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Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Help with Saeco...  
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SproPro
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Apr 2012
Posts: 2
Location: Austin, Tx
Expertise: Professional

Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:07am
Subject: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

So I've been having issues on and off with my set up for the past year or so..haven't had much time to dedicate to it in a while due to being a full time college student, but I've recently started messing with it again. Basically my issue is this, after a few months of perfect use my saeco started experiencing some extreme channeling whenever I tried to pull shots. What would happen was the shots seemed to channel in the middle with the upper half of the puck losing all cohesion and sort of erupting upwards while the bottom half generally remained in form. I initially suspected my grinder due to a noticeable change in consistency, however, no issue could be found and I recently received a replacement Preciso from Baratza. It was working fine for the first few days and for no noticeable reason has started doing it again. The grind consistently seems the same to me. I can't seem to isolate the problem. Whenever I pull shots they take about 10 sec. to get a double. When removing the PF there is noticeable pressure still built up in the head (there is some squirting out from around the PF).

Some things about my set-up:
-I de-pressurized the PF by removing the internal system
-I have to grind the coffee particularly fine (between 1-4 on the Preciso) due to the high pressure in the Saeco (between 13-15 bars according to their manual)

I took some pictures to help illustrate my problem (the first shows coffee leaking out the sides when removing the PF after the shot, the second shows how the puck separates and the third shows how it bulges out):
http://imgur.com/a/hQrAx

Any ideas? This problem has frustrated me beyond reason...any help appreciated
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,219
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:43am
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

You may need to calibrate/align the Preciso, theres a screw inside for coarse/medium/fine (look up instructions on their site). I normally dose around 16g and if I go below the 6 range I start choking out, if your in 1-4 and the machine is set right it could be stale beans as well.

I don't think that machine has a 3 way valve, so like any machine without one you can't remove the PF right away as pressure hasn't bled off yet (you'll get exploding grinds like you saw)
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,878
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Preciso
Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:03pm
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

Welcome to CG, hope we can help you.

You did not mention a dose.  Do you have dry coffee dose weight, or are you sure that you are correctly filling the PF?  The dry coffee should not touch the screen or screw, and the wet puck if intact should just get a slight indent of the screw.  It the puck touches the screen you can get more problems with channeling and puck fracture.  I am not so sure about the grinder.  Can you choke the machine if you fill the basket correctly?  If so, then adjusting the grinder may not help much.  You can move the screw and tighten the grind, but in the end it will move the number where you chke the machine, but not help much if you already choke.

I am not sure about the pictures with the color change.  A little more description of what I am seeing please.

You may have this already, but I believe your machine below.  No 3 way or OPV as suggested.

Click Here (www.partsguru.com)

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:27pm
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

Without being familar with your machine, I will try to give some general advice.

First off, your machine, like mine, does not come equipped with a 3-way solenoid.  A 3-way solenoids vents pressure from the group head when the pump is turned off.  It is completely normal to have residual pressure in the brew head after pulling a shot, especially if you happen to steam milk afterwards which raises the boiler (and thus, the group head) pressure.  There is a spring-loaded pressure valve that a) leaks a bit over time and b) is rated at 5 Bar but never holds back that much pressure (I replaced mine and it did not help).

I would advise you to clean your shower screen if your machine has one.  Mine gets gunked up enough to require cleaning every couple of months.  What happens is that as some of the holes get gummed up, all of the pressure must then necessarily flow through the remaining holes.  The less holes that are clear, the higher pressure goes through each.   You end up with more of a pressure washer than a shower with your brew water blasting out of the few remaining open holes.  This causes channeling.  Big time.  What works well for me to clean the screen is to soak it in boiling water and automatic dishwasher soap.  The stuff is quite caustic, soak for a half-hour or so and rinse under normal hot tap water.  Hold up to the the light, you should see light through every hole.  If it`s not clean, re-do it.  

Hope this helps.

