Recently, I've been transferred to a shop that hosts a refurbished Synesso Cyncra. Prior to that, I was being trained on a La Marzocco Strada.

The Cyncra worked great on the first day. Velvety microfoam. Great texture. Loved it.

Second day, issues started to arise. The steam boiler was building up too much water, so consequently when you turned on the steam wand, it was just spraying water everywhere. I was the first to notice this, and I brought it up to the owner, who took some convincing to finally acquiesce.

Third day, a technician came to the shop and apparently fixed it. Although water isn't blasting out of the steam wand anymore, I've noticed another problem. The milk texture is horrible. No matter how perfect your technique and form, there are always tiny visible bubbles in the milk.

It's okay if you're making mediocre rosettas and hearts, but if you want really sleek, glossy, detailed art work, it's almost impossible.

I've brought it up to the owner, but he's sort of just brushing it off. Personally I was seriously embarrassed with the milk texture we were serving to customers today.

Anybody have ideas as to why the machine is yielding fizzy microfoam? One of my theories is that the pressure might be set too low... I notice the pressure's not as strong, anymore. I don't necessarily ever crank the lever the entire way when I'm steaming, because I only get to steam about 5 ounces of milk, but I'm cranking the lever back about 3/4th of the way. Prior to the technician's visit, I only had to crank the lever about halfway for the milk to develop a dynamic roll.

Also, I noticed that the machine starts squealing towards the end of the steaming process. Now I don't really understand why steam boilers start squealing, but I generally associate it with the beginning of the steaming process, as opposed to the end... the only times the steam boiler on my Silvia has ever squealed towards the end, is when the steam pressure plummeted.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I feel that if I can present a more specific theory to the owner, he may be inclined to have the technician take a look. Otherwise, I fear I'm gonna be stuck with a faulty steamer for the duration of my employment...

PS: Bubbles in my microfoam has never been a problem. On the LM Strada, the steamer produced consistently velvety microfoam. And at home, the microfoam from my Silvia is very smooth.

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Does the machine have 2 steam wands? If so, do they both steam in the same way? This will go a long way in narrowing down the problem between the boiler and wand assembly itself.

A few things you can do:

-Take off the steam tip next time you're in and make sure there's no debris in it. I have seen burnt milk flakes fall down the steam tube before and block the holes. Even if there isn't anything visible, if you have an appropriate wire brush I would scrub out the tube while you have the tip off just so you don't run into this problem in the future.

-What does the gauge for the steam boiler read, and how far does it drop when you're steaming? I've not used a Cyncra, but most machines I've worked on have been set between 1-1.2 bars. It's possible your tech dialed down the pressure when he was working on the machine. If it is normally set at an appropriate level but drops way off when you are steaming, something in the assembly is probably leaking.

In the meantime, do what you can to get the best possible foam and roll with it until it gets fixed. It's frustrating to deal with mechanical issues that affect visual presentation, but taste comes first and is ultimately what matters.

Thanks Jonathan,

I haven't checked the gauge, but the technician told me that the steam pressure is supposed to read at 1.5 bars.

The temperature is set to 250 F on both wands.

Unfortunately, both steam wands yield the same results... although the one on the right has a faulty lever. It doesn't glide down. It sort of hitches to the right, halfway through the crank... wasn't a problem until the owner took it apart himself the first time when there was too much water buildup. I thought the technician would repair it when he got here, but I guess not...

Do you know how to replace the steam tip? Can I just turn it with my fingers? Or do I need a wrench? If I need a wrench, I'll probably need the owner's permission to try anything... I obviously don't wanna break anything.

Another thing to note is that on the first day, I tried bleeding out the steam wand. When the steam wand was completely purged, I couldn't tell if it was a 4-hole steam tip or 1-hole steam tip. There was just a cloud of steam produced by the tip itself.

After the technician made adjustments, you can see that the steam is being forced out of 4-holes. The steam is dry, but yeah... I noticed I can count the holes when the steamer is on now...

Not sure if that's necessarily a problem, 'cause the LM Strada was the same way. You can actually see the direction of the steam being exerted out of four holes.

But the visual difference (anonymous cloud of steam vs steam flaring out of multiple holes) may indicate something at the very least... or not.

Thanks for the empathy. I agree that taste comes first. Right now, I'd say that we're serving microfoam on the dry side. Then again, it's not really "micro" foam if there are visible bubbles, right?

