Service Q&A: Espresso and Cappuccino Machines

Service Q&A: Jay Kistner, owner, DOLCE Neve, San Francisco, Calif.


Fully-automated espresso/cappuccino machines may require less labor to operate, but cleaning and maintenance requirements can be more extensive because this type of equipment incorporates milk inside the machine. Over time, milk crystals build up within fully-automated one-step machines, creating food safety and performance issues.

New cleaning systems allow the milk hose to be plugged into the machine for automatic cleaning rather than being submerged in a chemical solution. High-end machines with newly designed milk systems utilize disposable tubing that can be easily replaced when milk crystals become an issue. There also are automated cleaning technologies that walk users through the cleaning process.

Below, Jay Kistner, owner of Dolce Neve, a northern California service agent, discusses the cleaning and maintenance considerations with these units.

FE&S: Water quality impacts the service life of espresso/cappuccino machines. What is the ideal filtration for these units?

JK: Mineral content should be kept below five and as close to three grains per gallon or GPG as possible. This will eliminate 70 percent of machine failures.

FE&S: Describe the daily maintenance requirements with this equipment.

JK: Once water quality is under control, then operators should back flush the unit with detergent every night. This entails adding 1 teaspoon of detergent into the brew cycle, which cleans the entire group head.

FE&S: Are there other maintenance tasks that keep these machines in top running condition?

JK: Replace group gaskets at least every six months and clean water level probes twice a year.

FE&S: Is the cost of planned maintenance worth it?

JK: While some operators try to save money with reactive service, more are moving toward planned maintenance. Replacing components that typically fail once or twice a year decreases equipment downtime.

FE&S: What are signs that an espresso/cappuccino machine needs to be serviced?

JK: A service call is needed if there is leakage from pin holes or electrical components fail.

FE&S: When should a unit be replaced rather than repaired?

JK: There are machines out there that are more than 20 years old, but a typical service life is 10 years for well-maintained equipment and 5 years at the low end. Units with a lot of mineral buildup and other damage are not worth fixing. Also, if a unit is 10 or more years old and costly to maintain, it should be replaced.

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