Dave
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SproPro
Senior Member


Joined: 3 Apr 2012
Posts: 2
Location: Austin, Tx
Expertise: Professional

Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 2:13pm
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

CMIN) I'm not sure if I mentioned, I haven't changed my grind setting/dosing/tamping procedure in any way from what had been working and pulling great shots. When everything was working well I also did not have issues with residual pressure in the head removing the PF after pulling shots. The beans I'm using are a little old (CC Rustico 10 days after roast), but I usually roast myself and had issues pulling shots with coffee that was two days old in the past..then again I've only rebooted my set up in the past week. Unfortunately I don't have the tools to pull apart my grinder at the moment, but the consistency does not seem to have changed from what worked and an extremely fine particle size has been the only way I've been able to pull shots with reasonable extraction times and satisfactory results. I will check on the calibration anyway though when I can, thanks for that.

D4F) I'm not sure of dosing because I don't have a scale, however I have messed with more and less of a dose to no noticeable effect (same channeling pattern every time). Sorry about the color change, one is with natural lighting and the other is with a flash. Basically I'm experiencing consistent channeling in a sort of wide cone configuration; the top of the puck loses its form, bulges upwards and separates, the bottom retains its cohesion. Is it possible this is a reaction to being close to a "choking" point? I've never actually choked it before, despite extremely fine grinds. Could there also be an issue with the pressure valve or the fact that it's operating between 13-15 bars of pressure?

dspear99ca) You are correct about the pressure, but I never steam milk and never had a reaction with residual pressure before this started occurring. You said replacing the valve didn't help for you, but is there a possibility this could be the issue? I'll puro my screen and see if that helps, though I took it off yesterday and it looked okay..I originally thought it was a screen/gasket issue and replaced both to no effect.
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 3:20pm
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

SproPro Said:

D4F) I'm not sure of dosing because I don't have a scale,

Posted April 18, 2013 link

Get a scale.  They are cheap and it eliminates a variable.  I resisted for a long time, once I had a scale (I think mine was something like $16 shipped from Amazon) I never looked back and use it every day.  You want consistency, dose is one variable you can eliminate cheaply and easily with a scale that reads to 0.1g.

SproPro Said:

however I have messed with more and less of a dose to no noticeable effect (same channeling pattern every time). Sorry about the color change, one is with natural lighting and the other is with a flash. Basically I'm experiencing consistent channeling in a sort of wide cone configuration; the top of the puck loses its form, bulges upwards and separates, the bottom retains its cohesion. Is it possible this is a reaction to being close to a "choking" point? I've never actually choked it before, despite extremely fine grinds. Could there also be an issue with the pressure valve or the fact that it's operating between 13-15 bars of pressure?

Posted April 18, 2013 link

The higher pressure just means it's more finicky and the dose/grind range that will produce a drinkable shot is narrower.  You can still produce good espresso with higher-than-optimal pressure.  You SHOULD be able to choke your machine, by that I mean grind fine enough so that pretty much nothing gets through.  I can do it with my Mazzer grinder and I could do it with my Preciso when I owned one... this should be your starting point to determine optimal grind coarseness.  If your pressure has changed (for any reason) you need to adjust the grind finer until the machine chokes, then back it off until you get your 25s 2.5oz shot.  You may want to splurge and pick up a perssure guage... around $10 at plumbing supply stores for a 200psi guage.  Liquid-filled are about 50% more expensive but far easier to read when attached to a machine that uses a vibratory pump.  Unscrew the screen, unscrew and remove the retaining nut, spring and rubber ball (poor man's pressure valve) and screw in the guage.  I wouldn't worry too much about pressure though as I don't think it is, of itself, your problem.  Or, there are easier things to adjust than the pressure, we may need to revisit it later on if other options fail.

SproPro Said:

dspear99ca) You are correct about the pressure, but I never steam milk and never had a reaction with residual pressure before this started occurring. You said replacing the valve didn't help for you, but is there a possibility this could be the issue? I'll puro my screen and see if that helps, though I took it off yesterday and it looked okay..I originally thought it was a screen/gasket issue and replaced both to no effect.

