Posted Fri Jan 20, 2012, 4:48pm Subject: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
Just made the acquisition today: A French restaurant undergoing a remodel decided to let go of its old French espresso machine (although they didn't realize that it was French, what with the Italian name). I swooped in and snagged it for roughly a verse (even less than a song, that is). I had to jump on the deal and so now I'm pretty unprepared, as this is not only my first HX but also my first machine to require plumbing. Until I find a piece of furniture to put it on with space underneath for the Flojet, accumulator, water jug and drain jug, this big ol' Club kid will have to remain seated (below). I hope to get it installed and tested within the coming week or so. The top is secured with four easy screws but side panels come right off, no screws or nuthin', just some tension pegs holding them on. From what I've seen through the sides, there doesn't seem to be much to worry about in terms of rust or corrosion. It's dirty, but not ugly. The deeply blackened portafilters are evidence enough of quite the lack of concern for general upkeep, but something tells me after a cleaning, descaling, maybe a gasket or two, this thing will be just fine. For anyone else out there with a Conti Club 1-Group -- what's your experience been? How do you like that giant 8L galvanized steel boiler? How thermally stable do you find it? Any problems with overheating, as I've heard there can sometimes be? Any tips or tweaks I should know right off the bat? Let's discuss. I'd especially like to know what other machines have compatible portafilters, so that I might hunt down a bottomless & some baskets. The only basket I received in the deal is a double, but it's got only one open hole, by design. It's not blocked with crud, it's literally only got 1 hole through which the coffee is apparently squeezed. Is anyone familiar with this phenomenon? Thanks!
PS: In retrospect maybe this thread should have been started over in the plain old "Espresso Machines" forum... If the moderator thinks so, feel free to bump it over or I can delete & repost.
Posted Fri Jan 20, 2012, 7:48pm Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
I now understand that this is just a run-o-the-mill pressurized basket. I've used a pressurized portafilter before, but it worked with normal baskets; never seen the pressurization shortcut take this form before. Frankly I'm disappointed that a full-on French restaurant would resort to this kind of workaround, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as table-service restaurants don't typically employ skilled baristas or spend much time honing that particular skill. Hopefully this is not an indication of pressure problems within the machine itself, but only of its previous quality at the other end of the portafilter, as they say.
calblacksmith Moderator Joined: 25 Nov 2007 Posts: 5,652 Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A. Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: ECM Veneziano A1 Grinder: Many different commercial Vac Pot: 40s era Silex Drip: Milita, Bunn&Curtis... Roaster: Cast iron pan, gas burner
Posted Tue Jan 24, 2012, 6:50am Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
Congrats on the score! I don't have your specific machine but I have had several other commercial machines and lack of proper maintance seems to be a very common thread among them.
Bummer about the pressurized basket but they are not expensive to replace. Welcome to the HX owners circle. I think you will enjoy that machine a LOT once it is set up and running.
You are going to need a good/great grinder with that machine to get all that it has to offer. The pin/latch system seems to be pretty common on commercial machines, they are made for easy access for service and most just snap apart.
It is going to be much different than what have you used before for a machine. It is very nice to have all that steam on tap and HX is easy to get used to, the flush routine is much more difficult to describe in writing than it is to do, and it takes much longer to read about than it is to do.
In real life, my name is Wayne P.
Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
A slight exaggeration, but it's true that for today's coffee shop purposes, clearance this limited would be extremely frustrating. I don't do much by way of tall drinks around the house, though, and here you can see a 16oz mug fits under the spout without too much trouble. That's 16oz to the very tip of the lip; probably wouldn't want put much more than 13oz in it, spill-wise... But I'm more into shots, macchiatos and flat whites, anyway. The lady of the house does like a substantial mocha and favors our taller mugs, but when making large drinks on the 2-group Epoca I use at work, we do the shot-glass-to-cup transfer and there's still crema enough for distinct and dazzling lotuses. I mean, when a drink gets up to the 16oz range, what is crema really but decoration, anyway?
Posted Tue Jan 24, 2012, 10:53am Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
Took some snaps under the hood, though I'm still looking for a piece of furniture to hold the machine, pump & water jugs. Grinder-wise I'm working with the equivalent of a Nuova Simonelli MCF (it's kind of ambiguous actually... More info here.)
