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Tackling A Dirty Super Automatic Grinder

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

Come in close, a little closer…too close. I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret; chances are you really don’t need to clean your super automatic grinder as often as you think. If you’re not a big flavored or oily bean user, you’ll probably never experience a dirty-grinder related problem. However, if your coffee flow isn’t what it used to be or the machine is telling you to fill a bean hopper that’s already full, a good cleaning is in order.
Don’t worry; just follow the few simple steps listed below and you’ll have a squeaky clean grinder in no time.

  1. Remove the bean hopper cover and take a vacuum to those beans!
  2. You should see three screws holding the hopper in place, a Phillips head screwdriver will take them off without problem.  Make sure you put the screws in a safe place; you don’t want to be scrambling to find them later on!
  3. Detach the rubber gasket from the top of the grinder. You’ll notice a lot of parts at this point, but, don’t worry; you’ll only be dealing with two pieces. The inner ring is the first piece of the equation; it’s the rubber gasket that sits on four visible tabs. The other part you should look for is the outer ring, which has teeth on it and covers half of the grinder’s circumference. .
  4. Rotate the outer ring 180 degrees counterclockwise and you’ll be able to lift it right out. (Hint: the red mark on the outer ring should be in the 9 o’clock position when you’re removing the part.)  
  5. Take up your trusty vacuum, again, and suck up any left-over coffee grounds.
  6. Hopefully, you have a pipe cleaner handy at this point. Use the pipe cleaner to clear the pathway to the front of the machine. That’s it! You’re done; the rest is just putting everything back into place.
  7. Put the rubber gasket back, making sure to line it up with the four tabs on the inner ring. At this point, you should rotate the outer ring, so that the red and blue marks line up with their respective colors on the inner ring.
  8. Make sure the dosage control, located to the right of the grinder, is all the way back. Then, put your bean hopper cover back in place and reset the grind knob to “0” and the dosage knob to “+”.
  9. Reattach the bean hopper cover with the three screws you removed earlier and you’re back in business!

See, it wasn’t that hard, was it?

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Don't Forget To Backflush!

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

If you haven't backflushed in a while, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Wait! Perhaps I should stop and explain! "Backflushing" is the process used to clean the brew group and three-way valve of an espresso machine. Ideally, machines that experience heavy use (10 or more drinks a day) should be backflushed on a weekly basis. If you use your machine less than 10 times a day, we usually recommend that you backflush every week and a half or so. Deviate from the schedule too much and you could experience bitter, rancid-tasting coffee and a clogged shower screen.

Backflush Like A Pro!
To begin the backflusing process, remove the filter basket from your portafilter and insert a backflush disc (usually included with your machine). Then, put approximately ½ a teaspoon of backflush cleaner into the basket, reattach your portafilter to the brew group, and turn on the pump. After 20 seconds, the pump will become very quiet as pressure builds up, at this time you should turn the pump off. You'll then hear a whooshing sound as the cleaner gets injected into the brew group, through the three-way valve, and empties into the drip tray.

Repeat this process until the foam coming out into the drip tray is clean; remove and rinse the portafilter once the backflushing has been completed. Now, you'll want to put the handle back into the machine again and flush your machine a few more times, using only water.

Any prosumer or commercial machines such as the ECM, WEGA or Pasquini should be backflushed on a regular basis. If your espresso machine is being used in a commercial setting, it should be backflushed at the end of every day. Home users who are especially particular about their espresso, could backflush their machines every day for best results.

Special Note: There are a few home machines that have three-way valves, but the manufacturer recommends that you do not backflush them. These include the Gaggia machines and the Rancilio Silvia. If you're unsure of whether your espresso machine can be backflushed, please consult your user manual.

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Decalcify for Better Brews

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:51 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

Calcium, good for bones…bad for espresso machines. Over time, calcium and mineral deposits can take its toll on your beloved espresso machine, clogging up water lines and valves, even corrupting the integrity of the boiler—lowering capacity and, yes, even jeopardizing your warranty!

Not decalcifying or descaling, as it is some times called, would be like running your car on old, grimy oil. Believe me, neither is a good idea. And, if you value your taste buds, failing to decalcify is akin to playing Russian roulette with your java. Excessive build up can have a negative impact on the taste of your coffee, as well as your ability to froth milk.

Besides, dirty machines are just gross! Have you seen those commercials for Drano? Those “before” drains…yeah, imagine drinking coffee made from that!

Now that I’ve got your attention, or scarred you for life, whichever, let’s go over some decalcifying basics.

Cleaning? Descaling
Washing your car isn’t the same as getting an engine flush. Cleaning your machine has little to do with descaling.

Cleaning an espresso machine usually involves removing coffee oils and old grounds from the unit. Decalcifying refers to removing minerals from the boiler, interconnected tubing, and other internal components. To keep your machine running in tip-top shape, we recommend descaling every three months.

How to Decalcify According to Different Types of Espresso Machines
Before we get started, it is important to note these descaling processes only apply to super and semi automatic home machines. Most commercial units, with exchangers, operate a little differently. So, if you’re a home user, read on!

Super Automatic Machines
Even though all super automatic espresso machines should be decalcified, actual descaling methods may differ from machine to machine.

You’re in luck if your super automatic has an automated descaling cycle! These units are a breeze to decalcify; the machine will walk you through the process step-by-step. If this is your first time descaling you machine, check out the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Don’t sweat it if your super auto requires manual descaling! It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, take a look at your user’s manual, it should tell you which decalcifying cleaner is recommended for your machine. Once you’ve located the correct cleaner, the actual descaling process should take no more than 20 minutes.

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir

1) Remove the water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water and add one packet of the recommended cleaner.
3) Stir the mixture until the cleaner is completely dissolved.
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set your container below the steam wand.
6) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand
7) Open the steam valve
8) Discard the container once all of the decalcifying solution has been drained from your machine
9) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly, fill it with water, and put it back into place
10) Using only water repeat steps 4 through 8 until the water reservoir is, once again,  empty.

Voila! You’re done! Your machine is ready to brew. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Semi-automatic Machines

You must descale manually for all semi-automatic machines. Once again, read your user’s manual to find the recommended cleaner for your machine. Then, it’s just a matter of following the instructions listed below:

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir
· A second, smaller container

1) Remove the machine’s water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water.
3) Add one packet of the recommended cleaner to the water reservoir
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set the large container below the steam wand
6) Set the smaller container underneath the brew spout to collect any decalcifying solution that may come out of it
7) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand and press the brew button to begin the process
8) Press the brew button and open the steam valve
9) Let approximately 8oz of water come out of the machine
10) Turn off the brew button and close the steam valve.
11) Let the machine sit for amount of time specified on the cleaner packaging.
12) Repeat steps 8 - 11 until all of the decalcifying solution has drained into the containers.
13) Remove both containers and discard the liquid that has been collected.
14) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly and then fill it with water
15) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
16) Rinse out the decalcifying solution by repeating steps 5 through 8 until the water reservoir is empty again.

That’s it, you’re done!

Regardless of whether you have a super- or semi-automatic, don’t let calcium and mineral deposits take over your machine. Decalcify, all it takes is 20 minutes to keep your espresso machine brewing for years to come.

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