When is it Time to Replace Your Commercial Coffee Maker?

Coffee may be a central component of your concept or an item that you only serve once in a while with dessert or breakfast. Either way, you depend on your commercial coffee maker to brew up a hot, fresh pot when you need one, and an out-of-service or poorly performing coffee machine can cost you in sales and leave you with some disgruntled, caffeine-deprived customers. Avoid a costly breakdown by understanding these signs that it's time to replace your worn-out machine or invest in some new coffee equipment.

  • You Can't Keep Up with Customer Demand

    Customers expect speedy service, especially when they're just ordering a cup of coffee. If you find yourself making customers wait more than a couple of minutes on a cup of coffee because demand for the drink has outpaced your ability to keep up, it may be time to upgrade to a machine that can handle a higher volume of orders.

    If you're having trouble fulfilling orders for drip coffee, the solution may simply be investing in a second or third brewer. An average commercial coffee machine is capable of producing about 4 gallons of coffee per hour. If your average coffee-ordering guest drinks 12 ounces, then one brewer will be capable of serving about 42 guests an hour. Dual brewers make good solutions for addressing particularly high-volume demand.

    If you aren't already, consider brewing your coffee into insulated airpots, rather than glass decanters. These dispensers can keep a supply of coffee on hand and ready to serve, and you can put them on a serving line so guests can help themselves. A couple of these vessels filled with hot coffee will also give you a buffer against a sudden pop in demand that can create a bottleneck in your service.

    If it's high demand for espresso drinks that's creating long lines, consider whether your baristas are still pulling shots the old-fashioned way with a machine that requires them to grind and tamp the coffee. If they are, you may want to replace or supplement your existing machine with a superautomatic espresso machine that grinds and tamps the coffee for you. Superautomatic machines reduce the entire process of brewing a shot to the press of a button. This method can trim valuable seconds off of the time it takes to prepare an espresso drink and keep customer traffic flowing smoothly.

  • Your Machine Has Succumbed to Limescale

    Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals, especially calcium, that are absorbed as rainwater flows through the ground to your utility's source water. Hard water is mostly harmless to people, but its minerals can wreak havoc on certain types of restaurant equipment, commercial coffee makers being one.

    Minerals in hard water can build up on certain coffee maker components over time. It's easy to see when external pieces like the sprayhead have been affected, because they'll develop a chalky, white residue that can be cleaned off with a solution of water and vinegar or an approved cleaner. Unfortunately, limescale also builds up on the inside of equipment in places that you can't see, especially inside water tanks and around heating elements.

    You can maximize your equipment's useful life by practicing regular deliming procedures according to your equipment's manual, but eventually, limescale may accumulate to a point that diminishes the machine's production capacity or causes an all-out failure.

  • The Machine Leaks

    Constant heating, cooling, and exposure to running water will take a toll on even the most durable commercial coffee equipment. That stress may eventually cause certain coffee maker components to fail or become loose. The first sign of this type of damage often comes in the form of a leak - you may find pools of water forming around the equipment. Another sign of leaking may be that your equipment isn't brewing a full volume of coffee. These leaks can cause safety and sanitation issues, and they can even carry the risk of electrical shock.

    The tubes that carry water through your commercial coffee machine are among the pieces most prone to failure. Other times, leaks are caused by failed gaskets or seals. Some leaky components can be repaired or replaced, while you may need to buy a whole new brewer for other issues.

  • The Machine is Rusted

    Well-maintained stainless steel is highly resistant to rust. That's because the chrome it contains protects the metal's iron from reacting with oxygen and producing corrosion. However, dents, scratches, and exposure to the right conditions can still cause high-quality steel to develop rust. These conditions include exposure to acidic chemicals, dents, scratches, and scale buildup. Even when rusted components seem only to be a cosmetic issue, health inspectors may demand that the equipment be taken out of service.

    To protect your brewer from rust, follow all of the cleaning and maintenance procedures outlined in the equipment's manual. Clean only with chemicals that have been approved by the manufacturer.

  • Coffee Sales are Down

    Consumers' tastes change, and keeping up with those changes can be challenging. If you've seen coffee sales slip, it's unlikely that your consumers stopped drinking coffee. You may just need to retool your coffee program to better appeal to your customers' current palates. Focus on the process of brewing the coffee. Grind your coffee in-house from quality beans, and brew it with a clean, well-maintained brewer using filtered water.

    Maybe drip-brewed coffee has fallen out of favor with your clientele, and now they prefer espresso drinks. You may consider investing in an espresso machine so you can refresh your menu with perennial favorites like cappuccinos and lattes. Entry-level espresso machines cost a few thousand dollars, but espresso drinks fetch premiums that will pay for the equipment relatively quickly.