I tried steaming very little for wet consistency, and it wasn't the silky, homogenous microfoam I came to expect from home. The only way to get latte art is to just overstretch it a bit and squeeze out a mediocre rosetta/heart. I tried doing some swans and scorpions, but due to all the bubbles, the lines were coming out really jagged-edged and unappealing. I would've tossed those, but some of my fellow baristas urged me to just serve it anyway. I heard someone was taking a picture of it, which kinda horrified me, 'cause I really wasn't proud of it, gah...



Jonathan Aldrich said:

Does the machine have 2 steam wands? If so, do they both steam in the same way? This will go a long way in narrowing down the problem between the boiler and wand assembly itself.

A few things you can do:

-Take off the steam tip next time you're in and make sure there's no debris in it. I have seen burnt milk flakes fall down the steam tube before and block the holes. Even if there isn't anything visible, if you have an appropriate wire brush I would scrub out the tube while you have the tip off just so you don't run into this problem in the future.

-What does the gauge for the steam boiler read, and how far does it drop when you're steaming? I've not used a Cyncra, but most machines I've worked on have been set between 1-1.2 bars. It's possible your tech dialed down the pressure when he was working on the machine. If it is normally set at an appropriate level but drops way off when you are steaming, something in the assembly is probably leaking.

In the meantime, do what you can to get the best possible foam and roll with it until it gets fixed. It's frustrating to deal with mechanical issues that affect visual presentation, but taste comes first and is ultimately what matters.

When I was on a Cyncra, I kept the steam boiler set at 267° which was just under 2 bar and used the Synesso restrictive flow steam tip. The milk was wonderful. If using a lower temperature/pressure and the high flow tip, which I tried just to see what happened, milk was pretty much as you've described.

Thanks Ricky,

That's really informative.

Question #1: How do I tell what kind of steam tip we're using? I can't find any images on the internet of a high flow tip and low flow tip... I'm assuming they look identical, save for the fact that the low flow tip has smaller holes?

Question #2: You mentioned similar findings with the low temp/pressure and high flow tip. Assuming we're using high flow tips, what temperature/pressure would you find ideal for it? 'Cause on Monday, it was working great. I'd love to ask the technician what the pressure was, before he adjusted it...

Question #3: I'm assuming the high flow tip is used for large quantities of milk. How many ounces are we talking? 12 oz? More? At what point can I expect the fizzy microfoam to subside? Or is this tip designed more for the run-of-the-mill cafes that just want bulk quantities of subpar microfoam?

Ricky Sutton said:

When I was on a Cyncra, I kept the steam boiler set at 267° which was just under 2 bar and used the Synesso restrictive flow steam tip. The milk was wonderful. If using a lower temperature/pressure and the high flow tip, which I tried just to see what happened, milk was pretty much as you've described.

The low and high flow tips do look identical. You're right, the only difference is hole size and I believe a slightly different spread pattern. Both tips come with the machine. 

When I swapped the tips out, the pressure was set at my restrictive flow tip setting and it pretty much blasted the milk out of the pitcher. I reduced it to about 1.5 bar which was in the 255° range. It was workable, but nowhere near as nice as the restrictive flow, higher temp/pressure configuration. I should also mention that I always kept the steam lever actuator all the way on. If you want to change it and have your superiors permission, just adjust the steam boiler temperature up or down on the PID underneath the drip tray until things seem to be working right. The tip does just unscrew, but usually requires some pliers. Use a towel over the tip so as not to scratch it while removing. 

The high flow tip is simply designed for a different configuration. I don't believe that you have to use a restrictive flow tip to get fantastic milk texture, but it has yielded me good results so long as I can crank up the pressure to compensate. The physics of whats happening in the pitcher include denaturing the milks proteins so that smaller bubbles of gas can adhere to the frayed edges, one of the components of great microfoam. In order to denature those proteins, you need a very vigorous whipping/rolling/vortex action happening in the pitcher. If the pressure/temperature is too high, you won't have enough time to combine the gas and protein before your milk gets too hot, and you won't be able to properly control the vortex. If the pressure is too low, you won't be able to get a good vortex going and the proteins won't become denatured.

Keep trying to figure this out! I still miss the texture I produced on the Synesso, and I consistently have great milk produced from them so I know it's possible!


