How To Kill Your Coffee Machine

What Not To Do And Ways To Prevent Damage From Occurring 

 

Espresso machines are expensive, some can cost S$25,000 and up! That’s crazy! So how do we ensure that we get to fully recover the cost of the machine (and more) before the machine dies?

As technological advancements keep happening at a breakneck pace, the machines that we make use of in our day-to-day lives are also becoming more intricate and innovative. However, that being said, even though many of the machines available nowadays are cutting edge, they are still far from being indestructible. From your car to your vacuum cleaner, all machines need to be taken care of if we want them to function at their best– or sometimes if we want them to continue working at all.

In this guide, we will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, and how NOT to kill your semi-automatic espresso machines. 

🚫What NOT To Do 🚫

First things first, we shouldn’t have to go over the painfully obvious things that you shouldn’t do to your coffee machine. Everyone knows that they shouldn’t be hitting their coffee machine with a baseball bat to relieve stress or fill it with chicken stock and noodles to try and brew chicken soup. 

However, here are a couple of glaring mistakes that cafe owners and baristas – both newbies and veterans alike – often make from time to time.

  • Physical Abuse

No, this isn’t physical abuse in the traditional sense, we’re talking specifically about cases where baristas end up using one group head more than the others consistently. 

The fact of the matter is that using one group head more than the others may be convenient in the short term but it can have detrimental long-term effects. This type of use (or technically abuse) can lead to parts malfunctioning or outright breaking far sooner than they normally would. 

In fact, many of the times when consumers complain about their state-of-the-art semi-automatic espresso machines breaking down within a year (or just a few months) after purchasing them, the cause can usually be traced back to physical abuse and intensive use. 

  • Improper Sizing

When it comes to the financial side of things, improper sizing is one of the most important factor that we have advised countless cafe owners about. 

What exactly do we mean by “improper sizing?” 

Time and time again we have seen cafe owners buying semi-automatic espresso machines that are too grandiose for their humble coffee shops or they have underestimated the size of their customer base and have purchased a cheaper, less suitable semi-automatic espresso machine that ends up being overworked. 

Improper sizing can be one of the main reasons why your semi-automatic espresso machine is doomed to an early grave. 

One way to look at it is that you wouldn’t see a farmer pulling their hay baler with their family sedan – not only would that be very inefficient but it would also be extremely damaging to the car as well. This same concept applies to commercial semi-automatic espresso machines. A small semi-automatic espresso machine simply won’t be able to keep up with high volume demands in the long run and is destined to malfunction or break down. 

✅What To Do ✅

Preventative Maintenance: Cleaning, Descaling, And Backflushing

  1. Cleaning 

As far as food preparations go, coffee brewing is fairly messy. As a result of this, the machines and equipment that you use in your coffee shop should always be subjected to basic cleaning routines daily and deep cleaning regimes weekly. 

For daily cleaning, you should always make sure that coffee grinds are not left on the rim of the portafilter, the showerhead should be rinsed, and the filter basket should be cleaned as well. 

For weekly cleaning, you should soak the filter basket, gasket seal, group head shower screen, and portafilter, in a specialized cleaning solution. 

It is important to remember that old coffee deposits and oils can not only damage the effectiveness and efficiency of your machine but it can also negatively impact the taste of the coffee that you’re brewing. 

  1. Backflushing

Backflushing is a process that can be used either as a form of preventative maintenance or reactive maintenance. Backflushing is advised for both home machines as well as commercial machines.

Realistically, if you stick to a strict cleaning and descaling routine, you shouldn’t need to backflush your espresso machine. However, that being said, there are no negative repercussions to doing it daily anyway. If your espresso machine’s 3-way valve fails, backflushing can potentially clean out coffee residue that may be hampering its ability to function.  

As a form of reactive maintenance, you may need to backflush your espresso machine if you find that either water is leaking into the drip tray while you are brewing or that you are suddenly experiencing low pressure (slow brewing).

  1. Descaling

Descaling is technically a cleaning method as well; however, unlike the aforementioned daily and weekly cleaning, it is recommended that you descale your machine every few years (usually between 2-3 years).

Although descaling is a form of preventative maintenance, it is still important that you not try to take shortcuts when doing so. You should never use vinegar to descale your espresso machine; no matter how many websites publish it as a “lifehack”, always use specialized descaling solutions. 

While descaling solutions work to remove the mineral deposits that have accumulated in your espresso machine, it is recommended that you hire a professional as this is a very delicate process that when not done properly can produce more harm than good.

We Are Here To Help

We understand that you might not always have the time or knowledge to completely look after your machine on your own. We offer Preventive Maintenance Compliance (PMC) and Quality Assurance (QA) services for your busy cafe. 

We always see coffee machines dying at the busiest times. Nobody needs angry customers while you have no coffee to sell. Service your coffee equipment at least once every 3 months. EVEN if there are no problems. This is the only way your coffee machines can stay healthy and live longer.

What happens during these Preventive Maintenance Compliance (PMC) and Quality Assurance (QA) visits?

Our crack team of skilled technicians team will come and conduct:

  • Initial Inspection

  • General cleaning

  • Initial diagnosis

  • Recommend required parts replacement caused by wear and tear

  • Recommend correct PMC frequency based on your volume and needs

  • Workflow and Calibration Diagnosis

  • Recommend and conduct basic calibration

  • Free calibration and diagnosis report

What’s more, our team will come by monthly to ensure that your coffee tastes best. You can also call us anytime on our hotline to troubleshoot any of your coffee and machine concerns.

