Having issues with your espresso machine? Wondering if you can troubleshoot the espresso machine repairs yourself?
If you’re a coffee lover, your espresso machine plays a pretty critical role in your life. It’s essential to your morning routine. Is it even possible to be productive without your daily dose of caffeine?
So when your espresso machine is on the fritz, it can ruin your entire day. The good news is that most domestic espresso machine repairs are completely preventable and pretty easy to fix. Espresso machine repairs are usually the result of normal wear and tear that happens over time.
Slow-pouring shots. A faulty steam wand. Water that just won’t get hot. All these issues can easily be fixedwhen you know how to properly care for and clean an espresso machine yourself.
All your espresso machine really needs is some daily maintenance and a little TLC. Learning how to increase the longevity of your machine will prevent breakdowns from happening in the first place and make sure you keep pulling the best espresso shots. So that a broken espresso machine doesn’t stand between you and your caffeine, here’s how to troubleshoot the most common repairs and increase the lifespan of your machine.
Espresso Machine Maintenance Tips
Tip 1: Back flush.
Back flush your way to liquid gold. Sticking with this maintenance tip and doing it consistently will keep your espresso machine running smoothly and pulling the perfect shots. If you’re only going to take one tip away from this espresso machine repair guide, make it back flushing.
How do you back flush the right way? Leave your portafilter empty. Pour hot water into your machine and run it as if you’re making espresso. This helps clear out any remaining residue. Back flush with hot water every time you use your machine. Back flush with an espresso cleaning powder in the portafilter at least once a week. For more tips on back flushing, here’s how to clean an espresso machine the right way.
Tip 2: Put good water in your espresso machine.
If you want your espresso machine to last, put good water in it. What qualifies as good water? Cold, soft, filtered water. Tap water can wreak havoc on your espresso machine over time. If you put tap water full of chemicals into your machine and add heat and pressure, you’ve got the perfect recipe for rust and espresso machine repairs.
Some espresso machines come with a built-in water filter and softener. If yours doesn’t have one, get a water filter for your tap. Even a Brita jug will work. If you use bottled water, steer clear of brands that say “spring water.” Spring water isn’t filtered and will cause the same damage to your machine as tap water.
Tip 3: Keep your kitchen clean.
If your kitchen is cluttered and full of leftover crumbs, your machine might suffer. Why? Small bugs, roaches and even mice can go looking for leftover residue in your machine. The damage bugs can cause to your espresso machine isn’t normal wear and tear, either. It’ll cost you.
Tip4: Do your research.
If you’re going to invest in a home espresso machine, make sure you read the manual and get familiar with all of the parts. You’ll want to become a pro at how to use an espresso machine. Knowing how to properly care for your espresso machine will prevent breakdowns from happening in the first place.
Tip 5: Troubleshoot.
Before taking your machine to a repair shop or throwing in the towel and buying a brand new one, learn how to troubleshoot. Keep reading to learn how to troubleshoot the most common espresso machine repairs. The good news is that you can fix most of them yourself!
Common Espresso Machine Repairs
Water isn’t running through the espresso machine
If water isn’t coming through the espresso machine, it’s probably vapor-locked. The heated air in the boiler could be putting pressure on the pump, creating a lock. This makes it hard for water to pass through. Here’s how to troubleshoot:
- Let the espresso machine cool off. Turn the machine off and let it rest for 15-30 minutes.
- Make sure the group head screen is clean and facing smooth-side-down. Also check the water hose to make sure there’s no residue or crimping in the hose.
- Fill the water reservoir with fresh, cold, filtered water.
- Put cups under both the brew head and the steam wand.
- Turn on the power switch and open the steam wand knob. Let it run for about two minutes.
- After two minutes, turn on the brew button and let it back flush for two minutes while the steam wand is still on.
- Turn the brew button off after back flushing but let the steam wand run for another two minutes. Turn the machine off.
- After 2-4 minutes, water should start running through the espresso machine again. After about one cup of water is able to pass through the brew head and steam wand, the vapor lock is fixed. If water still isn’t running through after six minutes, turn your machine off and let it cool down again. Then repeat the entire process. It may take a few passes to break the vapor lock.
No steam or only a small amount of steam is coming out of the steam wand
You pulled the best espresso shot but then couldn’t steam your milk. What gives? Here are a few things to check for when your steam wand isn’t working:
- Check the steam gauge. Make sure it’s anywhere between 1 and 1.7 bars. If it already is, then your machine is having a different issue. If it isn’t, reset it and try your steam wand again.
- Next check the steam tip. If you don’t clean your steam wand after every use (and even if you do), it’s likely old milk residue has built up and caused a clog. Get a steam wand cleaning tool with a pointed tip to help clear it out.
- Preventing future steam wand issues is pretty simple. Always wipe down the exterior of the wand and clear the tip after every use.
Your espresso shot came through but has no crema
What’s crema? It’s the golden brown, slightly bubbly layer on top of your espresso. It’s also how you can tell if you’ve pulled a good espresso shot. When an espresso shot has no crema, it’s a sign that something went wrong. Here’s how to fix it:
- No espresso machine can pull a shot with crema if you’re using burnt beans or beans that are ground too coarsely. Remember, the best espresso shots are pulled with an extremely fine grind. Make sure you’re using good beans and grinding them finely.
- If the water is too hot or not hot enough, no crema will be produced. If you pulled a shot without crema and you’re already using good beans witha fine grind, check the thermometer. It should ideally be set around 195°F.
- If the beans, the grind and the temperature aren’t the issues, it could be the pressure. To test for pressure issues, brew a single shot and time it. An ideal espresso shot should take between 20-30 seconds to brew. If it take less than 10 seconds or more than 30 seconds to pull a single shot, you’ve got a pressure problem. Try the steps above to troubleshoot for vapor-locked pressure issues. If your machine is still having issues, you may need to take it in for repairs at this point.
Priming your espresso machine between steaming and brewing helps clear the steam wand and the brew head. This maintenance routine can also help ensure that the boiler reaches the right temperature and prevents pressure problems from happening. It’s similar to back flushing but a little more advanced. If you want to prevent espresso machine repairs and extend the life of your machine, follow this guide for brewing, steaming and cleaning all in one:
- Fill your water reservoir with cold, fresh, filtered water.
- Turn your machine on but don’t wait for the ready light, which indicates it’s properly warmed up.
- Turn the steam wand on and dispense four ounces of water through the steam wand into a cup. Close the steam wand.
- Next press the brew button and dispense four ounces of water through the brew head into a cup. Press the brew button again to turn it off.
- Once the ready light is on and your machine is warmed up, press the steam button. This will make the ready light turn off.
- When the ready light goes on again, turn your steam wand open to release any remaining water. Close the steam wand.
- Fill a chilled pitcher with milk. Put the tip of the steam wand in the milk and turn the wand open to steam the milk. Close the steam wand.
- Wipe the steam wand with a damp cloth to remove any milk residue.
- Press the steam button to turn it off.
- Open the steam wand to release any remaining milk inside into a cup. Dispense four ounces of water through the steam wand into a cup to clear it out. Close the steam wand.
- Press the brew button and dispense four ounces of water through the brew head into a cup.
- Wait for the ready light to come on again and fill the portafilter with your coffee grounds. Don’t tamp the coffee this time.
- Attach the portafilter to the group head, pulling it tightly to the right so that the handle is just past the center, slightly to the left.
- Put your cup or shot glasses under the portafiler and press the brew button when the ready light is illuminated.
- You just brewed your coffee and steamed your milk while cleaning your machine in between! To keep it squeaky clean, back flush once.