Espresso machine Maintenance: Preventive Vs. Ad Hoc

SO…you’ve invested money, time and effort into your coffee programme. The centerpiece of which is the coffee machine. It’s the lifeblood of your organisation. For a cafe a beautiful coffee machine is the main attraction. For your office it’s where office morale is won or lost.

A coffee machine is a highly complex system that has heat, water, coffee oils, milk and electronics all tightly jammed into a little sealed box. It’s a perfect recipe for intense wear and tear unless you take regular preventive care to ensure its smooth running.

Murphy’s law is an adage that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. In the case of espresso machines you can go ahead and add “…at the wrong time.” to the law. More often than not a coffee machine tends to break down at its highest load setting. This means that most of the fault calls that our technical teams attend to are usually during peak hours.  With the machine down and not performing optimally, our client’s often face the gamut of upset customers to lost sales.

To better understand the importance of regular equipment upkeep we have to see where the common culprits are that that wear down your beloved coffee machine:

Scale, scale everywhere

Every coffee machine has one primary component. A boiler that heats up the incoming water supply for either brewing or steaming milk. Compounded by high heat and high pressure, the water precipitates primarily calcium and magnesium onto the inner surfaces of the boiler and related piping systems. Fluid flow becomes inconsistent if not blocked. Valves and sensors will start to get fouled by scale build up. Imagine cholesterol blocking your arteries and stopping blood from flowing. That’s about what scale does to a coffee machine.

Coffee residue build up

The more coffee you make the more coffee residue, primarily oils, will build up and can either choke the brewing pathways, cause uneven extraction or alter the flavours of your coffee but not in a good way.


A humid, steam-filled environment full of metal parts is a perfect place for rust to form and oxidise. Over time, rubber gaskets and seals will eventually wear down and release what they were designed to contain (water, steam), causing rust and water damage that , if not detected early can cause irreparable damage to your coffee machine.


Sensitive electronic parts have predetermined life spans that will only reduce if proper care is not taken. If any leaks or worn parts in the machine result in steam, heat or electrical loading to come into contact with the “brains” of the system, the coffee machine more often than not will come to a standstill. Similarly mechanical parts are most prone to wear and tear but the good news is primary mechanical parts ike buttons and valves are easy to diagnose and spot during preventive maintenance checks.

Grinder systems

Often overlooked but equally critical to maintain are grinders. WIth all the coffee brewed going through them, the grinder is the first point of wear for any coffee programme. Dirty hoppers, a build up of old coffee grounds can all contribute to fouling the quality of your freshly ground coffee. Old grounds can also cake up and increase the friction load on the grinder blades and motors, causing premature wear and overheating of the coffee grounds. Dull blades are also a significant culprit in ensuring early demise of an overworked and overheated motor in the grinder.

At Caffeine Solutions we always believe that prevention will always be better than a cure. Preventive Maintenance is a series of scheduled service calls that maintain the overall lifespan of the coffee system and reduces the total cost of ownership. Scheduled PM’s also allow the machine to be operational during peak hours and maintained during off-peak periods.   

We also believe in technology and innovation to improve the operational efficiency, life-cycle and cost of ownership for the equipment we maintain.  Our cloud-based work management system logs all PM cycles with clients and we track the health of their machines throughout it’s lifetime. Our PM checklist, depending on the size and type of coffee machine used, follows a 21-37 point checklist. This checklist covers all essential systems inclusive of calibration and communication and training to all stakeholders involved.

More frequently so, our clients are now implementing IOT enabled coffee machines that can send data to our preventive maintenance team to monitor. This reduces user error, allows accurate diagnostics off site and even helps us work with our clients on enforcing proper usage and maintenance. In 2020, integrating cloud based IOT management of our client’s equipment will be one of our main strategies to further enhance our service level to our clients.

What it comes down to? Prevention is better than cure.