Category Archives: Tips – Tech

New! Ascaso Brew Head Upgrade Kit

Love your Ascaso Basic, Dream, Arc or UNO Special Edition espresso machine but wish that it produced a better shot? Well, we did, too — so we talked with Ascaso and asked them about creating an upgrade kit! While the original screen and water delivery works well for E.S.E. pods, its concentrated-stream functionality just doesn’t properly moisten ground coffee to the level required for a great extraction, so the upgrade kit includes an improved screen that showers water more evenly across the coffee.

The resulting espresso is rich, creamy and has a thicker crema — as good as any shot you’d pull from a Rancilio Silvia. This easy-to-install upgrade is essential, we think, but especially so if you dig using ground coffee in your Ascaso.

Tech Tip: Removable Brew Group Maintenance

This tip goes out to all of you Saeco superautomatic espresso machine owners out there. Keep your machine humming along by taking regular care of the removable brew group — we suggest performing the following tasks about once a week (more or less depending on your usage):

  1. Remove the group and thoroughly rinse with very hot water — do not use soap
  2. Older models with a removable screen: Take it off (by unscrewing the screw in the middle) and wash it thoroughly — you will find there is a fine coffee silt behind it
  3. Lubricate all moving parts with a food grade lubricant (give us a call if you need ideas on where to get this)
  4. When the group is out of the machine, thoroughly wipe down the interior chamber to make sure all of the connection points are grounds-free

UPDATE: Watch Gail perform maintenance on the Saeco Talea Giro superautomatic espresso machine

Cleancaf or Dezcal?

Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.

Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.

If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.

Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.

Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.

Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.

Tech Tip: Backflush Flashback


If you have a semi-automatic espresso machine with a 3-way pressure release, or solenoid, valve, you need to backflush it on a regular basis to keep the machine in fine working order. Backflushing will clean up behind the screen and into the brewing system, cleaning out coffee or grounds residue and reducing the potential for clogs.You can watch Dane as he cleans a Rocket Giotto, or follow these steps:

  1. Replace brew basket with a blind basket in the portafilter (or you can use this universal insert in your existing basket)
  2. Place 1/2 teaspoon of a backflush detergent such as Cafiza or Joe Glo (Important: make sure it indicates backflushing as its primary use on the label — do not use Dezcal or any other standard detergent here!)
  3. Insert the portafilter into the brew group and initiate a shot
  4. Allow the pump to run about 4 – 5 seconds maximum
  5. Turn the pump off and allow the water and suds to release through the valve
  6. Repeat this process until the water coming out of the valve is clear and suds-free
  7. Remove the portafilter, rinse it in cool water to cool it down and then switch out the baskets again
  8. Before you pull your first shot, run a blank shot through the system to make sure there is no residue leftover

Tech Tip: Grindhouse

Regular maintenance of all your espresso or coffee related apparatus is essential to extending their longevity in your home or office. We talk a lot about how to keep your espresso machine healthy, but grinders need a little love, too!

One easy way to do this is, once a week, adjust your grinder to the coarsest setting possible, then run it for a few minutes to flush out any fine grinds that may be stuck around the blades, etc. This regular maintenance will decrease the likelihood of clogs and ensure evenness in grind. We recommend doing this on all stand-alone grinders and also if you have an espresso machine or coffee maker that features an internal grinder.

How To: Boiler Draining

If you’re planning on transporting or storing your machine, it’s important that you drain the boiler of any residual water from the last use. The main reason is so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and damage the internal components.

Here’s a guide on how you can drain your boiler before you store or ship it. This care tip is essential to the longevity of your machine, so don’t skip it!

How To: Brew Group Maintenance

You may be sensing a theme here…keep it clean! The best way to keep your machine out of the repair shop and performing optimally is to regularly maintain all of its components.

Your machine’s brew group is arguably the most important part, so taking the time to keep it in tip top shape means it will give you delicious espresso shots for years to come.

We’ve compiled some how-to tips for each of the basic styles of home espresso machines. If you need more assistance, refer to your user manual or give us a call.

Tech Tip: Don’t Burn the Midnight Oil

We often see single boiler machines (such as some models from Rancilio Silvia, Ascaso Dream Up) that have suffered from one of the silent ills of home espresso machines: Heat element abuse.

Sure, this is a something no one wants to talk about — it’s ugly, it’s bloated and it’s burned out. This is not a sexy subject, but we can’t stand by any longer and watch as it’s so cavalierly swept under the rug! It’s time for us to take a stand…and let you know how you can keep your single boiler machine from becoming just another expensive statistic.

Our How to Brew & Steam – Rancilio Silvia article outlines the basic brewing process that you should follow for any single boiler machine: Namely, steam your milk first and then pull your shots. Following this process enables the machine to pump in and steam the appropriate amount of water necessary to first steam a 12 – 16 oz. quantity of milk and then brew an espresso shot. If you do the opposite and brew the shot before you steam the milk, it will empty out the boiler and, the next time you go to make your coffee, it will attempt to warm nonexistent water, fatiguing the element over time and eventually burning it out.

This burn out could be the end result of hundreds of tiny daily misuses or happen in one big event — like when you’re having a party and need to make many lattes at one time. For the latter, be sure to follow the brewing guidelines and serve your guests coffee in shifts. Make some jokes. Show them how charming you are. Do whatever you need to do — just don’t abuse your espresso machine.

Above Picture: Rancilio Silvia heating element burned out (top) and brand new (bottom)

Tech Tip: Keep your Hose Clean!

Is your machine having trouble steaming? Do you find that it’s difficult to dispense water for your Americano or a cup of tea? The last time you tried to use it, did the steam wand’s knob blow off, fly across the room and hit someone in the side of the head?

Home espresso should not be a contact sport! Long term uncleanliness can result in clogs of extremely disgusting proportions (such as the internal portion of a Saeco superautomatic frothing wand).

Keep the green cheese out of your frothy milk by thoroughly rinsing out the milk frothing components after each use. You can easily do this by running hot water/steam through the system until it runs clear. Additionally, in superautomatics with automated cappuccino or frothing functionality, we recommend a full weekly cleanse utilizing a cleansing agent such as Urnex Rinza.

Superautomatics: No Love for the Oily Bean

One of the most common issues we see in our repair shop is a Superautomatic machine (such as a Saeco, DeLonghi or Jura Capresso) with a non-functional grinder. Often, the ‘Out of Beans’ light will be on, regardless of how many beans are in the hopper, and the grinder will cease functioning properly.

The cause? Those super dark roasted, oily beans! Superautomatics require a very dry bean, as the oilier beans leave too much moisture in the hopper and the grinder, eventually building up and clogging the machine. We really recommend that you try a lighter, drier roast, but if you just can’t break your addiction to oily beans, here are a couple of tips to keep your machine from breaking down over time:

  1. Each time you refill your hopper, thoroughly wipe out the entire accessible area with a highly absorbent paper towel
  2. Super fine grinds + oily beans = coffee cement, so dial your grinder in to the coarsest possible setting and you’ll mitigate some of the issue
  3. Regular maintenance & cleaning of your superautomatic will reduce the build-up from oily beans