It is important to use only soft water to run on any types of coffee machines. Most scale is calcium carbonate CaSO₄. CaCO₃ or MgCO will also make up a part of it, water softening is the most important step to follow in using any types of coffee makers.
Scale formation can cause serious problems to the machines, normally resulting in expensive repairs. It is often the main culprit to machine failure.
Restoration process like descaling is time-consuming and can cause damages to the components and metal in the process.
As such, keeping the water condition soft is the most important step to extend the longevity of an espresso machine, it is much better to prevent limescale from building than performing too much descaling.
Here are some photos of limescale formation on espresso machines used in Singapore.
That is not all. Scales can cover the sensors, the heating elements, and cause the machine to malfunction. As scales are solids, the restoration process will be time-consuming as time is needed to dissolve the minerals and rinse them out of the machine. Many tests are also required after the restoration.
HOW TO SOFTEN?
There are many solutions available on the market.
Water softening cartridge
This is the most common solution used for semi-professional espresso machines and is only effective for home or office environment with smaller usage.
The softener must be recharged with salt water before first use and recharged regularly depending on usage capacity.
It is also important to make sure that all salt is rinsed off as sodium can cause damages to the metal in the boiler.
The softener must be replaced at least once a year.
When to regenerate your softener?
85ppm of hardness 80 litres can be softened before recharging.
120ppm of hardness 60 litres can be softened before recharging.
170ppm of hardness 40 litres can be softened before recharging.
220ppm of hardness 30 litres can be softened before recharging.
This is how you recharge the softener.
For Bezzera machines with a water tank of 4 litres, this includes but not limited to Magica, Mitica, Strega, BZ16, Galatea Domus. The water tank will require a little modification to accept a water cartridge.
For smaller Bezzera machines like the BZ10, BZ13, BZ07, BZ09 , etc. This little cartridge can be attached to the inlet hose directly. Please remove the dirt filter before attaching the softener.
BILT Oscar 150 Water Softener
This is a bag of resins which you can place inside the water tank. It will cure the water but it will take some time to be effective.
Effectiveness guide and softening time.
|Germen Degrees||PPM mg/L CaCO3||Min Softening time (Hours)||Max Treated Litres||Drinks (100cc)|
Singapore’s PUB Water Quality Rating
Average : 66 mg/L
Range across Singapore : 26 – 203 mg/L
Expiry: 12 months from purchase date or upon finishing the maximum treated litres above.
The “Min Softening time” is the time it starts to reduce hardness, it’s recommended to have the softening prolonged for 2 to 4 times longer.
Users may want to soften water in advance, done by treating the water to be used in another water vessel before pouring into the espresso machine.
They are not suitable for all Expobar or any machines with water tanks that do not have openings wide enough to insert the Oscar water softeners
1. Water pitchers with filters
We note that certain brands of water pitchers with built in filters work in reducing the hardness of the water. The filter cartridge in the water pitcher has to be replaced regularly.
As we don’t carry such products, users will have to check with the vendor or manufacturer if their models do have the capability to soften the water.
2.Water filtration systems
Some users will prefer to use a filtration system.
If you are plumping in or you are expecting heavy usage, this will be the most recommended.
Again, users will have to check with the vendor or manufacturer if their models work in softening the water.
3.Reverse Osmosis water purifiers
These machines do work but they have to be properly maintained to remain effective.
Using distilled water is a good option for water softening, but the water has to be added with some minerals. That not only save the metal from leeching into the water, it can form an oxide on the metal from further corrosion. Fortunately, it also makes lighter roast coffee tasting better and you can even control the taste by controlling the hardness.
To add the beneficial minerals back into the water.
We will suggest first adding 4.2 grams of sodium bicarbonate(baking soda) and dissolve it in 100 mL of distilled water to form a solution.
Add 2 mL of this bicarbonate solution to each litre of distilled water. This will give you 84 mg/litre.