Andy Kwon said:

Thanks Ricky,

That's really informative.

Question #1: How do I tell what kind of steam tip we're using? I can't find any images on the internet of a high flow tip and low flow tip... I'm assuming they look identical, save for the fact that the low flow tip has smaller holes?

Question #2: You mentioned similar findings with the low temp/pressure and high flow tip. Assuming we're using high flow tips, what temperature/pressure would you find ideal for it? 'Cause on Monday, it was working great. I'd love to ask the technician what the pressure was, before he adjusted it...

Question #3: I'm assuming the high flow tip is used for large quantities of milk. How many ounces are we talking? 12 oz? More? At what point can I expect the fizzy microfoam to subside? Or is this tip designed more for the run-of-the-mill cafes that just want bulk quantities of subpar microfoam?

Ricky Sutton said:

When I was on a Cyncra, I kept the steam boiler set at 267° which was just under 2 bar and used the Synesso restrictive flow steam tip. The milk was wonderful. If using a lower temperature/pressure and the high flow tip, which I tried just to see what happened, milk was pretty much as you've described.

Thanks Ricky,

I scoped out the steam tip today, and I believe it was pointed for the most part. Someone else told me that the low flow tip is a bit flatter. I just saw a picture of it. I'm not completely sure which tip we're using. I'll have to a take a better look, but I believe we're probably using the high flow tip, 'cause if memory serves, it was pointed, and it didn't have a flat face.

I'm willing to purchase the low flow tips myself, if it means consistent, velvety, bubble-free microfoam like I produce at home.

The only thing is, the machine seems to go through phases. This morning when I came in, the steamer was producing wonderful foam once again (reminiscent of Monday's foam). However about an hour or two into it, the foam started getting fizzy again.

One thing I noticed in the morning, was that I could crank back the lever all the way, even to steam about 8 ounces of milk. But as the afternoon came, the pressure seemed to get stronger, so I had to crank the lever just enough to get the milk rolling. Otherwise, it would splash like crazy.

When steaming large quantities of milk - such as 12 ounces in a 20 oz pitcher - I'd just crank back the lever fully and it would produce pretty good milk. When it came to steaming less milk - such as 7 ounces in a 12 oz pitcher - it yielded fizzy foam.

I don't understand why this steamer seems so Jekyll and Hyde. Is this normal? And will a new steam tip fix it? Or are there more serious, internal concerns?

'Cause from a logical point of view, if the steamer can produce great microfoam during a certain phase, I'm inclined to believe that the current high flow tip is capable with a specific setting. Unfortunately, the machine does not remain fixated on the specific "sweet spot" setting. It seems to cycle between "sweet spot" and "fizzy, bubbly." I don't understand this at all...

Ricky Sutton said:

The low and high flow tips do look identical. You're right, the only difference is hole size and I believe a slightly different spread pattern. Both tips come with the machine. 

When I swapped the tips out, the pressure was set at my restrictive flow tip setting and it pretty much blasted the milk out of the pitcher. I reduced it to about 1.5 bar which was in the 255° range. It was workable, but nowhere near as nice as the restrictive flow, higher temp/pressure configuration. I should also mention that I always kept the steam lever actuator all the way on. If you want to change it and have your superiors permission, just adjust the steam boiler temperature up or down on the PID underneath the drip tray until things seem to be working right. The tip does just unscrew, but usually requires some pliers. Use a towel over the tip so as not to scratch it while removing. 

The high flow tip is simply designed for a different configuration. I don't believe that you have to use a restrictive flow tip to get fantastic milk texture, but it has yielded me good results so long as I can crank up the pressure to compensate. The physics of whats happening in the pitcher include denaturing the milks proteins so that smaller bubbles of gas can adhere to the frayed edges, one of the components of great microfoam. In order to denature those proteins, you need a very vigorous whipping/rolling/vortex action happening in the pitcher. If the pressure/temperature is too high, you won't have enough time to combine the gas and protein before your milk gets too hot, and you won't be able to properly control the vortex. If the pressure is too low, you won't be able to get a good vortex going and the proteins won't become denatured.

Keep trying to figure this out! I still miss the texture I produced on the Synesso, and I consistently have great milk produced from them so I know it's possible!


Andy Kwon said:

Thanks Ricky,

That's really informative.