Looks to me like things are in pretty good shape. I'm not 100% sure what exactly everything is and does. The thermostat below, for example, I'm not actually sure is a thermostat. Also the thing in the bottom right photo -- it's located underneath the boiler towards the front of the machine. No idea what that is. The other solenoid, perhaps? Following those braided lines will probably solve the mystery, but I can't really do it til I move the machine to a more advantageous spot). Also, in the "boiler from above" pic, we can see 6 different things sticking in there (and in case the photo's unclear, the back half of the boiler is wrapped in some old insulation). I've done a fair amount of reading so I'm loosely familiar with the various potential valves and probes, although now that I'm actually looking at it, I have no idea which is which or how to adjust the ones that will need adjustment. If anyone feels inclined to list a quick little primer, I'd be much obliged, although I'm trying to sniff out an exploded diagram and will figure it all out on my own soon enough. If not an actual Conti Club diagram, I figure any machine of comparable components will shed some rudimentary light. I know there's an auto-fill sensor in there somewhere. There's gotta be a pressurestat in there too, yes? I figure the big brass hex is the OPV, or is it the vacuum breaker valve? I dunno. But I'm excited to learn!
Posted Tue Jan 24, 2012, 8:31pm Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
Okay. Through close examination of various diagrams from various parts sellers, I think I may have come to some understanding of what's what on the top of the boiler, although confirmation from anyone that knows for sure would be appreciated. There remains one wire whose function I don't know -- it's just a wire with a washer and a screw. Could it be another temperature-related safeguard?
By "Boiler Safety Valve" what I meant was the boiler over-pressure relief valve... Is this what I would adjust to make the boiler run a little cooler (at the possible expense of steam power, which I imagine I'll have plenty of either way)? The "temperature safety sensor" I assume disengages the power to the element should the thermostat malfunction and let the boiler overheat. The "vacuum breaker" I believe is the valve that releases the pressure of a vacuum should one develop while the machine is off, yes? The auto-fill sensor is self-explanatory I suppose, but what is that pipe that leads away from it? It looks like the "hot water plunge" is the line from which the hot water tap draws its water -- but is this separate from the HX that feeds the group? Does the non-group hot water come through a HX or does its water come straight out of the boiler?
Posted Tue Mar 13, 2012, 9:27am Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
Jchonparadise -- thanks for checking in! I was thinking that this thread had fallen by the wayside. I actually got bogged down in a slow series of details that I thought I would take care of swiftly, but wound up requiring a number of annoying trips to Home Depot. The worst of these was the process of finding a proper piece to finish the connection from a plastic line exiting the accumulator tank to the braided metal intake hose that attaches to the machine. Having figured that out, I then idled while considering whether to complete a total breakdown / acid bath, or just give it a go and see what happens. And then I went out of town for a week.
In short -- I have yet to fire it up, and so I don't actually know yet what will come of the blinking light issue. I just got home, though, and I've decided to just go for it. At this point I just need to wrap some valve threads in plumbers' tape and screw them back in, and then set up a drainage tank, but then we'll be good to go and we'll see what happens.
Posted Thu Apr 5, 2012, 5:48pm Subject: Re: Joining the Conti 1-Group Club
For anyone still watching, a long overdue update...
I now understand why the previous owners of this machine were using the pressurized basket. It was essentially their alternative to "basic upkeep." It truly seems that there'd been zero effort to keep the insides of this baby clean at all. The dispersion block was completely blocked; the shower screen was about 90% blocked; the whole group was caked with crud and the gasket was like a cinder. I soaked and scrubbed and cleared it all out, only to discover that the neglect didn't end there. Powered on, it would eventually achieve operational heat & pressure but suffered from serious group dripping and a constant stream down the drain line. I couldn't leave it on unsupervised, as it would empty the 5-gal water tank and fill the 5-gal drainage tank in a matter of hours, while idling. I dissembled the 3-way solenoid by the group and discovered that it was so completely caked with crud as to be essentially nonfunctional, thereby failing to prevent water from trickling either out the group or down the drain.
Long story short, it's all cleaned out and up to perfect operational condition. Unfortunately I'm still wading through a sort of overload of beans I'd accumulated over the past month or two, and so none of my coffee at the moment is particularly fresh, but I have pulled a couple very promising shots, and been quite pleased with the performance of the steam wand. I'll report back with some photo evidence once I've achieved something photogenic. I also intend to pick up a Kill-a-watt to see just how power-consumptive it is when left on vs. when heating from cold start. Today, with its side, back, and top panels off, it took about 45 minutes to achieve operational heat/pressure stasis, with the Flojet only cycling once in that process. (The Flojet only cycled once or twice over the course of the whole afternoon during which I tested all the pre-set buttons, ran the hot water tap, steamed some milk, pulled some shots.) Over the course of the afternoon I also established that while idle, the heating element cycles on for about 40 seconds every 3:15 or so. Hopefully this won't break the bank!
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