How Water Filtration Affects Automatic Espresso Machines

Let’s start with a definitive statement: whether your espresso machine is automatic, semi-automatic or a super-automatic, the water you put into it will always dictate quality of your espresso.

Now, let’s talk about water filtration and Automatic Espresso Machines.

Preserving the Life of Your Espresso Machine

It’s been said before that hard water kills espresso machines. Most of us are aware that common tap water is considered too hard for any good espresso. Specifically, that means that it’s too full of calcium carbonates, or a combination of calcium and magnesium – the rock-like substance that can form on the inside of your espresso machine, clog up the filters and nozzles and eventually cause serious problems with its operation.

Experts say that the water you use for espresso should be no more than three grains per gallon (about 50 milligrams per liter) of hardness. By contrast, most tap water contains a minimum of seven grains per gallon (120 mg/l) and can be as high as 20 grains per gallon.

Unless you have your own well, water filtration is very important for the life of your machine. And for an automatic or super-automatic espresso machine, that’s a sizeable investment.

Preserving the Taste of Your Espresso

Another, equally important facet of espresso water filtration has to do with contaminants such as chemicals, sediments and volatile organic compounds commonly found in processed tap water.

Chlorine and rust, for example, can really mess up the taste of your espresso even in small quantities. So your filtration system should be very effective at blocking these and other contaminants before they reach the machine.

The best filters are variations on the traditional carbon filters used in home and commercial water filtration systems. Carbon has been recognized for decades for its ability to retain a positive charge and attract negatively-charged particles. It’s also very effective in small quantities, increasing the lifespan of each filter you use.

A note about particle charges: carbon filtering is not to be confused with deionization or reverse osmosis systems that some water filtration companies provide. Deionized or distilled water has actually been shown to pit the metal in most espresso boilers over time. Plus, believe it or not, the trace presence of minerals in carbon filtered water can actually improve the taste of your espresso.

Espresso Partners can recommend the perfect automatic espresso machine for your operation, along with the ideal water filtration system. Our expert “repairistas” can tell you about the right filters, including installation and replacement schedules. Call us today!

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Does Your Commercial Espresso Machine Need Repair?

Is your commercial espresso machine broken? If so, how do you know?

That might be a deceptive question. If the machine doesn’t produce actual cups of espresso, then you know something is wrong. Right?

The fact is, commercial espresso machines aren’t like most heavy-duty equipment.

Small indicators that you notice during course of a busy day can signal that a piece of equipment needs repair soon; small indicators for an espresso machine can indicate that your espresso is well below par RIGHT NOW.

You do NOT want your customers bringing this to your attention. Here are a few small ways to help you predict big problems.

Too little espresso. The hot water tap and the steam wand seem to work well, but your espresso machine isn’t brewing enough to fill a cup. Many times, this is a sign that the heat exchanger tube needs to be welded or replaced. This should be done quickly, as it’s an indication that your heat exchanger water and your boiler water are intermingling.

Crema. If you don’t have a steam-based machine, the crema on your espresso can be a great way to tell if your machine needs repair. There won’t be much of a crema if the water isn’t not enough, or if it’s too hot; the temperature should generally be between 190 and 204 degrees F. The boiler or the pressure switch inside of it might need some attention.

Leaks. Sooner or later, you’ll start to notice little pools of water or milk around your espresso machine. A small amount of leakage around the boiler can be normal; anything more is normally very bad. The gaskets and O-rings in the pump or the filter holder need to be kept clean and in good shape. The valve springs, or the valves themselves, also need to be replaced periodically.

Most of us don’t want to think about all the parts in a typical espresso machine, or how important each one is to the overall quality of your espresso. Fortunately, Espresso Partners has an expert staff that does nothing but that. Call today for the finest sales and service of the finest commercial espresso equipment!

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How To Choose a Commercial Espresso Grinder

It might not seem like a big deal, but for professional baristas it is: the best commercial espresso machines can be less than forgiving if you use a subpar espresso grinder.

So what makes a good commercial grinder? Generally, you want a grinder that crushes the beans with a minimum of aggressive energy. Look for grinders that don’t produce a great amount of heat, for example, to preserve the natural flavors of the beans.

Keep in mind that higher grinding speeds do not necessarily mean more aggressive grinding; in fact, high speeds can actually improve flavor. Instead, you’re looking for a smooth, even grind at any speed.

Here are the basic components to ask about for espresso and bulk coffee bean grinders.

Burrs. Burr grinders are superior to blade grinders, which depend on the length of time you run them to cut up the beans and typically result in a relatively uneven grind. Burr grinders crush the beans between wheel and stationary surface.