Question #1: How do I tell what kind of steam tip we're using? I can't find any images on the internet of a high flow tip and low flow tip... I'm assuming they look identical, save for the fact that the low flow tip has smaller holes?

Question #2: You mentioned similar findings with the low temp/pressure and high flow tip. Assuming we're using high flow tips, what temperature/pressure would you find ideal for it? 'Cause on Monday, it was working great. I'd love to ask the technician what the pressure was, before he adjusted it...

Question #3: I'm assuming the high flow tip is used for large quantities of milk. How many ounces are we talking? 12 oz? More? At what point can I expect the fizzy microfoam to subside? Or is this tip designed more for the run-of-the-mill cafes that just want bulk quantities of subpar microfoam?

Ricky Sutton said:

When I was on a Cyncra, I kept the steam boiler set at 267° which was just under 2 bar and used the Synesso restrictive flow steam tip. The milk was wonderful. If using a lower temperature/pressure and the high flow tip, which I tried just to see what happened, milk was pretty much as you've described.

Not to state the obvious, but having used a Synesso Cyncra since 2005, if you are having any problems or questions, call Synesso. Their techs can generally diagnose and help over the phone. 

OK, I'm going to sound like a jerk here... This is the second thread you've started on problems with milk due to machines that function differently than your Rancilio Silvia home machine.

It is entirely possible that both machines have had problems that went undiagnosed until you arrived on the scene. However, I'd like to suggest another possibility...

It is possible that there was not a problem with the Cyncra on your arrival. The tech was called in and "fixed it" by making an unnecessary change in order to make you guys happy. My clients ask me do all kinds of unnecessary things to their machines because someone has a perceived problem.

Yes, I am suggesting that the problem here might actually be operator error, or at least operator unfamiliarity with commercial equipment. At very least, I would suggest that you slow down a little, hang out, and get a feel for the situation for a couple of weeks before you initiate change (especially if they involve extremely expensive service calls). You are the new guy, remember?

As I said on the other thread, every machine will operate differently, often in ways that may not necessarily make sense. Different does not mean wrong, broken, or defective.

If anyone does call Synesso, make sure to have the technician's work order handy so that the owner/manager can tell them exactly what was done. My guess is that the tech's going to come back and undo much of that.

Perhaps I am totally off base here, but it does look like this is your first commercial gig so I figure it was worth mentioning. There is a big leap between being a badass home barista and being a competent professional barista. Some pros, managers, and owners are incompetent, but many are not. Until you really understand what you are doing I would not presume to know more than they do.

Hope that helps, that is honestly my intention. You seem quite frustrated.

Thanks John,

I've contacted Synesso as well. I'm just sorta double-dipping here to cover all my bases.



John P said:

Not to state the obvious, but having used a Synesso Cyncra since 2005, if you are having any problems or questions, call Synesso. Their techs can generally diagnose and help over the phone. 

Thanks Brady,

I understand what you're trying to say.

As far as the LM Strada is concerned, I never once felt the machine was faulty. I just felt that I hadn't fully figured out the texture it produced. Latte art is all about timing. You need to figure out how the milk is gonna react with the espresso. Once you get the timing down, it's a lot easier. I never really got to try out many pours on the Strada, unfortunately. The opportunities just weren't there. My last training session with the Strada however, I felt I figured out the timing, but then again, I only poured one cap... that said, I never got the feeling the machine was faulty.

As for the Cyncra, the tech was called because the sight glass was full of water. There was too much water buildup, and the steamer was gushing out water, as opposed to dry steam. You have to realize that I'm not the owner. I don't get to call the shots. If I spot a problem, I need to convince my trainers and owner. Not quite sure what kinda system you're envisioning here. It's like any other place. One new employee doesn't get to decide when there is and isn't a problem. If a tech is called, it's because everybody - including experienced baristas and the owner - unanimously agreed.

It's the same deal with the Cyncra's inconsistent steaming. One hour, everybody's making great latte art. The next hour, it's fizzy and jagged-edged. Again, if it's just me, I'm the one with the problem. But when everybody else - including experienced baristas - agrees that there's something going on with the Cyncra, I think it's worth considering.

I know how these posts may come off. I seem a bit neurotic and questionable. I'm just really obsessed about my craft, and if you got to work with me, I think you'd understand. I'm sorry my posts rubbed you the wrong way.



