Espresso! My Espresso!
Plumbing in an Espresso Machine - Part 2
- Final Installation
April 16, 2011
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2011 - All rights reserved

DISCLAIMER-This article is meant to document what I have done. Plumbing failures can lead to leaks and structural damage, property damage, or injury. Do not attempt to do this unless you accept all responsibility for the procedure and its consequences. By reading this article any further you accept full responsibility. I present these instructions only to document what I have done to to plumb my machine.

     Today I finished the bulk of installing my water filter system. I had already mounted the dual 10" filter housings under the sink. A bit easier said than done as the side I chose also was encumbered with a garbage disposal, but with the help of a cordless drill-driver it went fairly well.

     My order arrived before noon today, so as soon as the dogs were fed I went to work. John Guest plumbing is as easy as they make it sound. Some basic rules:
- Keep all the fittings clean. Don't lay them on the floor when working.
- Design a system and run the lines in such a way as to minimize side-loading on the fittings which can lead to leaks.
- All tubing cuts must be free of burrs, clean, and as perpendicular as possible.

     In order to make the cuts you can purchase a special $10 tool. Since I had time before my parts arrived I made my own jig:

     This is simply two blocks of hardwood separated by a piece of sheet metal, screwed together tightly leaving a thin separation for a knife blade to pass through. I then drilled a 15/32 hole through it. It holds a 3/8" tube nicely and gives a nice, clean guillotine cut. The metal separator is aligned to the bottom of the hole so it supports the tubing during the cut.
     While putting the system together I learned a few things. I should have picked up a JG reducer to adapt the 3/8" JG to 1/4" copper line so that it would be easy to attach to the ice maker. Ice makers use 1/4" fine thread (NPP? a guess) on the compression fittings and the JG adapter uses 1/4" NPT which is a coarse thread. JG fittings work with copper, so a reducer would be perfect here. For now, I made my own reducer by sliding a short length of 1/4" copper into a short length of 3/8" copper, and used lead-free solder to fuse them. The 1/4" end goes into the compression fitting at the back of the fridge, and a 90" 3/8" JG attaches to the copper.
     My plan was pretty darn close to what I ended up with. Some slight variations as you would expect.
     I only had two leaks. The first was minor. I needed to tighter the JG fitting on the water spigot I had installed on top of the sink. I was unsure how much torque to use. A little too little is better than a little too much when it comes to plastic threaded fittings on metal pipe. Another turn or two did it.
     The other was pretty major. I still do not know what caused it. I think it was too much side force on one short length of JG hose. I just removed it, did a bit of trimming to get the fittings to line up a little better, and cut a new piece of hose and all was fine.
     Here is the meat and potatoes of the system.

     There are four valves under the sink. The first shown above is just before the input side of the filter system. This one shuts down everything and is conveniently located for easy access, jut inside the cabinet door. It should have a big red arrow pointing at it stating "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY..."

     Above is the output side of the system. The next valve in the system is on the output side of the filter (where it says "Output" above). Shutting off those two, previously-mentioned valves isolate the filters and allow for easy filter changes. The valve furthest towards the top of the photo ("To sink tap") allows me to isolate the sink tap in case of a leak or other malfunction , leaving the rest of the system operational. The tap not only serves to supply drinking water but also to flush the cartridges after a change. The last valve, the one below the Tee fitting, shuts off the line that feeds both the ice maker and the espresso machine. This allows me to still dispense water at the tap while isolating the remainder of the system.
     This morning (4/16) I went under the house and completed the installation. Working in tight quarters, the John Guest really shines. It is so easy making the connections, and the flexibility of the hose along with its resistance to kinking really makes things go quickly and smoothly. The ability to connect and disconnect so quickly makes it painless to make sure that all the lines are the correct length and none of the joints are stressed. Put a connection together, doesn't fit, just compress the collet, pull out the hose, make the appropriate cut, and press the hose back into the fitting.
     I put a service loop behind the fridge and the ice maker is now being served soft water, and another service loop behind the espresso cart. The Vibiemme DD arrived so I put a straight (inline) shut off valve in the JG line behind the cart (always good to be able to shut off easily accessible).

     I used a brass "Tee" as that was all that was available in the proper size at our local hardware store. The JG to 3/8" pip adaptor is in one end and the BPP male fitting at the end of the braided hose from the DD is in the other. NPP thread is slightly different from BPP threads, but if you use enough teflon tape (which means, use a lot), it is a bit difficult to tighten, but it will not leak. The softer brass will help protect the harder steel threads of the supply hose. I had a gauge in the third opening of he Tee but the gauge failed so I just plugged the opening for now.