Last year we published a similar guide of the best espresso machines tips of 2014. This year we are doing the same with our renown “Espresso Machine Tips of the Week” Series that you see on our social media channels. Whether you are just starting out or you’re a seasoned espresso industry professional, we hope that you will enjoy our tips on commercial espresso machines, espresso grinders, water treatment and more; educational and maybe even a bit eye opening. Let Jump In…
This is a very bad habit that is not only an embarrassing faux pas, it is an expensive and dangerous one.
If you allow your steam wand to sit inside the pitcher after steaming, it will basically turn into a thirsty straw, drawing the milk up into your espresso machine’s steam valve.
If you are fortunate enough to own a newer espresso machine with an anti-suction valve this awesome valve will prevent this from happening. For those of you working with basic valves, multiple things can happen to your components as the milk is drawn up, such as your valve, steam tip or pivot joint will clog. The dangerous part is that over time the gunk created by your milk will stick your steam valve open and you or your barista will be subjected to a boiling hot shower. Remember to always wipe and blow out your steam wand immediately after use.
This brush is designed to reach under and dislodged coffee grounds that accumulate daily in your espresso machine’s group area. This brush is designed to reach under and dislodged coffee grounds that accumulate daily around your espresso machine’s group area. Before back flushing, take care to gently brush away this daily residue. This will help you avoid the buildup of coffee that over time, if left alone, turns into something pretty darn disgusting. If you’ve already tossed your brush, you can easily get one from your local espresso technician or supply store.
If you are particular about your traditional espresso machine, compare your cleaning routine with the nightly routine performed by professional baristas and recommended by prominent espresso equipment manufacturers.
Outside body of the espresso machine is wiped down with a damp cloth. Microfiber cloth recommended with particular attention focused on steam wands, group heads and hot water faucet.
Steam tips removed and soaked in milk cleaner with a citric acid or phosphoric acid base.
Steam wands soaked in pitcher of milk cleaner with a citric acid or phosphoric acid base
Group screens and seals gently brushed with an angle bristle to dislodge any coffee grounds.
All groups back flushed with cleaner.
Port-a-filter bodies are disassembled and diffusers, screens, baskets and port-a-filter bodies are soaked in a cleaning solution.
Drain tray is removed, rinsed and cleaned with a mild soap solution (if applicable)
A pitcher full of hot water poured down drain
Clean your grinder daily or at least once a week.
Surprisingly, not many espresso bars choose to add this simple task to their closing maintenance and cleaning routine but there are good reasons why you should. Plain and simple, the oil and residue left behind by your coffee beans looks disgusting, and it doesn’t taste all that great, either. Daily cleaning of your hopper will keep the gunk from building up and provide you with a showcase for your coffee beans that looks clean, and sanitary. Your coffee will be fresher and better tasting because your beans will no longer assemble in a rancid environment before brewing.
Cleaning your grinder will also prevent unnecessary service calls. Coffee oils tend to build up most at your grinder’s throat; the area where your beans enter the grind chamber. Excessive buildup in this space will cause your beans to form a bridge. The bridge will act as a barrier, which will prevent your coffee beans from dropping down and entering the grind chamber. Eventually, you will hear your grinder grinding but nothing will dispense.
To start, remember to never to use household cleaners or anything abrasive on your hopper to prevent etching or deterioration. If you do not already have a mini shop vac, you will want to purchase one. For sanitary reasons, dedicate it to maintaining your grinder only and do not use it for any other purposes.
Start by removing your coffee beans from the hopper.
Wipe the hopper with a damp cloth to remove oil and residue. I suggest soft cotton or microfiber towels.
Vacuum out the throat area and wipe with a dry towel only.
Make sure your hopper is thoroughly dry before replacing your beans.
NOTE: If your hopper is too far gone to be cleaned with just a towel, create a solution of back flush cleaner and try soaking your hopper in a bucket or sink. Don’t let the hopper soak overnight; because it will need time to thoroughly dry prior to the start of your next business day.
Nightly cleaning of your espresso machine to dissolve coffee oils from your brew valves, groups and screens will not only keep your coffee tasting great but it will also save you an ample amount of money in equipment repairs and parts replacement. For your closing routine, an equipment cleaning program can be an indispensable espresso machine feature that will simplify the task, as well as shorten the time it takes.
