Our tips were created by Inland Coffee lead commercial espresso installation and repair service technicians who see all aspects of the commercial espresso industry.
Here is a compilation of our favorite 2014 espresso machine and espresso grinder “Tips of the Week.”Whether you are just starting out or you’re a seasoned espresso veteran, we think you will find our advice on espresso machine maintenance, barista best practices, espresso grinder features with surprising, educational and maybe even a bit eye opening.
Many espresso lovers agree that some minerals in coffee improves its flavor. Although, there is debate on whether it is the minerals or the TDS (total dissolved solids) that actually improves taste. Currently, the recommended allowable amount of minerals (*water hardness) supplying an espresso machine is 3 to 5 gpg (grains per gallon). As a service company, dedicated to the maintenance of commercial espresso equipment, we can wholeheartedly tell you that 3 to 5 gpg is a significant amount.
The ability for the average consumer to taste the difference in their coffee with minerals or without is rare. If you run water through your espresso machine at 3 to 5 gpg of hardness, especially if you are at higher volumes. You will eventually begin to see the effects of mineral build-up as quickly as three months. Minerals will begin to clog and surround valves, and components; effecting temperature stability, taste consistency and functionality. Prematurely refurbishing your machine, because of minerals, is extremely labor intensive and expensive. You will most likely have to pass that expense on to your customers in the price of their favorite beverages. Consider softening your water.
Softening tanks start at under $200 and can easily be regenerated by you or your barista. Softening does not effect necessary TDS (total dissolved solids) but it will eliminate the two most damaging minerals, calcium and manganese. Softening your water is the number one thing you can do to preserve your espresso machine’s longevity and reduce service calls. If you are thinking you just have to have minerals in your water, consider reverse osmosis with a blending or reintroduction system. Since minerals can fluctuate depending on your water source, this will allow you more control over the quality of your water and therefore its taste.
Hardness: This term refers to water that has picked up minerals such as calcium and magnesium, as it traveled through certain types of rock and soil. Approximately 85 percent of the country has hard water. Hard water also leaves a sticky film on shower tiles and inhibits the lathering ability of soaps and detergents. Extremely hard water also has a distinctive off-taste to it, although moderate amounts taste good to most people.
Here is our List of Water Treatment Products for Espresso Machines:
Softening Systems: https://inlandcoffee.com/product-category/water-treatment/softening/
A good reason that the coffee admirer in your life wishes for a new espresso machine for their home is to simply duplicate the aromatic cup of coffee they are purchasing at their favorite espresso bar.
Here are a couple of things to really consider when shopping espresso machines for you or a loved one.
Port-a-filter Size: To brew a true single shot you will need a port-a-filter that will be able to hold 7-10 grams, or for a double shot 14-18 grams. If you have set your sights on a specific roast found locally, know that most espresso bars will profile their coffee for a double shot regardless if they only use one of the shots. For those not familiar with the espresso brewing process, you can not brew one shot at a time because by the time you have brewed the second shot your first shot will have already gone flat. Furthermore, the brewing time for a single shot is not the same as for a double. If you are someone who likes brewing one shot at a time, to make things easier, you may want to contact the roaster for the brewing profile but even then, you will still need your port-a-filter to hold the 7-10 grams. Realistically, purchasing an espresso machine that can hold a true double shot is advisable. After all your coffee is something that should be shared.
There are a limited number of espresso manufacturers that offer legitimate sized port-a-filters in their home models and your local retailer may not stock many.
Simultaneous brewing and steaming: You will want to consider a machine that can do this because it will typically indicate the machines ability for steaming power. Look for machines with dual boilers or heat exchanger systems. This feature is necessary especially for better foaming and if you want to play with café art. These machines will typically run much higher in cost.
If you or your loved one are serious about espresso, finding the right espresso machine is important. If you can not afford a capable espresso machine, consider holding on and saving up. It will be worth the wait. For now, consider a gift card at a fabulous coffee bar. They will appreciate the business and the thumbs up for their coffee.
Here are all our recommended office and home model espresso machines: https://inlandcoffee.com/product-category/home-office/
If you like milk based espresso drinks, make sure your favorite barista takes these important steps during the steaming process.
First, it is important that before your barista begins steaming or heating your milk, soy or other selection, that the steam valve is opened to clear any condensation out of the steam valve and pipe. Unless you wish hot water to be blown into your steamed selection this practice will comfort you in knowing that this is not happening.
Secondly, after your barista has completed steaming your drink, take the time to observe if they immediately reopen the steam valve, and thoroughly wipe the steam wand clean. Hopefully, this was done when the last drink was made but if you were not there at the time, watching your barista do it after your selection will let you know that that your health and safety are being taken into consideration. If you are unfortunate not to see your barista maintain the steam wand it is a good indication that the steam wand is not sanitary. Milk dries very quickly and can easily clog steam pipes. That, in itself, may not bother everybody but it may hit a nerve when the black brown chunk of aged milk happens to blow out and is found floating in your cup.
