Boiler pressure won't stop rising

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billherbst

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Nov 24, 2021, 12:28:55 AM11/24/21
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I walked into the kitchen this evening to discover my Brewtus IV-R hissing. I immediately looked at the steam boiler pressure gauge. It was at 2. The safety release valve hadn't tripped yet, but it would soon.

I thought, "Damn, the pressure switch has failed" (second time in two years).

Having replaced the pressure switch numerous times on both my old Brewtus II and now my Brewtus IV-R, I keep new replacements on hand. So, after letting the Brewtus cool down some, I swapped out the pressurestat in the machine and hooked up a new one. Easy-peasy, right? Wrong.

Turning the Brewtus on again, the steam pressure rose to 1.2 and just kept going. So, if the pressure switch isn't the problem, what is? Why is the heating element in the steam boiler not shutting off? 

Having already had a problem last year with scale causing the refill valve to stick, I'm wondering if I have another malfunction due to hard water scale. Is that the likely culprit, or has something else failed? 


Herman Dickens

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Nov 24, 2021, 10:37:27 AM11/24/21
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Sounds like the pressurestat..

Herman


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Jonathan Stroum

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Nov 24, 2021, 10:48:20 AM11/24/21
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Are you adjusting the pressurestat with the thumb wheel?  Sure the wiring is correct?

 

JP

triplereef

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Nov 24, 2021, 10:57:23 AM11/24/21
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I've notcied thay my pstat on the brewtus will fail about once a quarter - if i disconnect the steam boiler, let the main boiler heat up first and then reconnect, it is all of a sudden ok. I'm on my third pstat and the current one is a well built $80 part.  I've taken it off several times to check for scale build up and nothing.
I think theres a weird back-pressure gremlin that sucks the diaphragm down on occasion and I just need to reboot, as they say.

Jonathan Stroum

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Nov 24, 2021, 11:12:44 AM11/24/21
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If disconnecting it and letting the brew boiler come up to operating temp allows it to work properly, that’s certainly a valuable clue.  Wonder if your controller is wonky or if there’s an intermittent connection or cross wiring somewhere.  If you can check voltages while these things are happening, that’ll undoubtedly offer more clues.

 

Doesn’t sound like pressurestat failure but in the process of R&R something is reset.

 

JP

Aaron Skelsey

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Nov 24, 2021, 4:10:17 PM11/24/21
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Just a quick addendum to JP's post. The PSAT will literally make it impossible for the controller to keep powering the boiler once up to pressure, so I think you can definately rule out controller.

Cheers,
Aaron

Kevin Maciunas

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Nov 24, 2021, 7:30:53 PM11/24/21
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On 24/11/21 2:36 pm, billherbst wrote:
> Having replaced the pressure switch numerous times on both my old
> Brewtus II and now my Brewtus IV-R, I keep new replacements on hand.
> So, after letting the Brewtus cool down some, I swapped out the
> pressurestat in the machine and hooked up a new one. Easy-peasy,
> right? Wrong.
>
> Turning the Brewtus on again, the steam pressure rose to 1.2 and just
> kept going. So, if the pressure switch isn't the problem, what is? Why
> is the heating element in the steam boiler not shutting off?
>
> Having already had a problem last year with scale causing the refill
> valve to stick, I'm wondering if I have another malfunction due to
> hard water scale. Is that the likely culprit, or has something else
> failed?

OK - I'd suggest you have scale blocking the pressure path to the
switch...  I'd put money on blockage on the U shaped tube that goes up
to the switch.  If the pressure continues to go up, the controller and
the rest of the gubbins have nothing to do with it.  The pressure is
100% controlled by the pstat.  A new one exhibiting the same behaviour
tells me the fault lies on the pressure sensing side - the tube.  You
probably need to remove it and see.  Blowing through would be reasonably
diagnostic (although a flap of scale COULD be there and not show, I
guess...).  Where it attaches at the top of the boiler is also in need
of checking and I'd suspect it is the most likely point of scale
deposition (it's the hottest spot....).

You probably have 2 good pstats and machine with a scale problem would
be my most likely suggestion..

Cheers

/Kevin

jpst...@gmail.com

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Nov 24, 2021, 7:58:20 PM11/24/21
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That’s sound thinking on Kevin’s behalf.

JP

> On Nov 24, 2021, at 4:30 PM, Kevin Maciunas <kevin.m...@gmail.com> wrote:
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billherbst

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Nov 25, 2021, 7:34:16 PM11/25/21
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Kevin, what you wrote makes perfect sense to me. I'll bet you're right that the pressure switch is no longer sensing boiler pressure because of scale blockage in the copper pipe. The city water in Columbia is ridiculously hard — 255 ppm, according to my cheap little tester. Scale was the cause of the problem I had a year ago with the boiler refill valve sticking. That's why I asked whether scale could cause the problem in my original post. I'll remove the copper pipe that connects the pressure switch to the boiler and give it a citric acid bath.

Thanks.


billherbst

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Nov 25, 2021, 7:34:16 PM11/25/21
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Okay, perhaps I haven't been clear. The steam boiler heating element remains engaged and on (heating up the steam boiler to the point where the safety release triggers) NO MATTER WHAT I DO. 

I've replaced the Pressurestat TWICE in two days with brand new ones I've had in storage. The P-stat wiring is correct. No change at all. The heating element in the steam boiler does not turn off. . I've watched the old WLL video about adjusting the pressurestat by turning the notched wheel and have turned it down (as far as it will go). No change. I have tried every combination of the two front panel main switches — Main power ON, Steam boiler ON from a cold start. Main power and Steam switch ON from cold start, then, when the steam boiler reaches 1.3 bars, turning off the Steam switch. Main power ON, Steam boiler OFF from a cold start. NOTHING keeps the steam boiler from heating until the boiler blows. 