What it boils down to, is that prevention is better than cure. 

Alternative Milk For Your Cafe

What Milk Should I Use For My Cafe? 

There is no denying just how important cows are on a global scale; however, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a fan of dairy milk. In fact, recent studies show that Asians are more likely to be lactose intolerant than others- and in this fitspo era, people are actually starting to care about their intake. 

As more people are starting to include non-dairy milk substitutes in their diet, if your cafe does not provide them, you’re going to lose out. This is a growing trend that is not going away.

Whenever the topic of milk is brought up, most people immediately just think of cow’s milk. However, there are so many options available now that also include dairy-free substitutes.  However, matching the right type of alternative milk to your menu can be a tricky one.

Let us first take a look at the primary dairy milk alternatives that most coffee shops offer nowadays:

  • Almond milk

  • Soy milk

  • Oat milk

However, these are not the only dairy milk alternatives on the market today. Here are some lesser-known dairy milk alternatives that still see some use from time to time:

  • Coconut milk

  • Rice milk

  • Cashew milk

  • Macadamia milk

  • Hemp milk

  • Quinoa milk

So which is the best choice for me? Which ones will make a good pairing? Will it froth well? Wait, isn’t there soy and nut allergies as well?

Ultimately, this depends on the specific customer base of your cafe, you first have to figure out what your customers would want. 

Let’s look at why we should consider some of these alternative milk.

Almond Milk – The Safe Choice

For quite some time now, almond milk has been hailed as the most popular type of plant milk in the world. Many consumers of almond milk often praise its distinct flavor as one of the main reasons why they prefer it to traditional dairy milk. Like the seeds that it is made from, almond milk has a characteristic sweet and nutty flavor that is also relatively mild. However, that being said, a lot of the people that dislike almond milk in their coffee often state that it tends to overpower the more subtle coffee notes.

On a commercial level, almond milk has been occasionally criticized because it needs water-intensive farming methods – especially compared to other common plant-based milk. 

Barista Notes:

If you decide to incorporate almond milk into your menu, you should keep in mind that, compared to dairy milk, there are going to be some noteworthy differences. The most notable challenge that you will face is that almond milk has a relatively high chance of curdling if it isn’t mixed correctly or is heated too quickly. However, generally speaking, almond milk isn’t that difficult to handle and it is definitely one of the easier plant-based milk to work with – it is in fact far easier to steam than coconut milk.

However, if you decide to have almond milk, do note that it can overpower more subtle coffee notes and nut allergies are a thing to definitely watch out for.

Soy Milk – Beware Of Acidic Coffee

If you’re a veteran coffee drinker you have probably had a front-row seat to see the rise and fall of soy milk’s dominance. Although soy milk is still fairly popular nowadays, for many years it was once considered by many to be the go-to dairy-free milk.

So, how did soy milk get dethroned from being people’s go-to dairy-free milk?

For a long time, the primary consumers of soy milk were individuals that sought it out for its health benefits, especially compared to dairy milk. However, in recent years the “soy craze” has been quelled to some degree because it is now common knowledge that there are other plant-based milks that is just as good – if not better.

Furthermore, for many lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers, soy was the only option back then because it was the only alternative that many coffee shops offered. 

Barista Notes:

Soy milk, however, is relatively easy to foam (compared to other plant-based milk), it is relatively affordable, and it is readily available.

However, unlike almond milk, soy milk is not often praised for its flavor or texture. It also tends to curdle when heated too quickly or when paired with coffee that is high in acidity. 

For this reason, if you plan to work with soy milk on your menu, it is recommended that you brew it with beans that are of low acidity.    

Oat Milk – Not Foam Friendly

For quite some time, oat milk was viewed as a niche alternative to dairy. In fact, so much so that even some of the most prolific coffee shops were apprehensive of offering it as a part of their menu.

Today, that has drastically changed. The noticeable decline in the popularity of soy milk has allowed other plant-based milk to become more prevalent- including oat milk. In 2018, there was a shortage of oat milk in the United States (particularly Oatly branded milk) because the demand had skyrocketed at such a breakneck pace in a short space of time.

Barista Notes:

Oat milk is one of the easiest plant-based milk to work with – it is far more consistent and has a lower chance of curdling. Furthermore, oat milk has a distinctive creamy texture and a balanced flavor that is less likely to overpower the more subtle coffee notes. 

That being said, the most notable challenge of working with oat milk is the fact that it is relatively low in protein. Not only does this affect the nutritional composition of the beverages that it is used in but it can also affect their structural integrity. A lower level of protein means that any foam that oat milk creates will destabilize far more quickly.

Final Thoughts 

So now that we understand each milk better and which of them will be a better pairing for your cafe, the number of dairy milk alternatives that you offer in your cafe will ultimately depend on the scope of your operation – we understand that it is not feasible for a small coffee shop to offer 9 different types of plant-based milk.

Soy and nut allergies are also relatively common. So, if you are planning on offering plant-based milk, it is recommended that you strongly consider investing in separate equipment for each type of milk so that you can avoid cross-contamination.


Need help with your coffee menu planning and integrating dairy-free alternatives?

Your coffee blends and selection might need to be changed to suit your choice of alternative milk. Come speak with us! We have a range of coffee blends available to fit your coffee menu and we can assist in helping you figure out which is best for you.