Espresso Machine Maintenance

Posted by Neville Scott on
Espresso Machine Maintenance

Espresso Machine Maintenance

When should I send my espresso machine for maintenance?

This is quite a lengthy read but I suggest users read at least once in your life because the information might not be available elsewhere.  When should you send your machine for service There is never a clear cut answer to that.

The answer will largely depend on the condition of water you are using, as in how hard is the water. The amount of usage, how well the owner maintains the machine by softening their water and flushing their groupheads regularly. All these will decide the status of the machine. Also how mission critical is the machine? Some process of maintenance, like descaling, may cause as much harm as good it can do the machine. As such, it’s not always better to over-service the machines unnecessarily.

The below information will elaborate more on the what's and whys.

Maintenance on which parts?

We will divide the machine into two main areas.

  1. The front area of the espresso machine, which consists of the grouphead and the steam wands.
  2. The internal water circuitry system, which consists of the pressure controllers, regulators, pump, heating element, water probes, relief valves and more.

Normally it’s (1) that gets the most wear and tear as that’s where the user will handle a lot. The gaskets will harden, gears might wear out, the chambers clogged. If you are having problems with wear and tear within this area, that’s a big relief, because it’s usually easy to fix. Basically, replacing with new parts, clean the chambers, replace the gaskets, etc. It might take some time, but it’s largely solvable.  It’s hard to say when you really need to do maintenance for this section, we will say do it only when it’s necessary. Most users buy components and fix it themselves, especially for the commercial environment. Operators normally rectify the problem as soon as possible, than to arrange for the machine to be sent back for the repair. 

Most don’t consider much about Part (2) which is the water circuitry system. That is the biggest folly. The problem with the water circuitry system is often due to the formation of limescale. 

Limescales are basically solid particles formed from the minerals in the water. The harder is your water, the more it can form. Limescale can form in any types of espresso machines, including automatic machines.  Limescale is the biggest bane to the espresso machine and is often the cause of most technical issues. It is like cancer to the espresso machine which directly affects its longevity.

If you have a limescale problem, then you will have a big headache and you will need to make a lot of hard decisions to make, often with expensive repairs.

What’s the problem with limescale?

Limescale will hinder the flow of water, block sensors from working, and can affect the effectiveness or functionality of the machine in every way. It can cause all types of problems, including leaking, overheating, no water flowing, etc. 

They can form on almost any types of metal, including stainless steel and to get rid of them is not as simple as it seems. Many manufacturers advocate users to do descaling regularly to remove the buildup. This involves rinsing the water circuitry with acidic solvent to dissolve as much limescale as possible.

What’s the best advice?

The correct way is to use an effective water softener to greatly reduce the likelihood of limescale forming in the first place. This will keep your repair bills significantly smaller. After 5-10 years, do some quick inspection and see if there are any signs of limescale formed. If there is and it’s light, you can just do a very short and light descaling to minimize erosion.

If your machine is using a vibration pump, you might want to replace it at the same time as the typical lifespan for them is about 5-10 years, they don’t cost a crazy amount to replace.

We will suggest replacing the following too.

  1. The vacuum relief valve – A component that bleeds out excess air and traps steam in the boiler to form pressure, they are cheap to replace.
  2. The pressurestat – A heat regulator, they are not costly unless you are using a commercial grade component
  3. Power relay – The controller that switches on and off, tell the heating element whether to heat.

The vacuum relief and pressurestat are common to get trapped with a lot of limescale that is hard for the descaler to reach as they are located at the top of the boiler. The water probes are cheap and I won’t mind replacing them too.  Power relays do a lot of work and takes a lot of electrical stress, so it’s something I will prefer to replace.

Replacing the pressurestat, vacuum relief, power relay and water probes should greatly ensure that the heating controller and safety are working. These four parts should not be expensive to replace.

Benefits of Using a Water Filter with Your Coffee Machine:

  • Removes coarse and fine particles (physical sediment) from water and purifies.
  • Improves the overall drinking quality of the water.
  • Reduces the total hardness, preventing the build-up of limescale and gypsum deposits.
  • Optimises water for coffee production, allowing users to produce full-bodied and aromatic espresso, reducing the elements that negatively affect aroma and taste.

What if my machine already has a huge amount of limescale?

If your machine is already affected by a large amount of limescale, then you will have no choice but to do a thorough descaling by flushing descaler inside the boiler.

How long can I use the espresso machine?

You can use the machines for as long as limescale is kept in control, the boiler has no holes and certain components replaced now and then. It should last for decades before you wish to retire them.

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