Written by Anthony C. Marano-Ducarne
The Pros and Cons of Leaving the Espresso Coffee Machine on 24/7
A question that is often asked regarding espresso coffee machines by restaurant owners and personal users. The question is asked in many ways, here is one version.
“Is it better to leave the espresso machine on all the time?”
Keeping the espresso machine on twenty-four hours a day seven days a week is a carryover habit that goes back to the old, old days. Although I had a strong suspicion why they encouraged keeping the machine on 24/7, no one that I ever met in the USA could ever give me a logical reason. Some years ago, during to one of my stays in Milan, Italy I decided to pose the question to a young espresso machine technician that I met through a mutual friend and he told me the following. His father and his grandfather and their acquaintances told him that the reason for keeping an espresso coffee machine constantly “fired” was because in the “old days” the material that was used to make seals and gaskets for the boiler and the pistons was very susceptible to leaks. This was due to the expansion and shrinkage that the copper and brass boiler experienced when it was heated and then cooled.
Back then it was almost a necessity to keep the boiler under some pressure in order to avoid extreme variances of temperature on the machine. Today those practices do not apply, primarily due to the development and use in manufacturing of new and better materials used for gaskets and seals that have greater elasticity and longevity.
Therefore, No! You do not have to keep the machine on twenty-four hours a day in order to insure good performance and the longevity of the gaskets and seals.
But the espresso coffee machine should be in optimal readiness to produce steam to froth the milk, for cappuccino, and to have the correct hot water temperature that is needed to make a perfect espresso coffee. Therefore I recommend the following: In a commercial enterprise you want the espresso machine to be in perfect operating condition long before you anticipate serving your first client. To properly prep your machine you should do the following: Your one group machine, with a four to six (4-6) lit boiler, should be turned on at least a least 20-30 minutes before you need to use the machine, about 40-50 minutes for a 2 group compact with an 8lit boiler, about 45 – 60 minutes for a two-group machine with a 14lit boiler and about 90 minutes for a 3-group machine with a 21lit boiler. You will know when the boiler has reached its proper heat level by checking the monometer (gauge) on the front of the machine. It should read 1.2 to 1.3 bars. Usually the vendor or technician who installed or serviced your espresso machine, pre-set the pressurestat to allow the heat/pressure to reach the atmospheric pressure of 1.2 to 1.3 bars. Ideally he also measured the temperature of the water, with a hand held thermometer, as it was being extracted through the portafilter into the coffee cup. The extracted water temperature should be at plus/minus 5ºF of the desired average temperature of 190ºF. The plus/minus variance of is due to the switching on and off of the heating element that’s regulated by the pressurestat who’s job it is to maintain the average temperature of 190ºF. The variance will not affect the quality or the taste of the coffee.
Generally speaking the temperature should not be set below 185ºF or above 197ºF and the pump pressure on the gauge should be set at 9-10 atmospheric degree pressures. After the machine’s boiler pressure (heat) has reached the proper level and the monometer reads 1.2 to1.3 bars, you should run water through the portafilter as if you were making an espresso. Run it for about 40 to 50 seconds so that your portafilter is hot. You should also open the steam valve knob to release some steam to flush the wand, for several seconds. At this point your espresso machine is ready and you can now start to make excellent cups of espresso for yourself and your clients.
Many people, in the USA and the rest of the Americas, in general, like the Europeans and Asians, have become very energy conscious and prefer to shut down any electrical appliance that will not be used for an extended period of time. To simplify the starting-up and shutting-down of the espresso machine, today’s modern technology has created an automatic solution, for example; the LIRA machine, made by BFC, in the two and three group models, can be very easily programmed to turn itself on in the morning or turn itself off in the evening at the proprietors desired choice of time.
I hope that I was able to give a concise answer and some useful suggestions. What it really boils down to is that one should do whatever is most convenient and profitable for the operation of the enterprise without compromising quality. One can choose to leave the machine on 24/7, shut it down at night or plan to include the programmable on/off feature in your next purchase of an espresso coffee machine.