In defense of baristas, if a barista decides to skip steps because they are busy or there is a line, you may want to offer them more consideration. During early morning rush, baristas are charged with getting everyone off to where ever they are going and as quickly as possible. There is a prestigious amount of ceremony and good old fashioned habit regarding espresso preparation and equipment maintenance that are performed by experienced baristas. Those practices are executed for your safety and for other reasons of professional accountability. If you enjoy espresso, then you should love your barista, so take the time to let them know they are worth the wait.
Your pressure gauge is a valuable tool for troubleshooting. When brewing and steaming problems occur, a properly working pressure gauge offers beneficial information for your barista to share with a service technician over the phone. Without the information from the pressure gauge, your technician will have a difficult time eliminating and narrowing down the specific cause or elements of your problem. Most service technicians are genuinely happy to evaluate your espresso machine over the phone to save them time and you the cost of an unnecessary service call. Without a pressure gauge, a complimentary evaluation may no longer be possible and a service call will be required.
Most everyone agrees that a stable brewing temperature is vital if you want to maintain consistency in the taste of your coffee. Before the introduction of the PID, barista’s were trained and responsible for working with their espresso machines to eliminate temperature variance in their brewing. The PID feature, available on many espresso machines, now allows baristas to set their coffee’s brewing temperature.
The following is a basic list of things you should know about a PID controller.
Whether or not you feel your customers are demanding about their coffee, the one thing a PID can do is enable you to give your customers the beverage they have come to expect. For more information about the PID and how it works with a particular model of espresso machine, feel free to contact us.
We wrote a detailed explanation on pre infusion here: https://inlandcoffee.com/pre-infusion-does-it-matter/
Baristas are well known for their keen awareness when changes occur within your espresso machine. Very few want to be the messenger when it comes to a potential problem and expense to their employer. Do not let your barista’s delicate report on your espresso machine’s deteriorating condition fly past you in the whirlwind of your day. Changing sounds and leaking water may seem negligible but those little signs really just mean something is going wrong. Quickly respond to minor issues reported by your barista such as hissing, leaking steam wands, hot water faucets, and sight glasses; all potential hazards for injury, and serious damage to your machine.
When it comes to vinegar and coffee equipment, think twice before putting them together. Although, vinegar has some citric properties, it immediately becomes ineffective when diluted with water.
Almost all commercial coffee brewers have holding tanks. For the espresso machine it is the boiler. Once vinegar is introduced to the tank, it immediately dissolves and begins to saturate available minerals. Saturate, not dissolve them. The results will be an unpleasant taste to your coffee and an unpleasant taste that will be hard to get rid of. If you have already made the mistake of introducing vinegar to your system, you will need to flush your holding tank, a lot.
We are very aware that for years people have used vinegar to clean their coffee units. Although this practice has been encouraged, vinegar has little effect when it comes to cleaning away minerals and hardness. For home model coffee and espresso equipment that do not have holding tanks, we recommend citric acid. You can easily find this product on-line but remember to always consult your equipment manual before introducing anything into your system.
For commercial coffee, espresso and even some home model machines, we recommend a professional because to thoroughly clean your machine it will need to be dismantled. This is best done in a shop type environment. Your local professional will also have stronger agents such as phosphoric acid. If you are at the point where minerals are effecting your heating stability and your valves are becoming clogged, it may be time to consider refurbishment.
Check out our article on refurbishment: https://inlandcoffee.com/refurbished-commercial-espresso-machines/
Although it may seem logical to use these grime busting products to clean your machine, these products are also very corrosive to your equipment. Espresso manufacturers incorporate several different materials when building your machine and many will easily degrade if they come in contact with cleaning agents. Some damage may not be immediately recognized but here are a few results of using cleaner on your machine. Key pads and gauges will fall out because the molding that hold these components in place deteriorates. Cloudy, and warped gauge coverings. Discolored and cracked equipment siding as well as graphics, labels and pin striping completely removed. Also, most manufacturers reject warranty claims when the damage is caused by cleaning agents.
We recommend you follow your espresso equipment manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning your machine. Generally, manufacturers will suggest simply wiping equipment with a soft cloth. Consider using a a microfiber towel and a mild soap solution to attack any tough spots. Forget the cleaners, save money and protect one of your most important assets, your espresso equipment!