Posted April 18, 2013 link

It sort of sounds like you are now venting not just the brew group but also the boiler pressure when you detach the PF, which MAY be attributed to the spring-loaded valve weakening.  That would let more pressure by it when you are brewing, maybe... I am not sure exactly how these devices affect dynamic flow and pressure in real-world operation.  Maybe somebody with a hydrodynamics background can chime in here.  I would do the following:  with the PF removed, turn on the steam switch.  Let it warm up to steam temp.  On my machine a little steam leaks through the spring pressure valve, enough so you can see it but not hear it hiss.  If it's really leaking or has failed you'll get a lot of steam out of the brew head and probably won't be able to develop much steam for steaming milk.  Quick and dirty, and not sure how useful a test this is, just something I'd try just to amass as much info as I could about the problem in order to aid in diagnoses.

Also, I didn't ask before, but have you descaled the machine?  If you have not it's possible that scale is messing with your water flow.  Run some vinegar through it, disregarding any comments you may get about how it will damage your machine.  It won't, and I could explain why from a chemistry standpoint but trust me on this one, my science degree included a lot of chemistry and I've done a lot of reading on it prior to using vinegar to descale my machine (which I have done many times over the past 5 years with zero ill effects).
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,878
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Preciso
Posted Thu Apr 18, 2013, 5:23pm
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

As a college student, if you have no desire, money, or time to get a scale you still need a consistent dose. I might suggest a clear shot glass. You can make a mark on it when you determine what dose of beans will give you a grind where the puck just touches the screen screw after a brew. The tamped dry puck will probably be about 1 mm below. If you use a nickel that will probably just fit between the dry puck in the screw. If the puck pushes up against the screen you are more prone to get channeling and a lot of debris behind the screen. I have tried using a volume dose as described and then weighing the dose to check and can get fairly accurate.

You can see on the site below the temperature versus pressure relationship. I doubt that is surprising news. It has been suggested that the spring valve will hold back about 1 1/2 to 2 bar. That would be consistent with some leakage at steam temperature.

Click Here (www.jgbhose.com)

You may check and see if you get some blow by at steam temperature. Hopefully there will not be much steam release through the valve until the steam ready light is on. You may get some idea as to proper function of the spring valve. As mentioned you could also check the pressure with a gauge but that is also time and money.

Descaling the machine is a good idea as well. My impression is that scale usually will stick the valve shut, or keep it from entirely closing which allows the machine to drip. I'm not sure that fits with the symptoms you described. Perhaps a sticky valve that does not open at normal pressure but then blows open could cause the problem. As Dave fairly alluded not everyone uses vinegar to de-scale. I think its biggest objection was with an aluminum boiler and yours is stainless I believe. In addition the objection is the odor and taste. The taste should be solved by flushing. Your other options are citric acid or commercial descaling solutions.

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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steamer
Senior Member
steamer
Joined: 11 Feb 2005
Posts: 870
Location: socal
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Brewtus IV R
Grinder: Mazzer Mini-B Baratza...
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Roaster: Hottop
Posted Fri Apr 19, 2013, 7:39am
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

I have a machine that has no 3-way valve, When my shot is done, I open the steam wand to release the PF pressure. this works great. I get sucky shots a lot, then once maybe twice a week it is perfect, go figure....
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dspear99ca
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Jan 2013
Posts: 93
Location: BC, Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Coffee
Grinder: Mazzer Mini
Posted Fri Apr 19, 2013, 8:41am
Subject: Re: Help with Saeco Classico/Baratza Preciso set-up
 

steamer Said:

I have a machine that has no 3-way valve, When my shot is done, I open the steam wand to release the PF pressure. this works great. I get sucky shots a lot, then once maybe twice a week it is perfect, go figure....

Posted April 19, 2013 link

If you don't have consistency and are using the same beans, grind, water and technique, it's likely temperature.  The bi-metal thermostat that turns the heating element(s) on and off is only good for about a 10C range, +/-5.  If your optimal temp is 97C, that means you're potentially going back and forth from 92 to 102... that is if the thermostat's set temp hasn't drifted.  As they age the gap between on and off gets even wider.  The good news is that thermostats are really cheap, under $10, and really easy to replace.  Pulling some water through the PF before your shot is a good idea too as the group head is often far from the thermostat... water heats or cools the head and portafilter very quickly so it doesn't need to be a long flush.  I found replacing my thermostat was a much more do-able fix for me than trying to "temp surf", counting off seconds after the green ready light comes on before I turn on the pump.
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