Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.
Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.
You may recall a post we wrote last year that measured the temperature in a Technivorm thermal carafe, testing it at brew and then tracking it hour by hour to see how the temperature held up over time. In general, we have had a small percentage of customers report that their new Technivorm coffee makers don’t brew hot enough; after testing some returned models, speaking with the manufacturer and testing known working models, we determined that, ultimately, this was largely a question of personal preference.
Some people love their coffee to be really, really hot — and that’s cool! But the Technivorm is designed with a different end goal in mind. Watch as Gail talks to us about what you can expect from this drip coffee maker.
DIY lovers are all into the idea of using lemon juice or vinegar to descale their machines, but while the latter will leave a nasty residue and we don’t recommend it for that reason, the former just isn’t concentrated enough to do as an effective job in as an efficient manner as a concentrated citric acid solution like Dezcal. This is what we find out from Gail, plus she makes freaky faces and it’s worth watching just for that.
Technivorms have been hailed as the drip coffee maker, primarily because they have excellent temperature regulation and are set to extract at just the right heat to get a rich, full flavored coffee without the bitterness (burnt/overextracted) or sourness (too cold/underextracted) that you sometimes find with other coffee makers that aren’t heating up to the ideal temp.
One thing that people have asked us is how hot the coffee is after it’s brewed, and then how long it stays hot when in the thermal carafe. So this week we brewed up a pot and then tracked its temperature throughout the day, with the following results:
|Freshly Brewed Out of Thermo-Carafe||180 degrees|
|1-Hour Later||172 degrees|
|2-Hours Later||162 degrees|
|3-Hours Later||160 degrees|
|4-Hours Later||158 degrees|
|5-Hours Later||150 degrees|
|36-Hours Later||105 degrees in a 75 degree room|
Look, we’re not joking. Yes, there are a lot of things we poke fun at and crack wise about, but scale build-up in your boiler is absolutely not one of them. And it will never be — oh no, we are deadly serious about this.
Okay, not really, but scale build-up is often underestimated by folks. They think that by using filtered or bottled water, they won’t need to descale their espresso machine, and this just isn’t the truth. While these waters may have other impurities removed from them, they often have the same mineral content (and, in the case of bottled water, it may even be significantly higher, depending on the source) as your tap water. Using distilled water, water put through a reverse osmosis or a commercial-grade water design system like Cirqua are the primary methods for keeping lime and calcium from building up in your espresso machine’s boiler and related water works, but it’s important to note that mineral content in water does play an important role: It contributes to the flavor.
So if you don’t like the way the water from these treatment sources taste, how do you think it’s going to make your coffee taste? We recommend using water you like to drink to make espresso, which will often involve a regular descale to keep everything working well. Scale build-up will symptomatically show up as failure or very slow to heat up, not enough steaming pressure and/or leaking out of the steam wand and the brew head. Here in the Seattle area, we have pretty soft water, but other areas of the country have very hard water — and if you’re pulling straight from a well instead of the municipal water supply, you likely have a high mineral content.
A few months ago, we received a Rancilio Silvia V2 that was a few years old on a trade-in. The owner lived in Southern California and had never descaled the machine, so the guys put it through a commercial level descale just to start it off — high intensity citric acid was pulled into the boiler and allowed to sit overnight. When they came in the next day and rinsed it through, the machine was still exhibiting signs of scale build up, so they decided to crack it open to see if it was something more than scale. What they found is in the pictures accompanying this post — yes, this is scale build-up that was not able to be dissolved by the citric acid over a 24 hour period. The guys cleaned it out thoroughly and now it’s working just fine — and, obviously, this is representative of scale build up using the municipal supply in Southern California and will differ by region — but if the original owner had continued to use it without descaling, eventually everything would have burned out. It was caught just in time, however, so now it has a happy home somewhere else.
Not sure how to descale? Watch Gail descale a Rancilio Silvia and give tips on how to do this on other types of espresso machines.
The only drip coffee brewer recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America for brewing at the optimal temperature, Technivorm’s Moccamaster features an innovative shower head which delivers water more evenly across the coffee to improve flavor extraction. In this video, Gail talks about the Moccamaster’s features and brews us a cup of coffee.