Mocopan Coffee on how to have a clean conscience

Aside from your baristas (and you of course), the coffee machine and grinder are some of the hardest workers in your café.

These essential café tools can make hundreds of coffees every day, and if well looked after, can last for years. A coffee machine and grinder are also integral to your coffee tasting the way it should, and providing customers the quality they have come to expect.

There are some simple rules for looking after your coffee machine to keep it working the way it is supposed to, and to make sure your coffee tastes the way it should all day, every day.

Whenever I talk to people about maintaining their equipment, I break it down into three parts:

• Cleaning on the go – the super important little tasks that every barista should be doing throughout the day.
• Full clean – the daily clean (or more, depending on how busy you are) that cleans the day/shift’s grime away to leave your machine squeaky clean.
• Breakdown maintenance – the issues that arise that require ad hoc repairs or a technician visit.

Let’s start with cleaning on the go. These processes should be such a strong part of a barista’s habit that they would actually need to make a conscious effort not to do them. If what you want is consistency in every cup (hopefully that’s a no-brainer), then this is what you’ll need to do:

Group handles
• Wipe with a dry cloth between every shot to remove any used coffee grinds. Once you’ve taken all the goodness from the coffee, it will only serve to taint any future shots so make sure you’re always starting with a clean basket.
• Rinse the handle and basket every 10 or so shots, or when it starts to get a bit of coffee build up on and around it. This will also help prevent build up inside the handle under the basket.

Steam wands
• Wipe all milk residue off the wand after every time you use it. Purge (flush little steam through) the wand before and after every use. This will keep it clear of any milk residue and prevent any unwanted water being added to your milk. Most of the time that people have issues with steam wands, it is due to milk build up in the wand. This is not only unhygienic but it will also slow you down by reducing the pressure you have to steam milk with.

Group heads
• During busy periods, I try to backflush group heads as often as possible, just with water. I’ll aim for every 10 to 15 minutes – you’ll be surprised how much coffee build up will accumulate if you are flat out. You should also take this opportunity to clean the seals and shower screen with a group head brush to remove more old grinds. All up, I would be aiming for this to take no longer than about 30 seconds per head. Focus on one head while using the other one/s to keep the coffee pumping.

Grinder hopper
• Be sure to wipe any coffee oils from the hopper with some dry paper towel regularly. These oils will go stale and taint the flavour of any fresh coffee you add into the hopper.

OK, so now your machine is staying as clean as possible throughout the day, let’s talk about “the full clean”. This should be done daily at minimum, but as a rough guide I would recommend adding another full clean for every 5 kilograms of coffee you use in a day.

Group handles
• Remove the baskets from your group handles and dissolve some chemical cleaner in hot water. Soak the handles and baskets until you can wipe away the coffee oil residue with a cloth. If this hasn’t been done in some time, a scour may be necessary, but just ensure your handles aren’t Teflon coated or you will scratch this away. Clean handles should be silver or yellow, not black. Be sure to rinse the handles thoroughly before using.

Group heads
• First, use a head cleaning brush to gently brush away as much loose grind from the shower screen and seal as you can.
• If your machine has an auto-clean function, you should use this. If not you can clean the machine manually. (For full back flushing instructions, see more in the latest April edition of BeanScene)
• Once you have cleaned the heads, you will need to run a couple of seasoning shots through each head before the next time you serve a coffee to customers. This helps coat the head in oils and prevents a metallic tasting coffee.

Steam wands
• I’m a big believer that prevention is better than cure – if you are cleaning your steam arms after every use there is no more that needs to be done here. If they do block, you can remove the tip and clean it thoroughly before replacing.

• Remove and throw out any remaining coffee at the end of the day. Your goal should be to limit the amount of coffee left in the hopper. This will minimise waste.
• Take the hopper off the grinder and wash with warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and allow it to dry completely before putting it back on the grinder – coffee and water aren’t friends until you are ready to extract it.

Like a car, there are many issues that can go wrong with a machine that you will be unable to fix yourself. You should always call a technician to visit if there is something not right with your machine, be it pressure, temperature, strange noises, or otherwise. Holding off on that call will cost you a lot more if your machine breaks down completely and your customers are forced to give the café down the road a try.

There are also a couple of skills that you can easily pick up that will save you on that callout.

If you consider yourself even a little handy, ask your technician to show you how to do these simple tasks:
• Changing seals – if your group heads are leaking when extracting shots and you’ve given them a thorough clean, your seals may need changing. It’s a fairly straight forward process.
• Replacing grinder blades – over time your grinder blades will wear and need replacing. You’ll notice your grinder gets slower to grind and can become hotter as your blades wear. On most grinder, changing the blades will take no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

Treat your machines with the love they deserve and not only will they continue to give you great coffee in return, but hopefully serve you for years to come.

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