No matter how experienced you are or how much of a newbie you may be, every coffee professional needs to stay fresh on these critical parts of the job. Sure, it’s not as appealing as pulling a beautiful shot, but it’s how you’re able to pull a beautiful shot.
Preventative maintenance: how you can keep your coffee equipment running smoothly. As a result, you can save yourself thousands in repairs and replacements in years to come.
CHECKLIST FOR PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
If they are excessively bowed on the bottom and no longer flat, if you see creases in the corners, or if the top edge of the baskets are dented or deformed in any way it’s probably past time to replace them.
Do you have problems with your basket falling out every time you knock out a puck? Time to replace those springs. Springs are super affordable! You should always use the proper ones for your make and model of machine.
If they are leaking, if the flow has changed noticeably (usually on the slower side), if they are feeling difficult to turn the knob or actuate in any way, or if the steam smells bad (indicative of poor cleaning or purging practices) then they should be rebuilt immediately.
This is a tough one to judge, but a little math can usually help. Most grinder manufacturers can give you a rating in pounds or kilos that the burrs can handle. If you want to always be on top of it, go ahead and replace the burrs at about half that rating. For example, if the rating is 800kgs, we would recommend replacement at 400kgs. If you have a good idea of the average number of pounds per week that you go through in espresso, you can figure out roughly how often to replace them.
Burrs that are in bad shape will cause all kinds of issues, such as erratic grind particle size, inconsistent dosing on grinders that dose based on time, or burrs jamming up. The coffee coming out of a grinder with dull burrs will likely be hot to the touch as well, which degrades the coffee and therefore your espresso. Even if you don’t go through enough coffee to change your burrs more than every couple years, it is a good idea to take apart the grinding chamber and clean it out on a regularly scheduled basis. We recommend every six months to a year.
Make sure the shot pressure gauge is reading nine bar when you are pulling a shot. When you are not pulling a shot, the pressure will travel around between one and 12 bar. If it’s going above 12, you may have a faulty or out of adjustment expansion valve. If the pump doesn’t hit nine bar every time you do pull a shot, then the pump or motor may be bad.
Depending on the type of machine you have (heat exchange, dual boiler, etc.) you may be able to check the shot temperature at the group and make adjustments if necessary. On dual boilers (or individual brew boiler machines) like a La Marzocco, there will either be a thermostat or a PID setup controlling your brew temp. To get a truly accurate test of temperature you will need a special thermofilter device known in the industry as a scace (named after the device’s inventor Gregory Scace). The instruction manual for this device is pretty heavy reading but contains some of the most detailed and helpful information out there on how to get a proper and accurate reading on your machine. The whole process usually takes us about an hour to do, but it gives you a really great idea of not only how accurate your machine is at any given moment, but how well it sustains its temperature accuracy over the course of a simulated busy rush. A hefty investment is required as you would need both the scace device and some kind of thermometer to plug it into such as a Fluke 50 Series, but it’s worth it if you want to be super accurate.
Brittle, hard, dry, cracked, or leaking gaskets should be replaced. To be truly preventive about it you should replace them before they get this bad - every 3-6 months.
If they are smashed or look at all damaged, for example, if the mesh is separating from the rest of the screen, or if there is obvious coffee build- up they should be replaced. We recommend replacing screens well before these signs are apparent.
Critical Listening Time
If you are doing a preventive maintenance session, it’s helpful to eliminate as much extraneous noise from the room as possible. This is because an espresso machine can tell you a lot about how it is running with some subtle sound cues. Listen closely to your machine. Do you hear hissing coming from inside? If so, it probably has a steam leak somewhere. Hear something buzzing or rattling? Could be a failing brew valve or contactor. Is the pump or motor making a lot of noise? You may have clogged water filters or a failing pump system.
Visual Inspection Time
Check underneath your machine and look for any signs of water pooling on the counter. Typically if the water is clear and clean, you should suspect a leak in the machine. That means it’s time to open her up and inspect around all the fittings for wetness and or actual water dripping. This is also a good time to look for signs of scale buildup around any fittings.
If you notice calcium building up on the outside it’s a relatively safe bet that there is calcium buildup inside the machine as well. If there is dirty brown water under the machine (assuming the counter under your machine is nice and clean) then that usually means there is some problem with the drain setup. Is there a crack in the drip tray or drain box? Is the drain box full and not draining quickly? It could be that the drain tube is clogged or sagging somewhere allowing grounds to build up and block the tube. The best way to clear this up is to remove the tube and blow through it. When you reconnect it make sure it is pulled snug and doesn’t have any dips or kinks and has a good downhill slope to it.