Friday, July 12, 2013

Portafilter and Spout Never Aligns Perpendicular!

 Did you ever notice on a brand new, traditional-style espresso machine that the portafilter's dual spout and the filter handle do not align perpendicular to the machine, so one can place two demitasse cups nicely side by side on the drip tray?

Well, on a brand new machine, this is absolutely normal. The portafilter gasket, the seal in the grouphead that the filter handle locks into, needs to be broken in. Over time, the spouts will align nicely. After this, the spouts will align to the opposite side as the portafilter gasket gets old and worn down.

The other cause whereby the intended alignment goes 'out of whack' is when one removes the spout from the portafilter assembly. Once you take off the spout, it is almost impossible to get it re-aligned. Therefore, Teflon tape needs to be used on the threads, or an NSF-approved sealant needs to be added to the threads before positioning the spout into place and allowed to dry for 24 hours.

Summertime Voltage Changes Impacts Espresso Machines Electrical Outlet
Outlet with GFI, but no surge suppressor.
At the start of the hot summer season, we receive inquiries about espresso machine performance degrading and sometimes possible or potential malfunctions. One area of our client's concern is steaming performance. This includes both home machine clients as well as our commercial clientele.

Most clients do not know that electric companies will alter the 'actual 'voltage' into residential homes and commercial facilities in order to meet the overall higher summer demand for electricity (example of Con Edison in NYC). The demand surge is caused by air conditioners as well as refrigerators and freezers which need to cycle on more often during the hotter summer months.

To meet this extra demand, the voltage is reduced by the power companies to avoid a systemic overload, which can result in brownouts or blackouts. For example, in my home during the past winter months, the voltage in my home ranges between 119 and 124 volts. On July, 12, 2013, the actual voltage in my kitchen outlet was no more than 113 volts. This 6-9 volt decrease in available voltage can have an impact on the performance of an espresso machine. The performance dip will mostly be seen in the recovery of the steaming capability and less often in the brewing function (except that taste and crema production can be impacted).

Your 1st-line Recommendations
a) Only power your espresso machine only for the period of use. If not using your machine within 2 hours, power to the 'off' state, and/or
b) Place a surge suppressor immediately before the machine's plug to protect it from the changes in voltage which can cause damage to your machines electronics or heating element, and/or
c) If leaving for an extended vacation, unplug your equipment from the outlet(s) before you leave.
d) In an office environment, schedule morning break periods for which the espresso equipment will be available to use.

Can you think of any other recommendations?