March 20, 2015
Servicing The Espresso Machines
I love a good cup of cappuccino - it can be a great start to the day and a pleasant afternoon pick-me-up. My home espresso machine gets a lot of use, so of course, I keep it very clean. Coffee beans contain essential oils and over time, the residue from those oils can stick to the machine's components and alter the flavor of the beverages. Regular cleaning not only maintains the quality of the coffee, but also extends the life of the machine.
Last week, Kobrick Coffee's service and equipment manager, Donald Ibrekic, came out to my farm and checked all the machines. Each one was thoroughly cleaned and tested. Donald also gave us some helpful tips for maintaining the machines in between service visits, so every cup of cappuccino tastes perfect.
I hope these photos provide some useful tips for you too - enjoy.
1 Donald and Laura went over the cleaning process for my La San Marco espresso machine. http://www.lasanmarco.it/pages/en/home.php. Any commercial grade espresso machine should be backflushed every day to reduce oil and residue build-up.
2 Donald went through the basic functions of the machine to assess what parts, if any, needed replacing. Worn or dirty gaskets and screens feel stiff when the portafilter is used.
3 The portafilter was separated from its basket, and both parts were washed. A cleaner specially designed for espresso machines was used to break up accumulated oils and residue. A water and white vinegar solution can also be used to clean espresso machines as well as coffee machines. Avoid using dishwashing detergent, which could affect the taste of the beverages.
4 Only use a soft dishcloth to clean hard to reach spots. Never use anything that could potentially scratch the surface of the metal parts.
5 On this machine, the last button on the panel above each portafilter indicates the backflush function is in process - clean water moves through the machine and flushes out the components that come in contact with the water and coffee grounds.
6 Here, it's easy to see how much oil and residue washed through the first backflushing sequence.
7 The special cleaner was also used during a backflush cycle to clean the machine itself. This was followed by several more flushing sequences to thoroughly rinse the system.
9 Flushing the residue out of the system cleans the valve of grind deposits, so it seals properly when used. After every shot, it's important to dispose of the grounds and rinse the portafilter.
10 This is how the water should look after proper cleaning and several backflush rinse cycles - very clear.
11 This is the machine's pressure gage.
The top indicates the pressure of the steam, while the bottom displays the pressure of the water. It should always be within the green limits shown.
12 Removing the three-way valve to determine its condition took a little more elbow grease and can be checked every few months when maintenance visits are conducted.
13 This three way valve on one of the machines needed replacing. It was dirty and worn. The three-way valve controls the flow of water from the boiler to the brewhead and from the brewhead to the drip tray.
14 The three-way valve on the left is new and clean. The one on the right shows caked on oils under the spring coil.
15 The rubber seals that support the screens on the portafilters also needed replacing. This occurs with regular wear and tear, but they're easy to change.
16 The screen on the top right shows the dirt and residue that accumulated. The bottom screens are examples of new and cleaned parts.
17 Underneath the machine is the water filter and pump. The filter's cartridge should be changed every four to six months depending on how much the machine is used. Machines work best when used regularly, so water is constantly moving through the system. It is also advised to keep the machine on at all times.
18 The brand and model of the filter cartridge needed depends on the type and quality of water used in the home.
19 Once the filter cartridge was replaced, all the lines were checked and tested.
20 It's also important to keep the steam wand clean. Purge and wipe the steam wand after each use and try to run a shot of clean water through it after every brewing session.
21 Always make sure there is an empty bowl or cup to catch all the water that runs through the machine in order to keep spillage to a minimum.
22 Lastly, wipe down the machine with a damp dishtowel once everything is cleaned and all components are in their proper places.
23 I was eager to test out the newly cleaned and serviced machine, so I made cappuccinos right away.
24 A good, thorough cleaning made a big difference. Both Donald and I sat down and enjoyed a delicious cup of cappuccino after the work was completed.