Unfortunately, over time, many equipment operators tend to forget about this smart program. This can also be true about many of the features that might come with an espresso machine. To prevent this, periodically take the time to review your equipment features, especially during times of employee turnover. Consider, asking your service technician to prepare a review of all your machine’s attributes as well as its maintenance protocols.
Take a tour of your espresso machine, as you did when you first installed it, to ensure you are using and caring for your equipment efficiently and properly. You may be surprised to learn things about your espresso machine that you had forgotten or maybe never even knew.
Minerals love to adhere to themselves and onto other things. Filters with scale inhibitors do not remove minerals; rather, they prevent minerals from sticking to tank walls and tubing. When water passes through a scale inhibitor, the minerals in the water are treated so that they more easily slip through and out of equipment such as coffee brewers and ice machines.
When it comes to a steam boiler, a lot of what goes into the boiler stays in the boiler. The reason scale inhibitors do not work specifically with espresso machines is because the water that enters your steam boiler is there for a purpose. That purpose is to become steam; and steam is water in its purest form. To pass through a steam wand, you have to be, well, steam. The steam wand is a VIP exit only. As water heats to boiling, minerals will separate from the water and, with really nowhere to go, remain behind in your boiler.
There is one other exit and that is through the hot water tap. Unfortunately, typical daily use of the hot water faucet is minimal in comparison to the amount of water that actually enters most boilers. Even if you use a lot of hot water, the high temperatures in your boiler create an environment that promotes larger levels of mineral extraction. Your scale needs to be able to stick with the water to pass through your faucet.
The best way to prevent your boiler from building up with scale is to prevent minerals from ever entering it. Purchasing a softener, such as a manual regenerating softener , is your number one defense in preventing build up and improving the longevity of your espresso machine.
I mean literally too short. There is a lot to think about when shopping for a new espresso machine; however, the one thing consumers rarely consider is the ergonomics of an espresso machine’s steam wand. Sure, everyone has their preferences. Knob or lever actuation, manual or automatic, but seldom is the steam wands length and maneuverability discussed.
Can you imagine how frustrating it is to baristas when they can’t quite get the steam wand to reach far enough into the milk pitcher? Why would anyone make a short steam wand? Whatever the reason, it is not as significant as how maddening a short or awkward steam wand can be to your barista.
So here is your tip; if you are using, or planning on using, larger than average milk pitchers for steaming milk, it would be helpful to place an emphasis on steam wand length and range of motion when selecting an espresso machine. Additionally, consider your largest steam pitcher with the steam wand inside. Is the pitcher able to maneuver within and around the machine’s deck without restriction?
Lastly, if you have found the right espresso machine, but the steam wands come up short, meaning the machine’s design just isn’t practical for your business’ daily needs, all may not be lost. If you are lucky, the manufacturer may already be prepared for your dilemma and offer, for purchase, longer steam tips or wand extensions that are designed to help in making things more manageable.
If you own a commercial espresso machine with multiple groups, use your groups evenly.
It is common for baristas to favor one side of an espresso machine over another. To be fair, this can be caused for multiple reasons such as the design of the espresso bar or the placement of the grinder. For whatever reason, using one group over another will cause you, the business owner, problems down the road.
As your groups wear unevenly, your grind adjustments or dosing amounts will begin to differ from group to group. The consistency of your customer’s favorite drink is now a thing of the past.
To bring consistency back, you can either abandon using one of the groups, or spend the additional money to replace all your machine’s groups so that they match, once again.
Depending on the manufacturer of your machine, the cost can run you as high as $400 per group. Ouch!
Lastly, if you have already been faithfully using all your groups evenly, you can extend the life of your groups, even more, by replacing your group gaskets on a regular basis. Typically, every three months. As your gaskets age, your baristas will need to apply more pressure to seal the port-a-filter causing needless friction and wear to the groups.
Here is a quick tip to remember when shopping for your new espresso machine. Ask what size brew baskets are available for the espresso machine’s port-a-filter. If you are particular about the weight of your coffee, you will want to make sure that the baskets are the appropriate size, whether that be large or even small enough. Surprisingly, manufacturers are not uniform regarding this feature. If you are considering a super-automatic machine, find out how much coffee the brew chamber will accommodate. For many, this question can be a deciding factor when passing on the purchase of a particular espresso machine.
