged it on my S1, that there is a gicleur valve in the water line between the pump and the steam boiler. So no teflon tape upstream from the steam boiler is going to get through there and into the steam boiler.
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Niko

Post by Niko » Tue May 15, 2007 11:27 pm

Do you think they might've used teflon on the bottom nut that plugs the steam boiler?
Last edited by Niko on Tue May 15, 2007 11:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by chas » Tue May 15, 2007 11:33 pm

I don't remember there being any on the S1 but I haven't checked the VII.
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Post by Niko » Tue May 15, 2007 11:47 pm

I now remember seeing teflon on the back of the S1 group boiler, you had the hamsters in my brain churning for a while and a light bulb went off. In fact, there was a good amount wrapped around those threads from what I recall. I didn't look at the VII closely back there to see if it has the same things going on. I'm going to have to get a little mirror tool like dentists use so I can take a poke and see into cramped spaces.
Good news is that there's no more UFO's shooting out of the steam wand, the high velocity steaming is back - scald milk in 7.2 seconds and 0-160 in no tim e flat.
I still have a hard time believing that it can be petrified chunks of milk, alhtough I've seen some pretty strange things before.


If this happens again, I might seriously consider what Weska said, I'm removing the steam wand to take a good look at it.
Is it pretty easy to remove it without disturbing anything else?

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Post by chas » Wed May 16, 2007 11:22 am

You should remove the left side panel to get at it easily.
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Post by Weska » Wed May 16, 2007 1:43 pm

Niko, I'm glad things to be coming right for your steaming again.

The steam wand suggestion was a long shot. I put my own on (following Chas's good instructions) because my machine was supplied with the Euro arm, same as Chris long ago decided to replace. (VII's came out just after I got mine, but I doubt that I could get one even now. That's another story, however.)

The arm I now have came from Chris, and I used no Teflon tape because, as I recall, the joint was liberally greased. There might have been a period when tape was used instead, but it's not so likely.

Knowing how you hate to remove--no, replace--the side panels, I think you should wait a bit longer. After all, whatever this is is mighty rare, and almost surely there is a finite amount of whatever it is in there.

Niko

Post by Niko » Wed May 16, 2007 2:37 pm

Weska wrote: (VII's came out just after I got mine, but I doubt that I could get one even now. That's another story, however.)
You can get the VII steaming almost, all you have to do is change the steam boiler sensor and get a new 4-hole steaming tip for your wand.
Only difference between the two machines after that upgrade in parts is the how extremely sensitive the VII is. The S1 will steam a lot better with those newer parts, you'd notice how the steam boiler will cycle a lot more but because of the VII's decreased delta, it affects the steam boiler as well. Every time I crank the steam open, the S1 is pretty responsive by cycling the heat on when it hits a bit below the 1 Bar mark, the VII on the other hand cycles on just below the 1.1 Bar mark. How this relates to near frozen milk in a pitcher also showed a difference, I benchmarked the 2 machines using real world tests not this "8 oz of water in a pitcher" stuff. The VII did remarkably well at 15 seconds and the S1 did very well and held its own at 19.6 seconds. This is amazing considering the old S1 performance with its old stock parts can only perform the same task at 32 seconds (or more depending on how that damn sensor felt that day).

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