Someone could figure this out, folks, but I don't think I can. I bought this machine in 2016 as an eBay refurb from WLL to have on hand in case my my old Brewtus II went down. It was advertised as a plain Brewtus IV (vibe pump and reservoir), so imagine my surprise when I opened the box in 2019 and discovered a IV-R. It's now plumbed-in and hard-wired to power. BUT — In two years of daily service, it's broken three times. I'm sick of this and don't trust the machine at all. I think I'll just bring my old Brewtus II out of storage. Maybe I'll buy a Profitec P300. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll give up espresso entirely and just do Clever Dripper immersion-pourover coffee. I don't know. If anyone on this board wants a damaged Brewtus IV-R and lives close enough to Columbia, Missouri to come pick it up, it's yours for free. I just want it gone.

Kevin Maciunas

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Nov 25, 2021, 10:51:18 PM11/25/21
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On 26/11/21 9:00 am, billherbst wrote:
> Kevin, what you wrote makes perfect sense to me. I'll bet you're right
> that the pressure switch is no longer sensing boiler pressure because
> of scale blockage in the copper pipe. The city water in Columbia is
> ridiculously hard — 255 ppm, according to my cheap little tester.
> Scale was the cause of the problem I had a year ago with the boiler
> refill valve sticking. That's why I asked whether scale could cause
> the problem in my original post. I'll remove the copper pipe that
> connects the pressure switch to the boiler and give it a citric acid
> bath.
>
Sometime ago I downloaded the "Brewtus Compendium" - a PDF file
outlining how a PID controller is added etc etc - by C.S. Lennon. Very
useful document.  It doesn't actually reflect the standard wiring on
mine (mine has an SSR controlling the brew boiler, and the diagram does
not show that...); but it is really handy for diagnosis flow chart time!

The wiring shows the heating elements fed mains and going through the
steam boiler pstat.  The other lead on the pstat is the N/O lead and it
then goes to the brew boiler.  So if the steam boiler keeps chugging
away it can only be the pstat..

The document is available on the brewtus group pages somewhere. I
commend it to everyone!

Apropos water :)  Here, at my house, I use only rainwater.  I have a
choice of rainwater or water from my dam and I'm not drinking that!  The
rainwater is perfectly 'soft' and scale is simply not an issue for me. 
But I regularly de-scale friend and family machines.  Citric is your
friend in that endeavour, but one place you might find it tough to get
to is the bottom of the U. For a couple of $$'s you can get a bicycle
brake cable inner.  Get a stainless one, carefully 'fluff' the end a
tiny, tiny bit and you have a robust 1.5m or so long device you can push
through pipes to clean them.  Fill with citric first, of course, and
then chimney sweep style clean the sucker!  That has not let me down
yet, and it even works with thermoblock machines!

Cheers

/Kevin

Todd Salzman

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Nov 26, 2021, 9:33:20 AM11/26/21
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Most likely the hot wire and neutral wires that come in for your plug are reversed on the back of hte main power switch. And the heating element has ver tiny crack in it and is using the water as a ground. Therefore there are not controls to break the connection since tne "neutral wire rung directly to the heating element. but since the wires are reversed you have a hot wire going directly to the heating element.

Todd
Whole latte Love

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billherbst

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Dec 6, 2021, 12:05:59 PM12/6/21
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Dec 6th, 2021 Update: I’ve ordered a new heating element for the Brewtus IV-R’s steam boiler from WLL ($75). When it arrives, my friend who is mechanically adept will install it. If that fixes the problem, fine. If not, also fine. I think I may be done.

I got out my 11-year-old Brewtus II from storage. It was working when I retired it in 2019, but not anymore. The steam boiler heats up to 0.7 bars, then shuts off. I’ve changed the pressurestat twice and tried adjusting the pressure with the notched ring on the Pstat, but to no avail. The steam boiler shuts off prematurely, which means that the brew boiler won’t heat up at all. Now I have two dead Brewtuses. 

I’m tired of this, and I think my long espresso hobby may be at an end. I went from steam toys in the 1990s to a Starbucks Barista, then a Gaggia Classic, then two LeLit PL041s (one without PID, one with), then the Expobar Brewtus II, and finally the IV-R. That covers about 30 years. 

Here’s the thing: I don’t drink straight espresso. Heck, I don’t even like it. I like milk drinks — cappuccinos, lattes, flat whites. And for those, I really don’t need an e61 prosumer double boiler espresso machine. When the Brewtus IV-R went down last month, I bought a $16 moka pot and a $23 countertop electric milk steamer-frother, and I’ve been perfectly happy since then. Combined with my home-roasted fresh, single-origin beans and good grinders (I have three — a Baratza Vario, Baratza Sette 270, and a Compak K-3 Touch Advanced), the coffee I’m making now is as tasty as anything I’ve ever had, and this includes from coffeehouses in Seattle. 

Nothing against the Brewtus, but these machines tend to be unreliable, to break, and require repair fairly often. If you’re an engineer or a skilled mechanic (as many Brewtus owners on this group are), that’s OK. Not so for me. I don’t live where there are repair facilities (formerly the Oregon coast, now the middle of Missouri), I’m not wealthy and don’t want to ship 70-lb hulks off to WLL, and I’m often not skilled enough to repair them by myself when they break. Yeah, I’ve watched hundreds of videos, and this forum has helped me numerous times over the years, for which I’m grateful. Still, I’m old, disabled, and fed up with the hassle.

Yes, I could afford to buy a Profitec Pro 300, a Lelit Elizabeth, or even a Lelit Bianca or ECM Synchronika, but why ask for more trouble? Are those machines bulletproof and guaranteed not to break? No. 

So, thanks for all your help, but I think it may be time for me to retire from this game.

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