What is the 'Pro Renewal Process'?
Our Pro Renewal process follows 6 principles based on the state and lifespan of its parts. We break down our process of renewing a machine in 6 easy steps.
Pro Renewal Process:
- Inspect & Diagnose
- Repair what’s broken
- Extend lifespan by replacing near end-of-life components
- Clean & rebuild group heads and steam assemblies; address boilers
- Ensure it looks good
- Final bench testing
Here’s how we do it:
1) Inspect & Diagnosis
We run an initial battery of tests to see if there major issues that jump out at us. Notably, for us this includes measuring temperature and pressure at the group head. While this isn't common practice, for us it's vital - you can't ensure the machine can make quality coffee without verifying brew pressure and temperature at the group head. Then we'll proceed to inspect internal components, drain the boilers / heat exchanger and look inside to see if we have any scale or foreign substance issues that need to be addressed.
2) Repair what's broken
While many machines we encounter work flawlessly, others simply don't work or they’re working suboptimally - e.g. the steam is wet, flow rates are off, temperature or pressure at the group isn’t right, etc. In those instances, we go ahead and diagnose and repair the issue.
3) Extend lifespan
Espresso machines have very long lifespans. Between the hydraulics and electronics, there’s not much that can go wrong. That said, other parts, particularly mechanical parts, have limited lifespans. You may know that some parts should be replaced every year as part of a preventative maintenance program. But for us, it means something different. When we’re looking at a 3+ year-old machine, sometimes we’re looking at components that are at or have exceeded their life expectancy. For some it's a matter of "if it's not broke, don't fix it" or "I've replaced a part before and it failed anyways, you just don't know so why bother!?" - yep, we've heard it all.
For us it's a matter of probabilities. Namely, what's the probability a component we leave in a machine will fail in the next few years? If we're looking at a 5-year-old machine that has a component with a life expectancy of 5-7 years, then that component should be replaced or rebuilt. Could it last another 5 years? Could we replace the part and then that part fail in the next year? Absolutely and we've seen it! But the reality is that those are exceptions. While both of those scenarios are possible and do happen, it's more likely that a component that’s exceeded it’s life expectancy will fail sooner rather than later, and for us that cost benefit analysis is pretty simple. It's much cheaper for us to replace an inexpensive part now than for our client to hire a technician 1 year from now to replace that same part.
4) Clean and rebuild group heads and steam assemblies; address boilers
In an espresso machine, the rubber meets the road at the group heads and steam wands. This is where you'll see 90%+ of the wear and coffee / scale buildup. Frequently we'll see very minimal scale buildup in boilers or heat exchange and see lots of it in the group heads. That's because you have tiny jets and spaces there that lend themselves to getting gunked up. These are also the areas that will have the biggest impact on taste and whether your machine goes down next year. After years of coffee buildup, a backflush isn't going to do the trick; they need to be completely cleaned and rebuilt. As part of this process, we’re assessing whether a boiler needs to be descaled and flushing the boilers and ensuring they’re clean. We’ll use the proper detergent if we find a coffee or milk contamination issue.
To descale or not to descale?
To start, it’s important to understand what makes scale a problem. Scale typically doesn’t directly impact espresso taste unless you have a ton of it. Nor will it directly impact your steam as those minerals are being left behind in the steam boiler when you steam your next latte. However, if there’s a lot of scale, it will indirectly impact taste and performance. How? It decreases the efficiency of heat transfer by lining your heating elements and heat exchanger tubes. That results in lower temperature extraction (flat espresso) and weaker / wetter steam production. The second indirect impact is the clogging of valves and jets in the hot water sections of your machine; primarily the group heads and steam assemblies. Typically you’ll have issues here years before you’ll ever have a heating or taste issue - which is why we always clean and rebuild them. Because minerals scale up in relation to temperature, you typically won’t see scale in the cold water portion of your machine before scale builds up in hot water areas.
So how do we decide whether or not to descale the boilers? We use the same probability logic as when replacing / rebuilding components - we ask ourselves ‘will scale become an issue in the next few years?’ If the machine has minimal scale buildup in the boilers / heat exchanger, then descaling isn’t going to materially improve lifespan. If we see a lot of scale, even if it isn’t impacting group pressure or temperature yet, it’s something that needs to be addressed.
5) Ensure it looks good
While it's the first thing you see, it’s kind of the least important part of the process - a pig with lipstick is still a pig, right? That said, it's obviously important. Nobody is going to pay commercial espresso machine money for an ugly machine. Our pictures tell the story. Some machines are great as is, others we polish or paint as needed.
6) Final bench testing
This includes running the machine for hours, testing thermal stability at the groups, group pressure tests, flow rate tests, etc. Basically, we're simply verifying whether it's capable of making great coffee under pressure. That's what it's all about, right?