Steam activation

la marzocco, synesso, simonelli, cimbali etc

Steam activation

Postby jepy on Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:40 pm

Question for you pros. What is your favorite style e.g.lever,knob,foot? And why
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Michael Phillips on Sun Mar 01, 2009 4:02 pm

I like levers, preferably side mount like Synesso vs. front mount like the Nouva S. They tend to be friendly on the body with fast and accurate control. Foot control would be neat but I have not yet seen it implemented well enough.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Emily Oak on Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:16 pm

Ntried foot pedal but i've heard it's favoured by those who have. Other than that lever over tap/knob any day. Ease of use, ergonomics, etc.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Andy Schecter on Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:22 pm

jepy wrote:Question for you pros. What is your favorite style e.g.lever,knob,foot? And why

I prefer the new thought-activated steam valves. Sure they're expensive, and you have to wear the sensor cap. But it's hands free, so convenient, and with a little practice, the latest version hardly ever misfires.

Only thing I'm afraid of: if, say, Scarlett Johansson ever walks into the cafe, I'd probably burn myself!

(sorry John, couldn't help it ;)
Schectermatic(tm), the oldest, most trusted brand of espresso grinder shnozzola
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Re: Steam activation

Postby xristrettox on Sun Mar 01, 2009 8:38 pm

They probably aren't the best design, but I miss the linea knobs. Those things were awesome after a fresh rebuild. You could just tap them and they would spin all the way on and off. It was fun to watch a great barista flick the knob (that's what he said) and snap off the shot at almost the same time (I miss those old white rocker switches too)
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Allen Leibowitz on Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:23 pm

My favorite used to be the lever with a round kob on
the Faema E91.

It was right in front of the wand and had a very short throw.

My new favorite is the C-lever valve from Rancilio.
It has:
- the same short throw and convenient location as the Faema
In addition:
- has this thick, stubby, palm-friendly lever that is easy to grip
- goes to full on with 25 degree turn in one direction and then springs back
- "locks" on with 25 degree turn in the other direction

It's super fast. The baristi love it.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby conrad brown on Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:25 pm

once you go foot pedal, you never go back. even though they are straight on/off, as opposed to graduated, you get used to it. i wouldn't trade it for anything.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Jason Haeger on Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:04 pm

conrad brown wrote:once you go foot pedal, you never go back. even though they are straight on/off, as opposed to graduated, you get used to it. i wouldn't trade it for anything.

I've never had the opportunity to use one, though that seems like it would be ideal.

Second to that, I am pretty fond of lever activators. I like the Synesso style levers quite a bit, but I'll settle for NS style levers. (it seems every machine in every shop where I live is a NS)

And as much fun as the old school LM knobs were, I think the levers are easier for rookies to learn on. (which is an issue in a college town where turnover is generally quite high)
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Re: Steam activation

Postby stormer on Tue Mar 17, 2009 10:07 pm

i've been making drinks lately on an ancient astoria with a really stubborn steam knob. i started developing some pretty serious wrist pain so i tossed a pair of locking pliers on that sucker as a steam lever. i love it. the pain is gone and it looks pretty bad-ass too.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Ryan Willbur on Wed Mar 18, 2009 12:32 pm

I'm all for the Synesso-style steam levers. The only thing that tops that is the foot control... Foot control makes me happy, and the one I've used (the Blackcat Mistral) works along with the spin valve, so you can set your pressure and then turn it on or off with the foot switch. Of couse, the ideal would be something like a volume or wah pedal for guitar, only connected to a steam valve... If anyone can pull that off, I'd bet it'd be you John...
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Chris Baca on Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:36 pm

I like the graduated foot pedal idea. It seems doable yeah? I've used a foot pedal on a Mirage but not in a production environment. seemed rad.