The best grinders are conical rather than wheel grinders; conical grinders run more slowly, are less noisy and are not likely to clog even when grinding oily beans.

Adjustability. Burr grinders depend on the positioning, or hinging, of the burrs to regulate the grind size; you should be able to get a fairly wide range without having to replace the burrs themselves. The speed should be equally adjustable; the speed works with the burr selection to determine the size of the grind.

Doser. The doser is especially important for espresso makers. Each time the operator flips the dosing lever, an exact amount of beans must be delivered to the grinding mechanism for a consistent product each time.

Hopper. The hopper is important for applications where portion control is a main consideration. Some grinders have dual hoppers that hold many pounds of coffee beans, and allow for three or more timed cycles that the operator can preset.

Espresso Partners supplies and services a range of commercial espresso grinders, portion grinders and bulk coffee grinders for any commercial requirement. Contact us today!

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Alternative Brew Methods

One of the reasons we operate in the commercial espresso business is that we get to work with so many people who indulge in the sheer joy of making coffee.

To that end, we sell and service equipment for a range of alternative brew methods. Most are very old in other parts of the world, up-and-coming in the U.S. and very representative of the importance of coffee in other cultures.

Here are some of our favorites.

Chemex Coffee Brewing

Chemex is actually a trade name, but the name is synonymous with the method. It was invented in the early 1940s and its’ been catching on ever since for the clean coffee it produces. There’s also a small thrill being seen brewing a Chemex cup; the combination of funnel and flask is stylish in an hourglass sort of way but still affords the attitude of an experienced chemist.

This isn’t far from the truth. There’s an art to brewing coffee Chemex style, and it takes a while to master.

A main component is its thick paper filter, which fits into the modified funnel on top. You must use a coarse grind; anything fine won’t filter properly. The other main component is the water, which is normally heated to a specific temperature.

The rest of the magic is in the pour. Usually you start with a small amount of water to preheat and moisten the grounds. Then it’s an outside-in pouring method that maximizes the grind, and highlights the skill of the barista.

Siphon Brewing

Also known as vacuum coffee brewing, the siphon uses two chambers in reverse of what we’re normally used to in coffee brewing. This technique was invented in Germany in the 1830s, but uses principals from the ancient Greeks.

The water goes into the bottom chamber, and the coffee grounds go on top. They’re separated by a metal, paper or cloth filter.

As the water is heated past the boiling point, the pressure forces it upward through the grounds. The brewing process takes place in the upper chamber, and as the brew cools gravity lets it drop back down into the lower chamber.

The result is a clear, clean coffee that you can’t find just anywhere.

Pourover

Now we refer to Japan, and to a coffee brewing method that seems created specifically as an “anti-drip” technique. Pourover involves a pouring kettle, a grinder and a filter cone. It also involves a patient, precise pouring of a measured amount of water over a measured grind.

The process brings you closer to actual handcrafting (in fact, that’s what it is). The result is a truly unique, pure taste.

Pourover isn’t for mass production, however. It can take up to five minutes to brew a single cup of pourover coffee. Hint: it’s worth the wait.

Hand Grinding

Small and inexpensive, hand coffee grinders are another way to show that you’re a coffee crafter.

They’re not much different in theory from the standard electric grinder, but the conical burrs are well-made and grind much more efficiently. Which, again, isn’t really the point: hand-ground coffee tends to release the flavors from the beans more intensely than a rapidly-whirring machine, and it tends to reflect the love of the coffee making ritual more effectively.

And, once again, you can’t argue with the results even if they do take a little more time to achieve.

Espresso Partners proudly supplies Chemex brewers, Yama siphons and Hario pourovers, plus Skerton (originally misprinted from the Japanese, which was meant to be skeleton) hand grinders.

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How to Maintain Commercial Espresso Machines

It never fails: Whenever we service a commercial espresso machine and find it in generally good repair, we can tell that it came from a first-class establishment.

There’s very little more telling than that.

The proper maintenance of your commercial espresso equipment results in cost savings, for sure: if a machine has been well-maintained on site, we generally don’t see it as often either. But the more immediate reason to properly clean and maintain your machines comes down to taste.

Commercial Espresso Machine

You’re aware that espresso machines fill up quickly with resins from the oil in your coffee – the same oil that creates the wonderful flavors you sell. You’re aware that, if allowed to accumulate on critical parts such as shower screens and group heads, these oils will most certainly turn your espresso products bitter. You may not be fully aware that these oils can turn rancid in as little as 45 minutes.

Common cleaning procedures include:

Scrub, rinse, wipe. The key here is to be detail-oriented. Use coffee detergent and small scrubbing pads for cleaning the group heads. Use clean water to rinse the filter baskets and shower screens. Use separate towels to wipe each part to eliminate the possibility of cross contamination.

