As we have been servicing and repairing coffee machines for over 20 years, we have had our fair share of debates about whether paying for a water filter replacement or a preventative maintenance schedule is ultimately more expensive than repairing the coffee machine when it breaks down.
Our conclusion is simple: while it is better for OUR business to deal with breakdowns, it certainly isn’t for YOUR business. Simply put, if you want to save money… don’t wait for the breakdown! Here is why failing to look after your coffee machine on a regular basis by performing preventative maintenance, leads to increased cost.
Coffee Machine Water Filters
In the case of water filters for coffee machines, we find that coffee machine owners often do not understand what is needed to protect their equipment and to ensure they get optimal coffee extraction during the brewing process. This leads to our service technicians often finding filters that are not suitable for the water quality that flows into the coffee machine, or worse, water filters that have been in place for years and which have just never been replaced because the cost exceeds the perceived benefit.
You simply cannot fit any water filter to your coffee machine and believe all will be well. The first step in spending your money wisely is to have your water tested. The water quality in Cape Town will differ from that in Durban or Johannesburg and so every location will bring up different results. Our tests measure pH, calcium hardness, alkalinity, and total dissolved solids. With that information we can predict what that water will do when heated in the boiler of your coffee machine, be it a traditional espresso coffee machine, automatic coffee machine, coffee vending machine or filter coffee machine.
Once we have that information and an approximate monthly coffee consumption, we can offer you a filter that not only protects your equipment and offers a water quality that is recommended by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, but also a lifespan that will get you to your next service or to a year of operation. Either way, we will be looking to change your filter at your next service to save you the extra call out fee.
Coffee Machine Maintenance
Then remember that breakdowns cost more than just the cost of the repair because your coffee machine stops supplying the coffee that people are coming to you for, and so you lose income. We find it odd that coffee machine owners will take their car in for services at regular intervals to avoid being stranded on the side of the road, yet they will not get their equipment serviced to avoid loss of income when it breaks down. The fact is that a coffee machine, like a car, has many moving parts and parts that wear over time. Replacing them before they fail, prevents the machine from being out of operation for any lengthy period.
Secondly, the cost of coffee machine repairs can increase as the failure of one part due to a lack of preventative maintenance, can lead to the failure of others. A good example is when there is no scale reducing filter on a coffee machine located in a hard water area. As scale builds up in the hot water pipes of your coffee machine, and in valves, this not only damages them, but also causes back pressure to build up which places extra stress on water pumps. This can lead to those valves becoming stuck and not opening or closing properly, and that in turn can lead to pump failure from increased workload. It is also not uncommon for us to see damage to circuit boards when pumps are under pressure.
When to schedule a coffee machine service
Perhaps we in the industry, do not do a good job of assisting coffee machine owners with information about the consequences of poor maintenance. Of course, doing so reduces the income potential of technical service providers because it is far more profitable to charge for a boiler element replacement than it is for promoting the use of descaling protocols that will extend the life of that element. Still, we prefer to form long term partnerships with our clients and that means building loyalty through transparency.
Our advice is that servicing should be done at regular intervals determined by the number of kilograms of coffee processed through a coffee machine or grinder. Taking grinders as an example, we recommend that steel grinder blades should be replaced every 600kg in a Mazzer Super Jolly grinder and every 1000kg in a Mazzer Major V grinder. This allows good coffee grind parameters while avoiding pressure on the grinder motor brought on by blunt blades.
We have a coffee machine service schedule set out for every coffee machine and grinder that we service. This includes the typical cost of a service and the spare parts needed for that item, and this not only allows owners to budget for the services, but also to more accurately determine the costs of making a cup of coffee. This in turn allows better financial management and removes the tendency to skimp on maintenance because income and expenditure can be better planned.
Our approach is then to not only deliver financial savings over the long run, but also to do the servicing at the right time to maximise the life of the parts that need replacing and to avoid as best we can, the chances of an actual breakdown.
The choice is yours of course, but when you do come to make the decision, make sure you choose the right service provider by asking yourself these five questions.