Scale inhibitors aren’t effective with Espresso machines

This article is reprinted with permission.  It was originally published by the Espresso Service Network

If you sell coffee products, water treatment should be on your list of high priorities.

If you are like most espresso business owners, you will or will be choosing between a Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Softening system as the foundation for your water treatment. If you choose a RO system and have extremely hard water, you may need a softening system as well. Next, will be the filters you use to address the more specific qualities of the water feeding your espresso machine but you can pass on a scale inhibitor.

Overview of Water Filtration

There are several types of water filters used in the coffee industry, but the basic ones are scale inhibitors, sediment filters, and carbon filters.

Carbon filters are designed to eliminate the taste and odor of chlorine or chloramine which many towns and cities use to kill bacteria typically found in water. Everyone should use a taste and odor filter if they are selling coffee beverages.

Sediment filters are designed to filter out large particles that are not dissolved in the water like sand or other foreign material.

Scale inhibitors are made to discourage minerals such as calcium and magnesium from crystalizing in your brewer’s tank and forming deposits that will block passages and envelope heating elements.

Scale Inhibitors Work for Coffee Brewers

A scale inhibitor slowly releases a media such as polyphosphate into the tank of your brewer. The medium may coat the sides of your tank or adhere to water molecules to inhibit them from crystalizing. When you operate your coffee brewer the minerals in your water have nothing to attach to.  Scale inhibitors are made for coffee brewers which have tanks that evacuate, meaning water comes in and then goes out.

It is important to note that scale inhibitors can dramatically reduce the process of scale build-up in your coffee brewer, but they are not one-hundred percent effective and most importantly they do not work on espresso machines. For your coffee equipment, you have the option of purchasing a standalone scale inhibitor or one that is imbedded with your carbon, taste and odor, filter. There are several good brands and models available. It is best to speak with your service provider before hand to determine which manufacturer they carry to avoid purchasing an off brand.

Scale Inhibitors Do Not Work on Espresso Machines

The purpose of a steam boiler in an espresso machine is to produce heat at a temperature so high that it will yield steam. Unfortunately, the high temperature creates a damaging effect on the medium delivered to your boiler by your scale inhibitor.

This extreme heat causes the medium to liquefy and settle at the bottom of your steam boiler. The scale remains in your boiler still looking for things to cling to like your heating element and boiler walls but now, you and your espresso service technician will have the sludge (looks a lot like icing) of the polyphosphate to contend with as well.

Even if you own a newer espresso machine with a boiler renewal, the boiler is never drained enough to remove the polyphosphate at the bottom and it certainly does not remove the minerals that have already adhered inside the boiler. You may get some minerals out by renewing your boiler but not enough to prevent build-up. If you are an espresso machine owner, the best way to protect your machine from scale is to prevent it from ever entering your boiler

The Best Place to Buy Water Treatment

Like most service companies, the Espresso Service Network provides a basic softening and filtration system to protect your machine from scale build up. Your machine’s warranty will void if minerals are found present in your espresso machine.

If you did not receive a system with your equipment, you’ll want to speak with your service technician as soon as possible to discuss not only the water treatment options that are available to you but also the ones that fit your personal budget. A tip to make your life a whole lot easier is to purchase your water products from your service technician. In many cases, when something goes wrong with your brewer or espresso machine it can be traced to a clogged or malfunctioning filter. If your espresso service provider handles your water treatment, their technician will be able to fix it on the spot and you will not have to pay for another service company to come out.

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