Every morning your coffee machine spews out the liquid that makes getting out of bed, somewhat easier. It offers comfort mid-morning and certainly gives you that “pick-me-up” during the afternoon lull. Then depending on your preference, it can close off a perfect dinner too.
That is, until it stops working.
The reasons that coffee machines fail is due to one or more of three reasons – water related issues, electrical issues, or mechanical issues.
Water quality and coffee machines
Since water makes up around 98% of every coffee you drink, a lot of it moves through your coffee machine. The problem is that this water can be corrosive and damage metallic components or it can contain minerals such as calcium carbonate that deposit calcium scale on those same metallic parts.
Water that is low in pH or general hardness tends to corrode metal and can leave pitting in boilers and reduce tolerances in vital components like valves. However, the more common problem is scale build-up which reduces temperature transfer in boilers and causes blockages and increased strain on moving parts like valves. Over time, this increased strain can cause failures.
We believe that if you have a regular coffee machine service, you will save money over time. Coffee machine repairs can be expensive. Just descaling your boiler from time to time will reduce your electricity consumption as heat transfer from metal to water is not blunted by a layer of insulating calcium carbonate on the surface of your boiler. It will also help prevent your valves becoming stuck, which will require removal, disassembly, and an acid bath cleaning procedure to remove the scale layer.
You can help prevent this by using a good water filter and performing regular descaling using descaling tablets or descaling liquid. Every so often, you’ll probably also need a major service where the boiler is removed and thoroughly cleaned. Your technical service company can guide you on when that is needed, and it will be linked to how much you use your machine.
Mechanical failures in coffee machines
After water quality, this is the next most common cause of coffee machine failures. Some failures are unpredictable and may result from a fault in the manufacturing process or simply old age or usage stress. For example, a substandard polymer used to manufacture a plastic part can have inadequate strength and result in a breakage; a part may be lacking in design; or a stone in your coffee may seriously damage grinder blades.
On the other hand, you can limit failures by carrying out preventative maintenance like changing O-rings or under-cup seals on a manual espresso coffee machine, at prescribed intervals. Seals are a very common point of failure because they are often exposed to heat, water of varying pH’s and friction when located in areas of moving parts. This will increase wear dramatically and over time they wear away and water leaks, or air leaks, result.
Every reputable technical service company will have a preventative maintenance schedule for the coffee machines they service. This will set out how many kilograms of coffee can be used before a certain part need replacing. This is critical for businesses that generate profit from their coffee machine and who cannot afford downtime, as much as it is for the home coffee machine owner who descends into a bout of depression when they cannot make their daily coffee.
Our advice is to follow the preventative maintenance schedule to avoid the more predictable issues with your coffee machine. Get the seals changed when scheduled because having water drip onto a grinder motor will not only result in the loss of the water seal, but may also require a potentially expensive grinder motor replacement, when it shorts out.
Also remember that regular servicing results in better quality coffee and increased hygiene as issues like dirt, mould, algae and pest removal can be handled at the same time.
Electrical failures in coffee machines
While there is much you can do to prevent water quality issues and mechanical failures through preventative maintenance, electrical failures are less predictable and less preventable. If you live in an area with an unstable power supply, the best you can do is to add a surge protection plug or work off a stabilised power supply like a UPS unit. Whatever you do, don’t mess with fuses by changing them yourself. We have seen a good number of burnt-out circuit boards because someone changed the circuit board fuse and replaced it with the wrong amperage.
Fortunately, electrical failures in well maintained machines are rare because they can be expensive, especially when a circuit board is damaged.
Just like your car, where you really don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere, you also don’t want your coffee machine failing you on a busy Saturday morning if you run a café or when entertaining guests at home. So just as you service your car, rather opt for preventative maintenance and have your coffee machine serviced as per the maintenance schedule. If you are unsure of when to do this, just contact us and we’ll help you after asking you how long you have had the machine, when you last had any repairs or maintenance done and how many cups you estimate you make a month. If you are handy and want to do your own coffee machine maintenance, we stock an extensive range of coffee machine spare parts that you can order (and we’ll guide you if you get stuck!).
We repair coffee machines every day for our clients and we know that if they have a coffee machine service on a regular basis, it really does save them money. So let us be of service to you too!