When it comes to coffee, a lot of things are subjective. One thing that is not, however, is espresso machine maintenance. Keeping that machine running perfectly is top priority.
Your machine needs a minor service every three months. Don’t worry, it really won’t take you that long to do this. You’ll need to:
EVERY THREE MONTHS
1. Replace group gaskets.
2. Replace shower screens (a good opportunity to upgrade to VST or IMS screens if you don’t already have them).
3. Test group flow rates and temp.
4. Test all switches.
5. Test grouphead and boiler water quality.
EVERY SIX MONTHS
Now it’s time for a major service. This involves doing everything you did for the minor service, but also:
1. Rebuilding steam assembly.
2. Rebuilding water tap.
3. Replacing anti-suction valve.
4. Cleaning boiler level probe.
5. Removing body panels and vacuuming/cleaning any dust that’s built up.
By this point, you’re already on your second six month service, so you should be getting the hang of it. In addition to your major service, you should be doing the following:
1. Replacing your pressure safety valve.
2. Replacing your portafilter baskets (upgrade to IMS baskets).
3. Replacing the waste pipe (if needed).
4. Replacing the capacitor on pump motor and before solenoids.
5. Replacing the sight glass.
6. Replacing or servicing your non return valve.
7. Checking for steam or water leaks with a dentist’s mirror.
Some items have a specific lifetime that’s unrelated to how often you service the machine. Other items might last forever, or they might need regular replacement, depending on the conditions of use. A café with poor water quality, for example, might have to change their filters and descale their machine twice a year. A café with great water, on the other hand, might only need to do this every two years.
The things you need to be careful with are:
- Changing of water filters.
- Replacement of pump.
- Replacement of switches and solenoids (electro valves).
- Descaling of machine.
- Replacement of pressure regulating valve.
- Replacement of elements.
- Replacement of worn down bells on groupheads.
- Changing or resetting pressure gauges.
Make sure you’re aware of the lifetime of these items (it’s always best to get the advice of a professional on this), and keep an eye on their condition to avoid unwanted breakdowns, damage to your machine, or decreasing coffee quality.
FOR THE SECOND-HAND MACHINE
If you’ve purchased a second-hand machine, you should get it fully overhauled. It doesn’t matter if the nice seller is your best friend from nursery and knows coffee inside-out—it’s just not worth skipping this step.
When overhauling an older machine, consider going that extra mile and respraying panels (with your branding, maybe?) Getting rid of chips and scratches looks that much more professional.
From there onwards, you can follow the service plan laid out above.
Does all this maintenance feel like a lot of effort? It’s true, espresso machine maintenance can be time-consuming or even annoying, but it’s necessary to ensure your espresso machine continues producing delicious coffee round the clock.
Schedule services in your calendar so the months don’t slip by without you realizing. Be pre-emptive when it comes to replacing parts, since it’s better to spend a little more than be the coffee shop whose “out of order” sign disappoints its customers when they need their fix. And remember to always give your espresso machine the love it needs and deserves.
Perfect Daily Grind.