Brady said:

OK, I'm going to sound like a jerk here... This is the second thread you've started on problems with milk due to machines that function differently than your Rancilio Silvia home machine.

It is entirely possible that both machines have had problems that went undiagnosed until you arrived on the scene. However, I'd like to suggest another possibility...

It is possible that there was not a problem with the Cyncra on your arrival. The tech was called in and "fixed it" by making an unnecessary change in order to make you guys happy. My clients ask me do all kinds of unnecessary things to their machines because someone has a perceived problem.

Yes, I am suggesting that the problem here might actually be operator error, or at least operator unfamiliarity with commercial equipment. At very least, I would suggest that you slow down a little, hang out, and get a feel for the situation for a couple of weeks before you initiate change (especially if they involve extremely expensive service calls). You are the new guy, remember?

As I said on the other thread, every machine will operate differently, often in ways that may not necessarily make sense. Different does not mean wrong, broken, or defective.

If anyone does call Synesso, make sure to have the technician's work order handy so that the owner/manager can tell them exactly what was done. My guess is that the tech's going to come back and undo much of that.

Perhaps I am totally off base here, but it does look like this is your first commercial gig so I figure it was worth mentioning. There is a big leap between being a badass home barista and being a competent professional barista. Some pros, managers, and owners are incompetent, but many are not. Until you really understand what you are doing I would not presume to know more than they do.

Hope that helps, that is honestly my intention. You seem quite frustrated.

Hey Andy,

Sorry to be such a jerk. I've recently had issues with my job being made harder by over-confident new guys on bar, and I was lumping you in with them.

Yes, a sightglass clear full of water is a good indication that there is a machine problem. Sounds like that tech call was warranted... though if that was the case I'm surprised that took so much convincing to get your owner to agree to have it serviced.

Any time you bring a possible machine issue to us, the more specifics you can detail the better. Pressure settings, sightglass observations, etc. Also, if you have any details as to what the tech did (he probably left a copy of his work order) that will help us. You did provide a good bit of detail, and its good to get Ricky's thoughts on your situation.

Do you notice a difference in machine pressure between times when it works properly and times it doesn't? How about water level in the sightglass?

If it were happening on only one side, I'd suspect that you had a steam valve issue. Happening on both sides rules that out to me.

As far as the boiler water level thing, that is controlled by an autofill circuit. Overfill situations are usually caused by mineral buildup on level probe or a fill valve (auto or manual) leak. If the water gets too high, the steam will get wetter and wetter, and will just shoot out pure water once the level gets too high. I'm not sure why the owner would take apart the steamwand due to water "buildup".

This is a puzzle. Let us know what you find out.


Andy Kwon said:

Thanks Brady,

I understand what you're trying to say.

As far as the LM Strada is concerned, I never once felt the machine was faulty. I just felt that I hadn't fully figured out the texture it produced. Latte art is all about timing. You need to figure out how the milk is gonna react with the espresso. Once you get the timing down, it's a lot easier. I never really got to try out many pours on the Strada, unfortunately. The opportunities just weren't there. My last training session with the Strada however, I felt I figured out the timing, but then again, I only poured one cap... that said, I never got the feeling the machine was faulty.

As for the Cyncra, the tech was called because the sight glass was full of water. There was too much water buildup, and the steamer was gushing out water, as opposed to dry steam. You have to realize that I'm not the owner. I don't get to call the shots. If I spot a problem, I need to convince my trainers and owner. Not quite sure what kinda system you're envisioning here. It's like any other place. One new employee doesn't get to decide when there is and isn't a problem. If a tech is called, it's because everybody - including experienced baristas and the owner - unanimously agreed.

It's the same deal with the Cyncra's inconsistent steaming. One hour, everybody's making great latte art. The next hour, it's fizzy and jagged-edged. Again, if it's just me, I'm the one with the problem. But when everybody else - including experienced baristas - agrees that there's something going on with the Cyncra, I think it's worth considering.

I know how these posts may come off. I seem a bit neurotic and questionable. I'm just really obsessed about my craft, and if you got to work with me, I think you'd understand. I'm sorry my posts rubbed you the wrong way.

Hey Andy, is everyone creating crappy foam all the sudden? or is it just you? that would be a pretty big indicator if it was just you or the machine. You said there were competent baristas in the store right? So have they said anything to you about the wands sucking at certain times of the day? 

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