Here is a common after-hours/early morning service request you can easily avoid. During nightly cleaning of espresso tips, screen screws and diffusers, use a strainer in your sink to catch these small but important espresso machine parts. Losing these parts might not be too bad if you have extra in the drawer, but if you do not, your espresso group and steam wand are officially out of business. If that’s not bad enough, some of these parts can be pricey too. Add the loss of business to the expense of emergency service and you can easily see that losing these little guys can be a costly mistake.
Here is a smart effective tip for those who are required to maintain a Back Flow Device by their state or local agency. Remember to place your device before your filtration and softening systems. If for some reason your back flow preventer begins to leak it will not be able to deplete your, typically very expensive, water treatment system at the same time.
To help keep your espresso machine’s drain clear, add this smart tip to your daily cleaning routine. Pour a pitcher of hot water down your espresso machine’s drain. This will clean out any residue grounds and oils and prevent clogging.
For new construction, it is common for many to not put enough thought into the placement of your machine’s drain. Save yourself future problems and remember to place your drain as close to your espresso machine as possible.
If you already have a drain and it is at such a distance that additional tubing or a creative solution is required, if possible, ask your plumber to install a hard line using ABS 1.5” or equivalent. This will prevent sagging lines and slow drainage. A common problem for those with misplaced drains.
Lastly, your drain line will periodically need replacing. Forget about using hose from your local hardware store. As the hose heats, it will collapse and kink. Always use reinforced tubing with wire, which you should be able to purchase from your local service provider.
If you have considered connecting your espresso machine to a hot water source, in hope of better heat recovery, you are not alone. Many have considered this seemingly convenient option but espresso machines, surprising, can not function using a hot water source. Espresso machines, especially those with heat exchanger systems, operate on thermal dynamics for heat stability and are scientifically designed to operate with cold water. Furthermore, many of your machine’s parts, including its internal pump used for boosting pressure, are also fashioned to work with cold water. If hot water is used, your pump and some parts will soon fail.
You have probably heard this too many times to count but, when selecting an espresso machine, it is imperative that you do not purchase a machine that is too small. Always consider how many beverages you wish to serve, but more importantly, how quickly you wish to serve them. Typically, brewing shots will not be the blame for your machine’s plummeting pressure; it will be your customer’s demand for heated milk, that will be the cause for bringing your machine to the state of being luck warm and completely worthless. To heat milk you will need steam pressure; to create steam pressure you will need boiling water; to have enough boiling water, you must either have quick heat recovery or the perfect amount of heat and pressure in the first place.
Before purchasing an espresso machine or grinder, for your food service business, make sure to check with your appropriate local and state agencies to ensure the equipment meets their standards. Obviously, determining needed certifications such as UL, ETL, NSF or CSA is important, but there may also be additional requirements that your espresso machine must meet to be permitted for commercial use in your area.
Also, if you are considering the purchase of used equipment, make sure the serial number and all testing and certification stickers have been preserved on the machine. If these items are missing, your local or state agency may ask you to remove the equipment and you will be stuck with equipment you cannot use.
When shopping for used or refurbished equipment, remember to check how far the portable filter assembly or assemblies move to the right before securely locking into place under the brewing group. Ideally, the handle should be close to center. This important piece is often disregarded ; however, your portable filter assembly must fit correctly or you will undoubtedly have trouble maintaining shot consistency. Cost to replace this necessary tool is between $80-150 for each assembly. Consider asking the seller to replace the assemblies that do not fit correctly or at least come down on their price. You should have one double assembly for each group and you may also want at least one single. Check out our article on what you should know about refurbished equipment.
When shopping for used or refurbished equipment, remember to check how far the portable filter assembly or assemblies move to the right before securely locking into place. Ideally, the handle should be close to center.
This concludes the tips we have gathered from our hard working espresso machine service technicians. If you have questions about these topics or need assistance selecting an espresso machine or a good espresso grinder that is designed for your business environment, we would enjoy the opportunity to assist you. Ether Give us a call @ 1-(855)-839-5665 or email us @ email@example.com
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