Is your coffee machine working for you or against you?
Many budding baristas face this issue as they embark on their coffee journey. Temperature and pressure instability, badly maintained equipment, scale buildup, broken parts, blocked steam wands and dented tampers are just some of the many problems people encounter.
Does your set up stack up?
Are there problems with your equipment that are holding you back from getting the best out of your coffee beans?
Below are a few questions you should be asking to leave nothing in the way of your coffee.
1) When was the last time my machine was serviced by a technician?
Even if you do the servicing yourself it is important to keep the maintenance up, keeping your seals fresh, shower screens clean, and scale build up under control. If you do take it to a tech, get them to check that the pressure and temperature is set correctly, especially if you have an Italian import. These tend to come out of the factory running super hot and at high pressure which can wreak havoc on your espresso, without you even knowing.
2) Can I find my blind filter basket?
This is the easiest way to keep everything working the way it should! This is one of those pieces that can easily go missing or forgotten. Whether it be a full replacement blind blasket or just a rubber insert, this small piece of equipment is essential to keep your coffee on track. You can backflush with water after each coffee session.
3) Have I got coffee chemical cleaner?
This is almost as important as the blind basket to make sure the inside of your machine is as clean as the outside. Remember this is where your coffee actually comes from and is more important than whether you can see your face in the chrome! I've seen some sparkling machines, in horrid internal condition. Regular backflushing with chemical every 1-2 weeks will keep everything flowing nicely and prevent anything from disrupting your coffee.
4) Are my seals leaking?
The rubber seals in your machine, if cracked or dry can destroy an espresso. Over time, coffee grinds can get trapped in the seal creating a leak, the rubber also wears down with use and begin to go dry and go brittle from the heat. Use your gasket brush to remove any coffee grinds before you backflush and check their condition for brittleness every 6 months.
5) When was the last time I descaled?
Scale buildup can become a very big problem and can cause a host of issues with your equipment. If you ignore it. Luckily it is very easy to stay on top of. Use filtered water, especially in hard water areas, and descale every 6-12 months to remove any buildup (this depends on water quality and amount of use). Your technician can do this for you if you don't feel comfortable, and be sure to check your warranty details if you plan on removing parts of the machine yourself.
So is it you or the machine? Is your machine holding you back or supporting your coffee efforts?
In every lesson I teach, I leave my students with this message: "The last hour or two are a waste if you don't keep it clean!" This is the one thing that will instantly improve your coffee and takes less time than well, the time it takes to make a coffee! So don't let your maintenance routine be your Achilles heel.
The Home Ground Barista