Since we launched our new website with a selection of external-only parts, we’ve been hard at work building out kits that include parts and instructions for common espresso machine repairs. First to be released are the Tune Up kits for the Ascaso Dream and Rancilio Silvia. We also brought back the ever popular Rancilio Silvia Steam Wand Upgrade Kit for V1 and V2 machines.
The new Tune Up kits include all the parts you’ll need to refresh gaskets, seals, brew head screens and descale your machine — a process we recommend following every six months or so. We’re also including step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process.
The Steam Wand retrofit is a bit more complicated, as you do need to get inside your Silvia in order to upgrade the machine’s steam manifold and install a new steam knob. While we don’t provide specific written instructions for this, we did produce a demonstration video a few years ago that will walk you through the process.
Before picking up any of these kits, definitely read through the instructions (Ascaso Dream | Rancilio Silvia) or watch the video to confirm that you understand what you’re getting yourself into! Personally, we’ve always been able to get things apart … it’s the putting them back together again that’s the challenge.
For those of you looking to pick up a mid-range single boiler espresso machine, the Rancilio Silvia and the Ascaso Dream UP are two models worth investigating. Similar in function and price range, Gail walks us through their features and functionality, as well as what she likes and doesn’t like about them.
In our next round of updated buying guides, Gail takes us through several single boiler espresso machines under the $1k mark, giving us a basic overview and comparison of their features. She talks about the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia & Sirena, the Francis Francis X7, the Rancilio Silvia, the Ascaso Dream & Uno Pro with PID and the Crossland CC1. If you’re in the market for a machine, this is a great primer on some of the available options.
Keeping your equipment sparkling clean is just as important as the freshness of your coffee and dialing in your grind & tamp — in fact, without the former, the latter will be an exercise in futility. If we have to tell you that rancid coffee oils will adversely impact the quality of your shot, we’re sorry. But if we have to be the first, then we might as well do it right, right? So we asked Louie Poore, who specializes in educating professional baristas on proper equipment care for Urnex, to give us the rundown.
First, he introduces us to Urnex’s new Full Circle, sustainably-produced cleaning products — including a toe-to-toe comparison of Cafiza and Full Circle’s coffee equipment wash.
Finally, Gail shows us the newly arrived 1, 2, Brew Kit for Espresso Machines, which features the goodies you need to keep your machine in tip-top shape (plus a bag of Velton’s Coffee of your choice!).
We have a wide array of cleaning products available — from descaler to milk frothing cleaner to backflushing detergent — and, admittedly, we sometimes get a little stuck in our ways. Machines with a three-way brew pressure release/solenoid valve (such as the Rancilio Silvia, La Spaziale machines, many of the Ascaso machines and any of the machines with an E61 brew head), require regular backflushing in order to keep that system in tip top shape.
Heretofore we have always recommended powdered backflush detergent — Cafiza or Joe Glo — but when we were meeting with Urnex a couple of weeks ago, they mentioned using the Cafiza tablets for backflushing. And it blew our minds.
Yeah, it doesn’t take much, does it?
If you want to be precise about the quantity of detergent you’re using in your backflushing and cleaning your gear, these tablets are the exact amount you need. Place one tablet in your backflush basket and follow your process as normal; one tablet in a couple cups of hot water is perfect for soaking baskets, portafilters and any other gear you may have that comes into contact with coffee oils and needs a good scrub down.
So what we previously attributed solely to superautomatic brew group cleanliness is cross functional and a great way to easily backflush your equipment without concern of using too much/too little detergent.
While you won’t find us purporting that cleanliness is next to godliness, you will hear us talk about keeping your gadgets clean for the good of all involved. Because darker roasts (such as French or Italian) bring so much of the bean’s natural oil to the surface, we wondered how this impacts a grinder’s burrs: Does it clog more easily and quickly? Do you need to clean your grinder more often if you’re using this type of bean/roast? What kind of residue does it leave in comparison to grinding medium roast beans?
To determine this, we put two Baratza Virtuosos to the test. Over a month period, we ran the timer on each of them twice each day, using Velton’s Treehouse drip coffee in one and some particularly intense French Roast Gail picked up at Costco in the other. Then we opened them up to find out what kind of residue was left on the burrs.
Watch as Gail takes them apart, meticulously studies them and then tests how easy it is to clean them (using Grindz).
A public service announcement from our technical department regarding the care & feeding of your burr grinder:
Never adjust the grind finer without turning the grinder on. The motor needs to be on & spinning as you adjust the burrs more closely together to ensure that beans are not compacted in the burr teeth, clogging the burrs or carrying grinds into the grinding chamber threads, thus jamming the burr carrier. This can damage and/or break the grinder and is not something that is covered under any manufacturer or retailer warranty.
So if you’re going to tweak your grind to go a little finer, kick on the grinder first and, if you have beans in the hopper, make sure it’s grinding normally as you move the burrs closer together. This will ensure that you don’t clog/jam the burrs and potentially damage the grinder.
The most frequent repair issue we see on Ascaso Dream machines (both the older version and the new UP) is a burned out boiler. These machines are single boilers without an automatic boiler refill, so folks often burn out the boiler because they don’t pull enough fresh water into the boiler before trying to steam or brew.
Watch Gail as she walks us through refilling the boiler and temperature surfing on the Dream UP.