Being loyal patrons to our local coffee shop, we have that go-to drink we know won’t fail and give us that much-needed buzz in our groggy mornings. Baristas are knowledgeable of coffee-making standards that whipping up dozens of cups of espressos or different coffee-milk consistencies daily takes muscle memory. So we don’t give much thought to how calculated the process is.
Besides the toasty ambiance of cafes, coffee blend pods or ready-to-drink cans or bottles can never be at par with the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans. This is even more so if it is enhanced with frothy milk foam and syrups that add to its velvety character.
In this age when cafes and restaurants can enjoy the benefits of automation, it is easy to say that you can hardly mess coffee up. But many fall for the misconception when the quality of coffee does not solely rely on how well-trained the barista is or how top-of-the-line the machines are.
Cafes, just like all other food establishments, still have to adhere to standards of cleanliness in and out of the kitchen. That is if they don’t want customers complaining about a stale taste or, worse, dead bugs floating on their beverages. So they do the following to their equipment regularly.
Coffee machines are a super convenient tool that can process almost everything in your drink, including water, coffee, and milk. Being the most abused console in cafe kitchens, the coffee machine deserves regular TLC. Of all its components, the portafilter is subject to the most wear and tear daily, being the vessel for ground coffee which is crucial in making the base of any coffee drink — espresso.
Serving as the passage of the highly pigmented essence of ground coffee beans, the portafilter could harbor tiny coffee particles which do not come off with a simple handwash. Rather, its basket and filter parts must be allowed to sit in a solution of coffee machine cleaning powder and hot water for half an hour, carefully keeping the handle from submerging in the solution as the protective plastic film could wear off. After which, this should be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry.
The group head is typically fixed onto the espresso machine; the most you can do is brush off coffee particles that may have been stuck on it, if not backflushing the cleaning powder into it with the help of the portafilter. On the other hand, you can detach its shower screen, screw, and metal plate. Once a day, these three parts shall also be submerged in a cleaning powder solution for about 15 minutes before brushing off any remaining debris.
If left uncleaned, milk could accumulate in the steam wand and could affect the wand’s ability to release steam and, in turn, subpar milk for your cappuccinos and flat white. To effectively clear steam wands of crusted milk, it is soaked in a liquid alkaline solution for half an hour. As a preventive practice, the wand must be wiped with a wet cloth after every use.
Like an espresso machine’s group head and portafilter, bean roasters are prone to accumulating residue. This happens especially when the roasting process could bake the coffee onto its solid parts. If not removed, this could affect the quality of the succeeding roasts. Some sprays with a foamy consistency can remove the stubborn residue if left to sit on the affected areas.
Routinely running the grinder while empty could help it discard coffee particles from the burrs. Still, its hopper should be regularly checked for stuck coffee beans and washed clean.
Drip Tray and Countertops
Spills on the espresso machine’s drip tray and countertops only breed more sloppy work. Buying several rags and keeping them within reach during a shift will serve as a reminder to wipe the workstation’s surfaces every so often. When the shop closes, it is best to spray on a multi-purpose cleaning solution on surfaces to polish metal surfaces and remove odor-causing remnants of food.
We often forget that behind every savvy barista are contraptions that help them work more efficiently while maintaining the signature decadence of their coffee. An authentic cafe experience is indeed hard to imitate without nimble tools like batch brewers, frothers, blenders, and, of course, must-have coffee machines.
With such a mechanized workstation, it doesn’t take a coffee connoisseur to understand why a good cup of cappuccino from a cafe costs several bucks. This unfailing quality is also due to keeping the equipment in pristine condition.