Placing liquid items such as chocolate or caramel syrups on top of your espresso machine can cause more damage than you may have considered. The practice +of using the top of an espresso equipment as a warmer for syrups or simply for storage is not uncommon but it can be costly. As liquids and syrups drip and spill down into the casing of the machine, electrical wires, connections and components become saturated and encrusted. Paying a service technician to pry and clean out areas just to gain access to valves, and screws is not only wasteful but can be counter productive to a business’ s overall mission of providing quality beverages. There is nothing more troublesome to a business owner than to have to unnecessarily replace electronics especially now when some component’s prices are soaring well past the thousand dollar mark. Ultimately, these additional expenses will come out of profits or worse yet, passed on to customers in the price of their beverages. Being an example to newer baristas, while protecting espresso equipment and your business’s interests and reputation are hallmark practices of the professional barista.
The rubber piece that wraps around the bar of your knock box is there to protect your filter baskets. Remember to replace your knock box bar cover when it begins to wear through. Hitting your filter basket on the metal of any part of the knock box will dent, flatten or crack your basket resulting in grounds leaking out and onto your port-a-filter as well as into your coffee. In some cases, inconsistent shots can be easily prevented by protecting the filter basket from damage.
Being educated about grinding burrs just gets you one step closer to the perfect shot! Here is a quick reference on burr material and shape.
There are three materials used in the manufacturing of burrs. They are ceramic, steel, and titanium alloy.
Ceramic: Ceramic burrs disperse heat well and are longer lasting. Utilized less than steel, ceramic burrs are found in on-demand espresso grinders such as the La Marzocco Swift and in super-automatic espresso machines, like the Evolution ASP by Franke Coffee Systems. Ceramic burrs are prone to shattering and can be easily damaged if foreign objects find their way into the hopper with your coffee beans.
Steel: Steel is the most common material burrs are made from because of its affordability. If over used, steel burrs will easily heat. Some manufacturers of espresso coffee grinders use a hardened steel to increase durability and reduce some heat. Larger volume grinders will employ larger burrs to increase grinding volume. Steel burrs do not wear as well as burrs made from other materials.
Titanium: Titanium alloy burrs wear almost three times longer than steel burrs, disperse heat well and are not easily damaged. The cutting surface of the titanium burr remains consistent longer and disperses heat well. Yes, you guessed right, the titanium burr is costly. You can find titanium burrs on grinders such as the Nuova Simonelli Mythos plus and Mythos Clima Pro.
Your grind is one of the most important elements when brewing a great espresso shot. Remember to regularly replace your grinding burrs according to the manufacturer’s guideline for your machine.
We wrote a lengthy guide on espresso grinders here: https://inlandcoffee.com/commercial-espresso-grinder-guide/
Your simple diffusion screen has some big responsibilities. Most importantly, your diffusion screen causes your water to evenly shower over the grounds of your coffee. With out even water distribution you might as well throw in the towel if you are looking for anything close to a respectable shot. Ok, you may be able to pour a respectable shot but a damaged screen certainly isn’t helpful to your cause. The other less valued but important responsibility is that your diffusion screen simply prevents coffee grounds from backing up into your brew valve and clogging passages. Screens should be cleaned daily. Typically, the average medium volume espresso bar will replace their screens every three months. Screens can be easily damaged and there are a lot of really horrible things that can happen to a screen. For most, screens just wear out and flatten over time. When your screen becomes dented, deformed, or flattened, well it’s time to replace your screen.
We will stop right hear and say this “Tip” is not for baristas in professional espresso bars. The art of tamping is not something that should be handed over to modernity. Consider using a dynomometric tamper when speed of product delivery is a priority. These tampers deliver consistent tamping by releasing at a pre-set pressure point typically 30 lbs. Dynomometric tampers offer baristas relief when they need it most. The Dynomometric tamper will also assist with product consistency when working with new and multiple baristas.
If your coffeeroasters are anything like ours, you already know they take pride in the meticulous way they prepare your coffee beans. Their intention is to provide your friends and customers a beverage they will enjoy, talk about, and come back for. Professional roasters do not stop there, and will carry on to determine the best brewing time that will result in bringing out the flavorful aspects of your coffee blend.
This undervalued and often unused feature found in many espresso machines. The classe 7 espresso machine and many others allow you to program your machine to power down or turn off when your business is closed.
When shopping for a super automatic espresso machine, remember to look for machines that incorporate substantial materials such as stainless steel for the brewing group and brewing chamber. We wrote a very detailed guide on super automatic espresso machines here: https://inlandcoffee.com/guide-to-super-automatic-espresso-machines/
When clearing your groups of coffee grounds, utilize water sparingly, no more than an ounce. Excessive flushing of brew groups can dramatically affect your temperature stability.
If you leave your espresso machine on over night, remember the heat, generated by your machine, dries up the properties in your group gaskets so be sure to change them out every three months.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! We look forward to 2015 and bringing you up-to-date, money saving and relevant information regarding commercial espresso equipment. Please share this post, it would mean a great deal to us.
All the best http://inlandcoffee.com