Saturday, January 27, 2007

Old friend Patti, dead-band settings, letting go of the reins

Spent almost three hours on the phone with my old friend, Patti, who is quite near and dear to me. She's gone through some rough times with relationships, and finally reached the point where she decided, "hey this is it, I am at rock bottom and do not know what to do or how to handle this. Are you listening universe? Give me some guidance." And she got it. The words came into her mind immediately. It seems to involve letting go of something that isn't working, but I'm not willing to say more than that because I am already paraphrasing and making it look like an exact quote. Gratifying to know that when you're really open to it, solutions come. She sounds so much better now than she did when I spoke with her last, and it's really a pleasure to talk with her when she's on her game.

My new pressure stat arrived yesterday for my broken espresso machine: an Isomac Tea for those who care. Easy install and it works. I followed the basic instructions for setting it up, and then was afraid to do a "fine tune" of the deadband adjustment. The "dead band" adjustment was not in the instructions, and when I adjusted the old pressure-stat, including the dead-band, I got "dead espresso machine." That was when I ordered the upgrade pressure stat; for about $62.00 versus a direct replacement for $37.00 and had to go a whole week without espresso (the horror). Blah de blah, other details may follow but most people won't care unless they are a total coffee nut like myself. So anyway I was pretty scared to twiddle too much with the new part for fear of breaking it. I had sent an email to the part supplier but hadn't heard back yet. So Sheryl was asking me all evening what was the matter with me and I kept saying "I don't know." Because I really didn't know. At some point in the evening I said to Sheryl, "I really want to fine tune that thing." She encouraged me to go ahead and do it and even told me that if I broke it we'd buy another part. Wow. How many women will support her man's right to break stuff?
So I went ahead and adjusted the dead band and also fine tuned the general p-stat adjustment until it was where I wanted it. In the middle of it Sheryl told me that the discord she'd been sensing all evening in me was gone. Wow again, that means I'm even crazier than I thought.

A few hours later I got an email reply from the part supplier: "Don't mess with the dead band. If you break the stat please do not call me looking for a free replacement." Yikes. I had already messed with it. It didn't break. Today I "messed" it back slightly towards the direction it was set to when I got it. I also went to "coffee geek" website and posted a question about p-stats. Coffee geek, as you may have guessed, is where we can all be crazy about coffee together and nobody laughs at anybody. We encourage each other to be mentally ill.

All last night, in the back of my head somewhere, was the fact that I had a big stainless steel machine in the next room diligently holding 1.7 liters of water in a sealed boiler at my exact pre-set pressure. That means every forty seconds the 1400 watt heating element turns on for five seconds, then off for 40 seconds, then on again. The boiler pressure varying only one tenth of a BAR. All this so I can get up in the morning and steam about 6 ounces of milk in about 60 seconds, and brew about 2 ounces of espresso to add to the steamed milk. Typically, that's all I'll have in a day: one double capuccino.

Now I don't know what to say, quite. If you leave the machine off, it takes a good thirty minutes to warm up again. We do drink tea and sometimes hot chocoloate at night. I've also used the steamer to heat up other beverages or even soup. I've even used the steamer to take the chill off red wine and bring it to room temperature. I think it takes about 135 watts on average to run the machine on all the time like I do. I also think that's wishful thinking and it really wastes more electricity than that. Turning the machine off will save electricity, but then it won't be "ready" whenever we want it's magical heating powers.

Here is what the dead-band adjustment does: it sets the pressure interval between something happening, and waiting for something to happen. If it gets set too tightly, something happening and waiting for something to happen occurs simultaneously. There is a red light and a green light on the machine whose functions indicate when the water in the sealed boiler is heating (something happening), and when it is cooling down to the point where it will be heated again (waiting for something to happen). A dial indicator shows pressure. This morning the red light and green light were on at the same time. The red light was functioning normally, (on for five seconds, off for forty seconds) but the green light never went out. It kept waiting for something to happen, not realizing that it was happening. The pressure gauge told the real story: the pressure was right where I set it to be: kind of high and too tightly controlled for reasons which I have come to question.

I backed off the dead-band a bit. All is as it should be now.

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