How to get coffee equipment primed and ready for the ultimate comeback

Maurizio Marcocci of Service Sphere shares his advice on how to get hospitality coffee equipment primed and ready for the ultimate comeback of the year. 

It’s hard to recall another time in history when thousands of hospitality businesses were forced to close for an extended break. 

Of course, there’s always quieter times of the year such as Christmas and January, when cities become ghost towns due to office staff enjoying summer holidays, but never to the extent we’ve witnessed over the past year. 

Victoria has undoubtedly suffered the most, with many cafés and restaurants forced to shut their doors to dine-in customers and serve takeaway or via online if possible. But not everyone was so lucky. Venues along the coast and across the country have also suffered from a lack of tourism. Thankfully, there’s signs of hope and a positive end to 2020.

Maurizio Marcocci is the Director of Service Sphere.

From early November, metro Melbourne’s hospitality venues were given the green light to operate again under restricted measures. While many venues were quick to pick up where they left off, for others, their return continues to be a gradual phase. For this reason, it’s important to pay extra attention to the needs of your equipment, their functionality, and condition, to ensure customers are treated to the same high standards they experienced pre-lockdown. 

Most commercial coffee machines are not built to sit idle. They like to be pushed to their limits. It’s the same with cars. Think of what happened when you last went on holiday and left your car sitting alone in your garage collecting dust while you indulged in aperitive on the Amalfi Coast. On your return, you went to use the car, only to realise the battery was flat and you had to call a mechanic.

Well, it’s the same with unused coffee equipment. We need to wake it up gently and get it back to its old workhorse self. To do that, here are a few key steps to follow:

  1. First, get COVID clean. Sanitise and disinfect your entire bench top and coffee equipment from handles to buttons. Germs can linger. We need to be more vigilant with cleaning equipment than ever before, so start with a thorough surface clean.
  2. Turn your water supply back on. 
  3. Ensure your main power supply is turned back on. 
  4. Power “on” your espresso machine. Do a complete cleaning cycle on your machine. Some machines will have an automatic wash function, for others it’s manual. Either way, ensure you backflush the machine a few times with cleaning agent like Cafetto cleaning solutions, just like you would during a daily shift, and as part of a regular weekly cleaning schedule. 
  5. Clean your group seals and wipe around your shower heads to remove any stale coffee grounds. Replace showers and seals that are stiff or old. 
  6. Soak your handles and filters for 15 minutes in warm water and cleaning agent. Thoroughly rinse and dry before reuse. Signs of mould growing in the group handles or filter baskets is a classic indication that these items have been left in the group head for an extended period, sitting with potentially stale coffee grounds mixing with stale water. 
  7. Purge the steam arms and flush them out in a cleaning solution. Pay extra attention to the steam wand tip where stale milk residue can remain. 
  8. Remove the drip tray and grill. Again, use warm, soapy water to clean.
  9. Clean and drain your water filter or replace it with a new one. If you experience a blocked water filter, shut down your machine and call your technician. If filters are blocked, then it is likely your boiler will need to be emptied as dirt can still be sitting in there and make its way through to the group head. This will also get rid of any stale water that’s been left inside.
  10. Don’t forget your grinder. Empty the hopper and clean it with warm, soapy water to remove any oils that remain. Pre-ground coffee will be left in the burrs. I suggest using Cafetto Grinder Clean to remove the stale coffee.  
  11. Once the equipment is in good working condition, make a few coffees to season the machine, and discard them. 

If you can tend to a general clean and maintenance of your machine yourself, go for it. But, if you’re ever unsure, don’t hesitate to call your go-to technician or machine provider. Any evidence of your hand lingering inside the machine is a sign it’s probably not a job for you. 

There are some common tell-tale signs when it’s time to call a tech, like low water pressure, a blockage or leak – a sign that your safety valves need replacing. In these instances, it’s always best to turn your machine off to risk any further damage and call your trusted technician. 

As much as your machine can give you signs its working well – a good nine bars of pressure, no leaks, drips or sounds of blockages – don’t forget to use your palate to calibrate your coffee. Good coffee should be vibrant, sweet and taste “clean” in the cup. Fresh is always best, but if you’re tasting grittiness, dirtiness, burnt ash or oxidised flavours, it’s a sign the coffee is still stale and needs further cleaning attention. 

If you’re one of the lucky – or unlucky – employees who gets to return to an office soon, don’t forget to pay attention to the staff coffee machine. Whether it’s a domestic model or a super-automatic machine, it’s also likely been unused for a long time, and needs extra attention, especially because some models store milk. For this reason, it will need a proper clean before use. Check the fridge compartment for any stale milk and get the fridge temperature down to the right setting before putting fresh milk in. Drain the water from the boiler, which would be stale and likely full of sediment. Make sure to run a few coffees through the machine to help season the machine and discard them.

It’s also a good time to consider a preventative maintenance check-up. Just like the yearly health check-up, dentist appointment, optometry test, or car service you should have scheduled – and of which have been put on the back burner due to COVID-19 restrictions – your coffee machine also needs a regular check-up. Here at Service Sphere, we believe a preventative maintenance schedule is a key part of keeping your equipment and in-cup result a premium level.

Long-term effects and cost comparisons usually favour preventative maintenance over reactive maintenance. The long-term benefits definitely outweigh reactive maintenance. It helps improve equipment reliability, decreases the cost of replacement or extends the life of equipment. It decreases maintenance downtime, provides better spare inventory, more efficient use of capital, and gives you the ability to budget for service, and increases customer satisfaction.

So, what’s there to lose? The hospitality sector has endured a tough year. We’ve navigated through as best we can, and now it’s time to care for our equipment as much as we care about every coffee we make. 

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This article appears in the December 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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