GUEST POST FROM: Daily Espresso
We’re sure you’ll agree that the humble coffee machine is quite possibly the most important appliance in your home. It can therefore be hard to part with your trusty old friend, especially if it’s been with you through thick and thin, from bistro boy to macchiato man.
Still, you avoid replacing it, foolishly believing it’s experience and enthusiasm gives out a richer, more satisfying experience.
Alternatively, you may have noticed that your usually reliable and not so old-trusty hasn’t been keeping up lately, leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth after your morning cuppa.
Nobody wants to witness the death of a coffee machine, it’s a messy business, both metaphorically and literally, and spotting the signs of a breakdown could save you and your kitchen top from a very traumatic experience.
Many problems can likely be fixed if you're fast-acting, but it’s important to spot the signs before they become unsolvable.
Typical machines have a lifespan of 3 to 10 years, but what are the tell-tale signs that yours needs a service or even worse, replacing? Here are the top five warning signs your coffee machine is about to pack it in:
- Coffee Getting Colder
Sure, ice-cool coffee might be pretty popular these days, but if your machine can’t serve a standard hot coffee anymore, can it really be any good?
We don’t need to tell you that your espresso maker is well and truly kaput once it starts churning out tepid, murky old bathwater, but there are ways to tell if your coffee machine has a heating malfunction well before the ice age sets in!
The heating elements in a coffee machine can wear out over time and you can begin to spot this early if your model is pumping out weak, under-extracted brews with a sour taste.
This is because the lower a coffee machine’s heat output, the slower and less effective the extraction time is, as it can’t effectively remove the sweet tangs of coffee and caffeine you're looking for.
So if things are seemingly a little sour and watery, make sure you get things seen too before the fire officially goes out.
- Puddles & Drips
We don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but if the area around your coffee machine is starting to look like an oil spill, there’s clearly some trouble at the old mill.
We’re often used to seeing a few leaks here and there when it comes to elderly espresso or bean-to-cup machines, especially if they’re a knackered old office model.
But this isn’t something to patch up with a band aid and move on, as fixing this issue requires some refined keyhole surgery.
Puddles and drips aren’t a sign of you being careless or overzealous as many people assume and they’re in fact a sign of struggling seals that have become brittle and are no longer holding together as they should!
Should you allow things to go on unresolved, you’ll probably end up with your very own miniature Thames flowing along the kitchen bench and almost nothing in your cup.
- Burnt Taste
Some people are strange when it comes to burnt things aren’t they? You know the ones, those folk who prefer a good bit of burnt toast to a nice slice o’ white with a bit of butter.
But be warned you fans of the bitter and burnt tasting coffee: your espresso is not evolving to your liking or becoming more refined, but rather degrading right before your eyes and taste buds.
Let us be clear, burning the coffee isn’t a normal occurrence on a high quality coffee machine. You can certainly over-extract or over do it, but it’s not like leaving something too long in the oven.
If you’re picking up a hint of charred cappuccino, the likely culprit is water scaling trapped in the lines of the machine.
After a period of time, this can cause the heat exchange to become riddled with scale build-up, which means the coffee is at risk of becoming burnt by uncontrolled hot water.
There’s a reason why cleaning and descaling your machine is so important!
- Steam & Water Smell
While there’s nothing better than the scent of freshly brewed coffee, there’s certainly nothing worse than the pong of a calcium-ridden espresso maker.
Once again, we really do recommend you make descaling your tank a frequent function of your monthly maintenance, as not only can limescale start clogging up the gears, but it can also make your drink icky and your stomach ticky.
When scale finds its way into the boiler and the lines, it begins to infect the hot water and steam functions resulting in not just stanky water, but manky water too.
If you start getting some seriously offensive whiffs or the water tastes off, your machine has probably got itself a fatal case of calcium-deposit disease.
- Can’t Handle The Pressure
For those with steam-driven units, you’ll know that great quality coffee is completely reliant on high-pressured steam, as this is the function that forces water through your coffee and creates a satisfying extraction.
Without sufficient pressure in the boiler, a coffee machine will begin struggling to dispense enough steam or hot water required to form a brew.
This often signals the beginning of the end, as a lack of steam pressure is usually an indicator that the boiler and all its components are starting to overfill and struggling not to malfunction.
Take Home Message
Perhaps the simplest, yet most effective way to keep your coffee machine in great shape is to clean and descale it regularly.
Use the correct sized grind for your machine, regularly replace any perishable parts, and if you’re lucky enough to have a pricier bean-to-cup machine or a commercial model then make sure to have your machine serviced in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
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About the Author
Founded in 2018, Daily Espresso is a family run website sharing the passion of ‘all things coffee’. Their small team includes enthusiasts with a wealth of experience, having owned, operated and sold coffee businesses from boutique to wholesale. They offer their insight for those who enjoy coffee as much as they do.