The best thing I've played with is the GB5 knob. That shit is butter...Very short throw while still having enough graduation. For my body it feels more ergo than the synesso levers which I feel are too large, set too far back (I know there as far up as they can go with the current body design of the machine), and are kind of clumsy due to their play and bulk. Also, if you have some one steaming milk on the left side of the machine, you have to steer the wand to the left a bit to allow the barista to get at the first group head without banging the portafilter into a milk pitcher upon removal/entry...bring it over too far and the lever contacts the wand itself which is kinda wierd. I like the idea of a side mount lever but It's gotta be tight, and positioned appropriately.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Cosimo Libardo on Wed May 13, 2009 8:53 am

Working for the manufacturer of one of the machines mentioned in the previous posts it is obvious that my opinion could sound a little partial to some of you… this said I will try to be as scientific as possible trying to explain the process that has brought Nuova Simonelli to design its steam system. I will highlight 4 sets of features that I personally like and endorse about our lever system vs. other systems available on the market:
1) Ergonomic features: Aurelia's steam system is the result of a design partnership with the European Institute of Ergonomics and Psychology that has studied the interaction between machine and barista. One of the main results of this study was the steam lever design: first of all it was preferred to a knob design because the rotation movement of a wrist, if repeated hundreds of times every day, can lead to a disease called “carpal tunnel syndrome”.
What is also different about this lever design is that it can activate steam by using only one finger: the upper portion of the lever has a rounded profile to better support the “arch” created by the index finger while pulling down the lever, the portion facing down instead is flat in order to allow operator to push up the lever with no effort and good grip.
2) Push / Pull: this is the nickname we gave to this system. If the operator pushes lever up, as soon as it is not held in position, lever will go back to the off position ( I believe this is a nice feature for the initial / final steam purge). If the operator pulls lever down, it will immediately go and stay in the maximum steam power position, which allows operator to have maximum steam efficiency from the very beginning of the steaming process. When it is time to shut off steam, it is sufficient to gently push the lever up with one finger to disengage it from the max power position and it will go immediately – thanks to the valve with spring operated piston - in the off position (this in my opinion greatly reduces the risk of having unwanted heat / steam in milk which can happen with knobs or systems that don’t go automatically to the off position. It also expedites production in really busy locations).
3) Lever material & valve design: steam lever, which controls the activation mechanism, is made of “auto-lubricated nylon” a material we have “borrowed” from surgical applications that is indestructible, also, the valve design prevents from compressing the piston gasket (this way avoiding leaking of steam valve gasket which sometimes happens with strong baristas using knobs…)
4) Steam tip design: we have four holes steam tips available in different hole dimensions. The most popular ones are 1.2mm (which are normally used for small pitchers) and the 1.5mm (which are used with our insulated “cool touch” wands and for 32oz. ++ pitchers). Combining different hole sizes with maximum steam power gives a standard measurement of steaming efficiency: in the same coffee shop there might be different steaming results from operator to operator that are using knobs or systems that don’t have set points, because there are no reference points available to the barista to read steam's flow rate.
The fact of practically having maximum steam power from beginning to end of the steaming process (given the fact that boiler pressure is not substantially changing from shot to shot), associated with the availability of different hole sizes, allows to control and standardize steam’s flow rate leading to a more consistent result.

Again all the above comes from my experience and I understand there is not the perfect system out there because it depends on personal habits, but if you are interested to learn more about this you can use the following link ... 0Paper.pdf

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Re: Steam activation

Postby justinemerson on Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:31 am

I must say the NS tap actuation is pretty good, we had a WBC machine on the bench for a while and the steam was a dream so to speak, well thought out. We use San Marco machines everywhere else, with lever taps, they are not quite as refined as the NS but still miles better than any machine you have to turn a tap on. We have a machine in our cupping lab with an electronic set up, push on/push off button instead of the lever, and that is pretty sweet, i think better than a lever or a tap.
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Re: Steam activation

Postby Cosimo Libardo on Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:40 pm

justinemerson wrote:We have a machine in our cupping lab with an electronic set up, push on/push off button instead of the lever, and that is pretty sweet, i think better than a lever or a tap.

I agree on the fact that buttons are more user friendly and less stressful than levers or knobs, but there are some disadvantages that have lead many manufacturers (like us) to avoid that "direction":

1) there is no way to modulate steam in case you need to

2) lifespan of elecrovalves that open/close the steamflow is much shorter than mechanical valves that can be rebuildable

3) most electrovalves in commerce do not have the right diameter that allows the correct steam flow, the ones that have the right diameter are quite expensive (also to replace).

In a coffee lab I would not be against having a machine with button activated steam, in a real life situation, if I was a coffee shop owner, I would go for reliability and ergonomics
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