Opened up the steam boiler, questions flooding out

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thebearmaster
Americano
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:09 am
Location: Zurich

Opened up the steam boiler, questions flooding out

Post by thebearmaster » Tue Jul 19, 2016 10:16 am

Hi,

I'm a relatively happy owner of the S1V2, purchased in Canada in 2008. Recently my steam boiler heating element blew -- scale built up at the tip of water level sensor, causing the boiler to overflow and shorted the heating element -- and triggered my saga of getting the machine back in order. I hadn't done any preventative maintenance prior to this point, given how unhandy I tend to be with machines. Just after buying the machine, I thought I'd test the machine out while researching water treatment. I blinked a few times and 8 years went by.


I now have the replacement heating element and gaskets for it and the boiler lid, and am getting ready to clean everything and put everything back together. I'd really appreciate some advice before I continue:

- Do I really have to replace the gasket when I put the boiler lid back on? The previous gasket looks pretty well fused onto the boiler cylinder. Can I save myself the hassle of removing the old gasket if it looks fairly intact? Same goes with the gaskets for the heating element 'legs'. Or is this a naive thought?

- What's a good way to get rid of all the debris inside the steam boiler? Tipping the machine to its side seems difficult given the weight. I can't remove the boiler cylinder easily as the nut at the bottom which seems to fasten the cylinder (drain valve?) is not budging, even with what I consider borderline excessive torque with a pipe wrench. I poured in some diluted wine vinegar in the hopes of dissolving all the debris to siphon out (having tested that the stuff does indeed get dissolved), but alas, turns out there's too much debris in there for this to work, and if I need to scrape off the gasket, there'll be more to clean...


These questions are about wrapping up the current situation. For the future, I'd like to install the right water treatment so I don't have to deal with this too frequently, ideally ever. So I'd like to find a way to minimise the build-up of debris. Unfortunately after going through many resources on water treatment, including the Insanely Long Water FAQ, I'm beginning to feel this is just too much for me to figure out by myself, and that I'd need some help working out the solution. Some questions on this front:

- Am I really dealing with scale here? The debris inside the boiler is bluish grey -- see pictures. The old heating element was also tinted very dark grey, not the yellowish light grey which I thought was typical of (lime)scale. Is this just down to the mineral content of my water? Any way I can get more information?

- For people unable to figure out the exact details of the water they need to treat, is there something like a "if you don't know what you should do, go for X"-type solution for treating water in continental Europe? I'm in Zurich, Switzerland.

- During my research I came across an opinion that completely eliminating scale will result in worse taste of coffee due to lack of minerals, and accelerated corrosion. So is it futile to aim for a solution that entails no descaling on an ongoing basis? Must I prepare myself for regular descaling, involving as it is? Get ready to scrape off the gasket once every quarter?


Thanks for reading this long newbie post, and thanks in advance for any help.
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MDL
Barista
Posts: 329
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:29 am
Location: San Diego

Re: Opened up the steam boiler, questions flooding out

Post by MDL » Tue Jul 19, 2016 11:37 am

The drain at the bottom is not connected to the case; it is simply a drain plug at the bottom of the boiler. If you remove all connections to the steam boiler there is a single bolt that holds the boiler to the frame cross member. Use care when trying to remove the drain plug cap at the bottom. I speak from experience when I say that you can break off the threaded tube that the cap seals. I had to tap the inside of the tube and now use a stainless bolt and teflon tape to seal the drain.

thebearmaster
Americano
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:09 am
Location: Zurich

Re: Opened up the steam boiler, questions flooding out

Post by thebearmaster » Sun Jul 24, 2016 5:08 pm

Thanks for the advice. That plug really was holding the boiler to the chassis, at least for my machine, but luckily I was able to convince it to unscrew. I did end up choosing not to remove the boiler after unlocking the drain plug, as it was enough to remove the debris that had by now dissolved in a diluted vinegar solution. I have a new problem however -- link forthcoming.

Update

I disconnected the power, met a friend to, er, let off some steam, came back and gave it another try, and well, the problem resolved itself.

So either the water line pressure had to be supplied for a decent amount of time, or the power had to be cut off for a decent amount of time for it to start working again.

As for the orange-ish water, looking into some spillage on the countertop makes me think it's some kind of rusty water. I have no idea why there may be rusty water in the system, or whether it is an expected risk of running the pump without water supply, but flushing both the group and steam boiler enough times seems to have cleared it from the system.

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