Water filtration. Water filters. How to change the filters. What to look for when the filters are clogged. Water filters. Where to buy water filters. Have some spare water filters on hand.
Seriously, water filtration is THE MOST overlooked aspect of quality coffee and equipment function. A clogged filter can age a new machine years in a few months if not take it down entirely with an underfill/overheat situations that cooks everything in the machine.
The other thing I really try and stress is that proper cleaning and maintainence is not rocket science and that by adjusting your daily habits you can get good results with little effort.
Steamwand purge and wipe (every use).
Group flush (every use).
PF Water rinse (very often).
Group cleaning with a brush (Pallo - favorite cleaning tool) (often).
Clear water backflush (shift change).
Wipe down the machine (shift change)
Chemical backflush (nightly).
PF handle and basket soak (nightly).
Group screen soak (nightly).
Steamwand soak (nightly).
Drain line flush (nightly).
Remove and clean the drip tray (nightly)
Grinder hopper cleaning (nightly).
Grinder throat cleaning (nightly).
Grinder doser clearing (nightly).
Grinder chamber cleaning (weekly).
Replace yer group gaskets, screens, and screws (every 3-4 months).
AND grinder burrs (probably at least annually).
Understand what is the normal operating state for your machine. Know what to watch and listen for to indicate that things are working properly.
What boiler pressure (or range of pressure), line pressure, pump pressure, and boiler water level is considered normal.
What proper flow of water from the dispersion screens looks like.
What your pump sounds like.
What it should sound like when your machine is backflushed.
How much steam should come from the wands.
Where water dripping is ok (expansion valve) and where its not (down the machine front panel).
How steam valves should behave, and how hard they should be to turn.
What other misc. sounds are normal - hissing from the vacuum breaker during heating, clicking from a pressurestat, etc.
This one should be a no-brainer... but HOW TO TURN THE MACHINE ON AND OFF.
Way too many baristas, managers, and owners have no idea what those gauges, dials, and switches are for. Everyone working the bar should know what I've listed above, as a starting point. When your machine goes down and the tech calls you to ask about the problem, he or she should not have to describe where to find the boiler pressure gauge.
Glad you are looking at this, Rusty. Its a great topic.
So many problems start small and easy to fix. One of my first repair jobs was replacing a $700 board that was fried when a slow water leak caused an arc from the indicator bulb to a piece of copper tubing. The repair part at any point in the roughly six months that people watched that slow drip of water would have been a 95 cent o-ring. As it was, their total bill was just over $1000.
Know your machines, people... and know who to call when they start acting funny.
This may seem like a no-brainer after everything Brady just gave us (crazy helpful!) but next time you get some significant time with your baristas, take the panels off of your machine and just spend some time tracing wires and pipes just to see what everything is doing when you push buttons. It's amazing how simple and intuitive these machines are if you just take a little time to understand them. Also, this is a great exercise to get your baristas excited. I worked for years on machines and just assumed that a barista couldn't possibly know what was going on behind those panels and was blown away at how easy it is to diagnose and fix problems after just a few minutes under the hood.
brady, you are such a guru! Seriously Rusty, print out Brady's response and nail it to the wall with arrows pointing to it!
For cleaning tools, we love the Pallo brushes. The grouphead brush last forever and you can replace the heads when the bristles are finished. The Steamy Wanda is generally great but doesn't last nearly as long. A few times I have had the bristles unravel within the first few uses but otherwise they do the trick. You should use them aggresively, they are plastic and won't hurt your machine so don't be afraid to really ram those brushes up the steamwand and around the grouphead gaskets. If you are replacing your own grouphead parts (screen, gasket and screw) thouroughly clean the gasket well before putting the new one in. Any debris could "pooch out" the gasket and probably damage it. We have come across a few machines that haven't had grouphead maintenance for years and their diffuser (brass piece with holes under the screen) is covered in mold, the gasket is hard as rock and the screw had to be drilled out because scale cemented it to the diffuser. Not fun.
One more note about cleaners. Most espresso machine cleaners can be really abrasive. Splurge for the "green" stuff or wear gloves. I had one customer get a little grain of Purocaf under her wedding ring and it burned a hole in her skin! Yikes!
Hope that helps!
Thanks to all of you for your input guys! I'm looking forward to the cleaning training I'm going to be giving to a new owner / barista group soon.
Though it may sound silly to some, I'm really passionate about cleaning. I think people forget that coffee is a consumable item and just like you wouldn't let your kitchen items get nasty and still serve people from them, why would you do it with your espresso machine?!
I've had a few classes through the SCAA that mentioned many of the same things you all have mentioned. Thanks for taking the time and being so thorough!
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