Based on measurements with the Effelsherg 100-m telescope. a =Milne study of molecular species is presented toward the southwestern source of the gravitational lens system PIKS 1830 211, which is by far the best known target for studying molecular gas in absorption at intermediate redshift. Determining line parameters and optical depths and performing large velocity gradient radiative transfer calculations, the aims of this study are (1) to evaluate physical parameters of the absorbing foreground gas at z similar to 0.89, in particular its homogeneity; and (2) to monitor the spectroscopic time variability caused by fluctuations in the z similar to 2.5 background continuum source. We find, that the gas is quite inhomogeneous with n(H-2) similar to 2 x 103 cm(-3) for most molecular species but with higher values for H2CO and towel ones for SO. Measuring the CS J = 1 <- 0 transition during a time interval of more than a decade, from 2001 to 2012, the peak absorption depth of the line remains approximately constant, while the line shape undergoes notable variations. Covering the time between 1996 and 2013, CS. HCO+. and CH3OH data indicate maximum integrated optical depths in 2001 and 2011/2012. This is compatible with a similar to 10 yr periodicity, which, however, needs confirmation by substantially longer time monitoring. Comparing molecular abundances with those of different types of Galactic and nearby extragalactic clouds we find that the observed cloud complex does not correspond to one particular type but to a variety of cloud types with more diffuse and denser components as can be expected for an observed region with a transverse linear scale of several parsec and a likely greater depth along the line of sight. A tentative detection of Galactic absorption in the c-C3H2 1(10)-1(01) line at 18.343 Gflz is also reported.