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Coffee Machine Repairs – 5 Questions To Ask Yourself To Avoid Being Disappointed

Technician using spare parts to repair a coffee machine

Your coffee machine, be it a commercial espresso coffee machine in a café or restaurant, an office coffee machine or home coffee maker, will need to be serviced from time to time. Don’t see this as having to spend money, but view it as you would servicing your car, you want it to perform well and to last as long as possible.

You should service your coffee machine at least once a year, although in busy restaurants and café’s we get to service them once a quarter to avoid failures. Besides wear and tear on moving parts, and especially o-rings and seals, coffee machines build up coffee oils and scale and these need to be removed before they get so bad that parts fail.

Preventative maintenance is far less costly than having a boiler fail or a solenoid valve jam shut because of scale build up, so prepare yourself for the expense of having it done. However, what we do not advocate, is for you to be ripped off in the process. So here are some of the things you should look for in finding a coffee machine repair company

  1. Am I dealing with a well-established company?

It doesn’t take much for someone to start a coffee machine repair company. A website, some paid search engine advertisements, some tools and a work bench, are all that are needed.

The problem is that there could be years of experience behind the technicians, or very little. You’ll never know. What does tell you a lot, is the length of time a company has been servicing coffee machines because you don’t tend to last long in the age of social media with poor service.

So look for a company that has been around for a while and check out on-line reviews to get an idea of who you are dealing with.

  1. Is the company part of an industry association?

While there is no guarantee that a company with 50 years of experience won’t treat you badly, you are on better ground should a dispute arise, if the company falls under the umbrella of an industry association. These typically confer credibility on their members and they are quick to want to protect that credibility if a member steps out of line.

The Vending Association of South Africa is one such body with a number of coffee related companies being members. Those that service coffee machines are listed and subscribe to the charter of the association. Should you run into a problem, they will intervene to determine the validity of claims and will play a mediating role.

  1. Does the company stock a wide range of spares?

When you call a coffee machine repair company to enquire about their services, confirm that they have spare parts for the make of coffee machine you want serviced.

There is nothing more annoying than waiting a few days for an assessment and quote, only to be told that the parts are not available.

The difference between a back-yard operation and an established company is often seen in their spares holding, because holding spares is a major cost and only established companies can invest the millions that the spare parts cost to hold.

While it may be that even established companies may not have a specific spare part in stock, they can probably source parts faster from their suppliers, many of whom are overseas.

One other issue for repair companies that do not hold their own extensive spare parts range, is that they are reliant on other companies to maintain a decent spares range and no matter how skilled, and customer focused they are, if their supplier is not well managed, those spares will not be available.  

Something else to note is that established companies have many years knowledge of repairing coffee machines and use that knowledge to predict which parts are more in demand. This allows optimal stock management which also helps to reduce costs that are inevitable passed on to the consumer.

  1. What should I look for in a quote?

You should always ask for a written quote, because that protects you from “job creep”. When you approve a quote, you are approving only the work and costs quoted. If during the repair, a technician identifies additional issues, they need to call you to explain, and you can decide to accept or not.

However, before you even get to that stage you should start by asking the repair company how they charge. There are charges for labour, call outs if the repair is done on your site, and parts and not all are calculated in the same way which can make some quotes look cheap but turn out to be more expensive in the final total.

We had a customer tell us point blank that our call our rate was way higher than a competitor… which we knew to be untrue. When we explained the facts to the customer, we got the job! You see what some companies do, is level a charge for a call out that covers just getting to your premises. Then you pay an hourly labour cost on top of that. Worse, is that some companies set out a call out charge that only covers the first 30 minutes labour, which looks great as a quote until you realise that the average call out is actually double that amount!

So ensure you get an apple with apple’s quote that allows you to compare real costs.

That’s fairly easy to get for labour rates because you can call around, but the more difficult comparison is in pricing spare parts across different service providers. You’ll need to know what parts are needed to get comparative quotes and most coffee machine repair companies will charge you an assessment fee if you do not do the repair with them after they have gone to the effort of identifying the fault.  So you really end up between a rock and a hard place once that assessment is done.

Again, the best way to judge the company is on reviews. If you are like me and get vocal on social media and review sites if you feel you have been ripped off, you’ll soon find negative reviews about companies that took advantage of their customers.

  1. Is the repair covered by a warranty?

The final point revolves around warranties. There are two main issues to consider here: the scope of the warranty and the length of the warranty period.

Companies that warranty their work are better bets than those that do not. It means that they back their workmanship and spare parts quality. Typical warranties for coffee machine repairs are 6 months to 1 year from date of repair. It is fair that if a customer does something incorrectly and damages the repaired part, that this is excluded.

We repaired a grinder motor in an office coffee machine, only to have the machine back in our service centre a few weeks later because the grinder had stopped working. On examination we found that the grinder motor was wet and soon worked out that someone had mistaken the bean hopper for a water tank and had tried to fill it with water! Needless to say, we charged for the repair.

The scope of the warranty should cover the parts and labour needed to re-do a repair, so that if the replacement part fails, the company must again repair it at no charge. This assumes that nothing untoward was done by the customer (as we just saw in the example above).

You will also need to review your warranty to see if it is a “carry-in” warranty that obliges you to deliver the machine to the service centre in case of an issue, or if the company will collect your coffee maker for repair of a part under warranty. Both are common in our industry, so just look at this because it can have cost and time consequences.

It is disappointing to have your beloved coffee machine go on the blink, but even more so when the experience of having it repaired, turns out to be sourer than a poorly roasted coffee! So we hope this has been of use to you and that whomever you decide to use for your coffee machine repair, delivers quality and value, fast


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