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Basic Espresso Machine Troubleshooting

Commercial espresso machines are the workhorses of bustling cafes and coffee shops, consistently churning out aromatic shots of espresso. However, like any complex piece of machinery, your espresso machine may encounter issues from time to time. In this guide, we'll be exploring common problems and providing practical troubleshooting tips to keep your commercial espresso machine, and your cafe, running smoothly.

Problem: Slow Extraction or Water Flow

If your espresso extraction is uneven or slow, or if you find that your machine is not dispensing water adequately, there are several possible issues. However, most of these can be fixed with a bit of basic troubleshooting. While grinding your espresso a bit coarser might be the first thing to try, here are some other possible solutions:

  • Group Head Is Blocked

There could be a few different reasons that  your group head has become blocked. The first thing to check is that coffee debris is not to blame for inadequate water pressure. A simple back flush and cleaning of the dispersion screen, dispersion screw, and gasket will clear this up.

If you’ve run a back flush and still aren’t getting the right amount of water pressure, it’s time to look at whether your group is blocked with scale. Limescale build up can happen over time even when running good water through your machine. A simple descaling cycle might help to resolve the issue, but if it doesn’t, you may need to remove and clean the water jets in the group. Using good water is imperative to the life of your espresso machine, and water softeners and mineral removers can be the difference between a well-running machine and a potentially costly problem.

It’s also important to note that there may be other complications with your machine that need addressed, and these will likely need the help of a certified technician. A few examples are:

  • A problem with the group’s solenoid valve
  • A failed internal pump
  • The electrovalve that delivers water to your machine is not operating properly

Problem: Coffee is Dispensing Too Quickly

This is a common issue, and one that we hear about often. It often results in sour, salty shots of espresso because the solubles in the espresso haven’t had time to extract properly. Luckily, the solution is very simple. All that is needed is a finer grind to build pressure in the portafilter to give the coffee enough contact time with the water to extract the sugars and fats from your coffee that make it pleasant to drink.

Problem: Coffee or Water is Leaking Over the Side of the Portafilter

Again, this is an issue that we see all too often, but the solutions aren’t always obvious. If you notice water or coffee dispensing over the side of your portafilter when you try to pull a shot, there are a few quick fixes, and luckily, they’re all quick and easy.

  • The Group Head Seal Is Dirty

There’s a good reason that we often see baristas run their hand over the rim of the portafilter before locking it into the machine. It gets rid of any loose coffee particles that will interfere with the seal, and over time, this seal will become dirty, disallowing the portafilter to be positioned correctly. For a quick fix, run a brush over the group’s seal and rinse to remove any grounds that may be stuck.

  • The Group Seal Needs To Be Replaced

At least once per year, you should replace the seals in your group to ensure that they don’t leak. Over time, these seals become hard and brittle from consistent use and operating at high temperatures. We recommend having preventative maintenance kits on-hand as these will include a replacement seal as well as a new dispersion screen. Depending on the volume of your cafe, you may want to perform this maintenance every 3, 6, or 12 months.

It’s important to remember that an issue that seems complex at first may very well have a simple solution, and we always want to rule these out before contacting a certified technician. If you are experiencing issues with your espresso machine, reach out to us. We’re always happy to help any way that we can. This directory includes manufacturers, tech support, and how to contact them for troubleshooting, tech questions, repair requests, warranty, and more.

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