Don’t let any detergent come into contact with any internal part of the espresso machine. This can get into the espresso and affect the taste.

Soaking. The grouphead parts (filters, baskets and shower screens) as well as the steam wand should be soaked in a solution of coffee detergent and hot water, scrubbed and wiped. This should be done at least twice a week, and ideally each night after closing.

Backflushing. This loosens and eliminates contaminants from the lines where water is dispensed and from the brewing valves. Backflushing is only appropriate for machines with three-way valves. You should backflush daily (at least) with clean water, and weekly with coffee detergent.

Purging. Very important: after every cup, blow the remaining water and milk out of the steam wand. Once leftover milk gets drawn back into the boiler, it stays there forever. You don’t want the smell of continuously cooking milk coming from your espresso machine!

Descaling. You should be taking great care to use filtered water for your espresso. This isn’t just to preserve the integrity of your espresso; it’s to lengthen the life of your machine. Water that’s “harder” than 50 parts per million or 50 mg per liter will leave calcium and magnesium deposits – limescale – on every internal surface of the espresso machine.

Although a full descaling need only be done about once every three to six months if you’re using properly filtered water, it’s vital to do it. Many of the injectors in a typical espresso machine are the size of a pinhead. Even a small amount of mineral buildup will quickly alter the taste of your espresso, and will eventually kill your machine.

Keep in Mind
You might believe that a machine that you don’t use very often doesn’t need to be cleaned as often. This isn’t true; in fact, it’s the opposite. Oil that sits for a while will cook into the surfaces of the machine.

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How Your Specialty Coffee Shop Can Grow

If you’re like many of our customers, you’ve heard over and over how your specialty coffee business is unlike any other – it’s got ambience that you can’t find at any other coffee shop anywhere. It’s a classic, one that your customers will come back to over and over.

You know that a big part of your success is the espresso and coffee you serve – the variety, the flavors and the unique taste profiles and brewing techniques that make them your own. So it’s a little disconcerting when you notice that some of your specialty coffee equipment is showing signs of wear.

Or even if it’s not – you keep hearing about newer, better brewers, grinders, espresso machines and boilers. If you could successfully incorporate these, at the very least you’d be doing business more efficiently.

Specialty Coffee Shop

You don’t get to be the owner and operator of a classic specialty coffee shop without a lot of knowledge about specialty coffee. But what do you do when technology is changing everything so fast it’s hard to keep track, let alone keep up?

Here’s what you can do: find a partner in espresso and specialty coffee that specializes in equipment and brewing techniques. Let your equipment supplier take on the worries and the challenges associated with maintaining the proper (and properly calibrated) equipment; you can continue focusing on the variety, the flavor and the ambience you’re known for.

That’s because a good specialty coffee and espresso equipment supplier will know how to work with you to strike the right balance. They can perform honest equipment assessments, recommend specific installations, help upgrade the tools your staff uses and integrate an ongoing maintenance schedule – all without changing your brewing techniques or flavor profiles.

In short, your specialty coffee and espresso equipment supplier will help you stay efficient, relevant and successful. And if we do our job right, your customers may not even notice.

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The Value of Training from Your Specialty Coffee Supplier

We’d like to assert that there’s a great resource that can make a huge difference in your barista and staff training: your equipment supplier.

But first, let’s get this out of the way. Coffee schools, barista training academies and, of course, the coffee shop owner’s knowledge are all terrific resources for ensuring that your staff is up to speed and ready to deliver the ultimate coffee or espresso experience.

But here’s why training from the same company that services and supplies your espresso machines, grinders, brewers and other specialty coffee equipment just makes sense.

What are the main challenges you face in delivering consistently excellent espresso and specialty coffee? Is it that your training doesn’t always stick in the minds of each staff member? Perhaps different baristas understand the techniques differently. Perhaps they all have different tastes in espresso and specialty coffee.

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What is Your Specialty Coffee and Espresso Equipment Supplier Selling?

To be truly effective at the sale and service of espresso and specialty coffee equipment, we believe you have to be focused on the equipment instead of the accessories. And if you’re operating a business that depends on excellent specialty coffee, that’s a vital distinction.

It’s important for a company that sells and services specialty coffee and espresso equipment to recognize that, while the coffee may be the heart of your customers’ experience, the equipment is the heart of your business.

That means your espresso and coffee machines, brewers, grinders and filtration systems must be kept in top working order at all times. And the people who sell and serve the equipment must be kept informed of the latest trends and technologies for creating the finest espresso.

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