Making great espresso requires well-maintained equipment. Too many coffee shops neglect routine daily cleaning and periodic preventative maintenance and cause themselves undo problems. This post offers a general guideline to keeping a well running and well maintained machine – one of the keys to great espresso!
Before going on to maintenance, correct water treatment is assumed. You should have at some point tested your water and made sure the filtration, treatment and conditioning of your water is correct. Everpure and Global Customize Water are two well known water treatment companies in the coffee industry.
Then you need to have someone in charge of this ongoing need – whether you, a trusted employee (who documents everything), or a service company that assists you.
- Full Back Flush: Scrub the grouphead with a nylon brush, detergent back flush, and water back flush rinse.
- Soak Portafilters and portafilter baskets: Detergent soak for at least 20 minutes. Scrub and rinse before placing them back in the machine. Do not soak handles, only metal.
- Hot Water Flush: Water flush with hot water for drain pan/drip tray to flush excess grounds out of the exit tubing.
- Clean the Steam Wand: This can be done through soaking with Rinza (Rinza, an Urnex product, or similar) and you can clean the pitcher at the same time, OR you can soak with hot water, scrub the steam wand and steam wand tip to remove any build-up.
Seasonal Routines (Do/Check once every 1 – 3 months):
- Steam Wand Soak and Rebuild: Soak the dismantled steam wand and scrub with pipe cleaners to clean the inside of the steam wand. If parts such as gaskets are old, hard, broken, or damaged, replace them.
- Check Grouphead Shower Screen: Take it off and see how it is faring. If the meshing is damaged or getting clogged on one part or the other, replace it. Otherwise, pop it back in and keep an eye on it. Keep in mind, if you do not back flush the machine first, the group head will look much more clogged than it should.
- Pay Attention to Grouphead Leakage: If the grouphead is leaking when you are pulling shots of espresso and the portafilter is in the grouphead snugly, then you will probably need to replace the gasket. If you are changing one grouphead gasket, change them all. The grouphead gaskets get hard and brittle over time and not replacing them regularly will lead to poor espresso extraction.
- Pay Attention to Steam Wand Knob Function and Steam Leakage: If the steam wand is leaking steam out the steam wand tip for more than a second or two after closing the steam wand valve, there is a good chance your steam valve needs to be repaired or replaced. If it is the first or second time, a rebuild kit can be ordered and the valve rebuilt. If it has been rebuilt a couple of times, or the vale is not the type that can be rebuilt, you may need to replace the valve. This is simple gasket and wrench work and typically takes 30-60 minutes of machine time. Some machines allow for the steam supply to each valve to be shut down, eliminating the need to shut down the machine and purge all steam. If the steam wand knob is loose or sticky, you will want to change those gaskets and do a rebuild on the knob and knob parts.
- Steam Pressure and Pump Pressure: Keep an eye on the pressure gauges. They are indicators of internal temperature, water level and pressure and may indicate why your espresso tastes off or your milk is not steaming well. Steam pressure is typically between 0.8 and 1.2 atmospheres and pump pressure should be between 8 and 9 atmospheres.
- Check Grinder Burrs/ Clean Grinder: While you pull apart the grinder housing to get to the burrs, make sure you are thoroughly cleaning the unit. If the burrs are dull, change them. If they are still sharp, pop them back into their places. You may also want to buy some “Grindz” (another Urnex product) to send through your machine once a month. That will soak up and scrub the coffee oils from the burrs so that you aren’t burning the oils on the burrs.
If you follow these practices, you will give yourself the greatest chance at a long life for your espresso machine, consistent and quality operation while you own it and no major repairs (outside of equipment failure or worn out parts).