Wednesday, December 01, 2021

CoffeeCrew.Com 2021

Espresso machine care and feeding - Chapter Two

Return to Chapter One - Machine care and feeding - Descaling -
The CoffeeCrew gives away a lot of equipment. Pretty much as fast as we get it. Sometimes machines are abandoned on our doorstep - the last stop before the land-fill. (Yea, the other end of the spectrum).

Brand new. Old. It doesn't matter, unless you have the basics of machine care down to a religious observance, all good machines are headed for the scrap heap.

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Know your wand Remove it!

This particular caffeinated parable begins with a Gaggia Espresso - one with some serious mileage on it. About six monthes ago, the lovely and talented Dina Kaplan gave up her nearly dead (no, totally dead) Gaggia in exchange for something brand new (thanks to WholeLatteLove.Com). We took it on. It was in bad shape. Actually, it had ten years of pretty hard use and was limping along. Ten years. Ten.

I rebuilt this Gaggia Espresso. Parts from EspressoTec.Com. 8 hours of my time.

Machine was good as new. Four months ago I gave it away. Like any teenager, every 14 year old espresso maker has to leave home... again.

Much to my chagrin, the Gaggia Espresso was wheeled back into my kitchen DOA - after 4 months. Either I did something wrong, a screw untightened, a gasket unseated, a wire off... or I forgot to mention something real basic.

Seems it was the latter. The latter latter. You know. That basic thing.

Espresso machines are in that in between place on the scale of complicated things. Slightly more complicated than Granny's kettle and somewhat less complicated than a Space shuttle. And like the Space Shuttle, it's the small things that keep them on the launch pad.

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Clean under the hood Watch the tip

When I handed over the machine to Pippi Longstocking, I did give her a print out of the basic Gaggia instructions. Yes, they were translated from Italian to Estonian and then to English by an Vietnamese engineer raised in South Africa. No, I did not do much hand-holding. My bad.

I should have. Seriously. The first clue (within about 1 week) was Pippi's failed attempts to steam milk - by flipping the steam switch on for 20 second intervals.
Weeks turned into months (ok, maybe month) and the machine crashed and burned faster than a DC-10 without aviation kerosene. Still my fault. Website notwithstanding, sometimes you have to spell it all out. In this case, a couple of quick pointers could have saved me a service call...

So let's cut to the chase. Here is a check list of all the things you should know (in between enjoying fabulous shots of espresso!):

  • Wipe the exterior of your espresso machine regularly. It will not help anything - but it looks good!

  • Understand what water does inside your espresso machine - or not so much the water, but the minerals and gunk in the water.

  • Read that article on de-scaling again... and again if necessary.

  • Examine anything that comes in contact with coffee or milk - especially the milk. Milk rots.

  • Making lattes, cappuccinos? Foaming milk? Wipe the wand. Take it apart. Simple diagrams above.

  • Clogged wand leads to cardiac arrest and possible death in espresso machines. Really.

  • Soak portafilters, filters and trays in soapy water - Portafilters can also go in dishwasher along with filters.

Oh yea - And if you are not sure, leave the repair to the professionals. Simple care is all an espresso machine needs or wants.

Keep it clean, your machine I mean.

Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria B.C. Canada. He has yet to blow up an espresso machine real good but keeps it real... and clean.